“A Shining Star”
Matthew 5:13-20, February 9th, 2020
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Unison Reading of our Statement of Faith.
“Hear now these words attributed to the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the gospel of Matthew, chapter five, verses thirteen thru twenty.”
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
“Having listened to this teaching about ‘salt’ ‘light’ and the law, let us now open both our minds and our hearts to a current understanding of these teachings.
“A Shining Star”
Jesus offers us two short parables while also reminding us that the old law, the Commandments are still in force, while also admonishing us to do righteousness if we want to make it to heaven! Wow! Are we being commissioned to be disciples, or is Jesus simply throwing breadcrumbs on the pathway in which we are ‘called’ to follow? That is a lot to take in! Yet, it sure sounds important! So, lets break it down and take a closer look. Being called the “salt of the earth,” by Jesus, is it meant to contrast salts function in the spiritual realm, as well as its role, in the function salt plays within the concepts of nutrition and health in our own bodies? We know that salt often enhances and brings out the flavor in food, when used properly. So… is this meant to imply we are to use our ‘saltiness’, our ‘tenacity’ and resolve whilst we fulfill our role as disciples of Christ? This certainly is something we need to consider. Just how salter are we talking about here? Well, I’m not a very good cook, yet, I recognize that there is this I do know: too much salt in a stew will ruin it as it overpowers the other’s flavors in the mix. In contrast, with no salt or too little, some how the flavors of that which the cook is fixing can lay dormant, flat and hidden! As we ponder this let’s look at the other points of this riddle.
This reference to us being the ‘Light of the world’ can only mean that Jesus is saying we are to carry his light, his message to others. We are not to hide our faith or refuse to share it with others. Today’s short parable is clearly saying the obvious: A light is meant to be shared; it is meant to expose the darkness and the truth of all we have learned so that everyone can see it, hear it and yes even savor it for what it is. The number one priority, of course, is to share, not hide, all which we have learned about the ministry, the teachings and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. No, we are no longer sitting on that hill listening to Jesus, we are in the here and now and we need to share all of what we have learned and believe about the story of Jesus! So where are we really at with all of this? We need to clarify this if we are truly going to strive to live into this lesson. Because, if we do not fully understand our current reality, our understanding of this teaching will remain dormant and hidden from others.
As we look around this very morning what do we see? I mean this literally! Survey your current surroundings, whether you are sitting here in this sanctuary or listening from your home; and redo this when your somewhere else considering these thoughts. That’s right! I am clearly implying that this lesson only works when we apply it to our now current realities; not yesterdays and not that place you hope to be next week. Therefore, clarify your current surroundings, now move on to see who is here with you. If you are alone that ought to tell you something; in contrast with being in this sanctuary with others who have joined with you in this time of worship on this specific day. How will you offer up some of your faith if you are here in worship, verses being in your living room listening to this lesson alone? This is not a rhetorical question, rather it is at the heart of our lesson. This is like that question from my philosophy class in seminary. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it fall, does it make a noise? The argument that ensues is that noise is only noise if someone hears it. What has this got to do with our lesson today? Everything! Faith and good deeds need to be shared with others!
When I was living up in Montpelier Vermont, in a small apartment, my father told me this: “son”, he said, “you cannot be a Christian (I believe he was inferring to an active Christian), if you live alone on a deserted island.” His illustration is a stretch, yet it does make a point. If you and I, if we are carrying the Light of Christ, we can not hide out on an island, thus hiding that Light which God has entrusted to us. Therefore, we must move into a situation where there are others who will get to hear what we have to say and see how we live with the Light of God, the Spirit of Christ in our hearts! We must live into our faith, thus making us faithful to that which we believe. Just as a preacher can’t exhort one thing, then do another without being a hypocrite. If you live in isolation, unwilling to interact with others it suggests you have not gotten the message or perhaps you don’t truly believe it. No, if the true Light of God has found a home in your heart, even if you are on a silent retreat for a week, then you need to interact with others at some level.
Moving forward with our discussion and assuming that you are interacting with others within your community, you need to open about who you are and how you chose to live into your faithfulness to God. If someone tells you that God is dead and they have no belief, well, first off reaffirm where you are. If you are standing amongst a group of acquaintances of yours, and you say nothing when the topic is eluded to, you are not living into your faith; your light is hidden. Yet, if you are alone on a dark street with a stranger, you may want to ask God to guide you to a more public place, before you go into a story about your faith. Not everyone wants to hear about our hopefulness, sad, but true. It is also our responsibility to care for the Light which has been entrusted to us. If we are walking in faith, we may not be afraid of the dark corners, yet even the disciples urged Jesus to be weary of his enemies, until the time was right.
It is quite clear that we need to carry out a life worthy of our faith. However, this is not always easy or practical to live into. Yet, if we keep an open heart, endeavoring and striving, thereby working to keep close to God through prayer and meditation, while expanding our understanding of God’s will, we might surprise ourselves. Neil Chappell shares this thought with us, reaffirming our conversation. “I think, if there’s one thing that the Sermon on the Mount has to teach, it is that faith and action go hand in hand.” In Jesus’ parables, we are told not to hide our faith, we are told to hang on to our tenacity our resolve. Our firmness of mind may be necessary as we seek to live a life of faithfulness to a God who came to us in the flesh, clarifying how we are meant to live faithfully. Being persistent and even driven in your efforts to move forward, your favorite way to carry the message of the Christian story to others is what shall help you overcome the obstacles along the way. Your doggedness to see the new policies of the food pantry involvement of your church – may be the extra push that shall feed more of the hungry in an effective way. These are just a few of the nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives which shall be of much use in serving the universal church of Christ.
Larry Broding, he reminds us there are many ways to truly be a ‘shining star’ as we live as more than just admirers of Christ. He helps us grasp the need to keep moving forward with our responsibilities, in the Christian way of life, which we have freely chosen. As a religious educator, Director Broding wants to be sure he is training us to progress in our skill levels as we serve others. “What are the differences between the leader and the follower? When does a follower lead?” These seemingly rhetorical questions are the tools used to help potential leaders come to recognize when they are ready to move forward. The great majority of Christians would most surely consider themselves followers of Christ. Is this not the first designation you are comfortable expressing? Yet, I am not sure how many of us were “comfortable” saying we really wanted to follow a teacher who was flogged, jailed then executed for his teachings; and most of his early disciples were executed in brutal fashion as well. Hopefully, most of us have come to realize the risk is worth it; as the alternatives, the torment and anguish of turning away from God, are not that appealing! With this as a motivator, faithful Christians that take the concept of being salty follows of Christ, and who are willing to be “Shining Stars”, holding the ‘Light” of Christ high seriously; these shall be our next generation of Christian leaders!
As we bring our discussion to a close, we need to be reminded that many of us can and are, ‘capable’ of taking the lead now and then. If we all continue to be followers, yet, however do not become ‘willing’ to ‘step up’ as Jesus did so long ago, we shall soon become sheep; sheep with no one willing to be the ‘guiding lights’ which keep turning our attention to the greatest Shepherd of all time: Jesus our teacher, our leader and guide. Amen.