November 9, 2014
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Matthew 5: 13-16
“Light Cannot Be Hidden!”
In the gospel of Matthew beginning with chapters five (5) we hear the teachings of Jesus. This is how it is recorded. “1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
These teachings of Jesus continue on until the end of chapter seven, closing with this statement: “28 Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” These three chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, chapters 5 thru 7, are considered the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. All scholars, of the teachings of Jesus, are well aquatinted with these rich and fertile chapters of holy scripture. I have preached a number of times from these writings, as have most preachers. This morning we are going to delve into the reference to the salt and the light. In our writings these words follow immediately upon his teaching about the Blessed, the passage referred to as the Beatitudes, thus my purpose in reading them to you this morning.
The one theme that seems to play through these teachings, from the Sermon on the Mount, is that Jesus’ focuses on making us more aware of the realm of the Kingdom of Heaven. In essence he is clearly suggesting that as followers of Christ, we get certain benefits, such as blessings and forgiveness of sin as-well-as eternal life; yet, there are also certain responsibilities that go along with this. This teaching about salt and light, which are our primary focus this morning, clearly take on this tone, that is to say we have responsibilities.
Jesus said to all who could hear and understand the words of his voice: “You are the salt of the earth and You are the light of the world.” Jesus says these things as a matter of fact, thus implying that as salt and light, which as followers of his teachings we are, there are things that are expected of us. This easily translated analogy can effortlessly help us to understand and define the fullness of what it means to be a Disciple of Christ; And it can also help us to understand the full importance and responsibility of being good stewards of our Time, Talent and Treasures; thereby making us spiritually fit in the eyes of our God and good Generous followers of the teachings of the man Jesus. You are indeed Blessed, if you have comprehended all that Jesus has said to you through these scripture passages put before you this morning.
Make no mistake, Jesus is not lecturing us with his references to our being the salt and the light; Jesus is however saying that having been blessed, we as his followers, need to accept our roles, in his realm, as we move through our journey of life. Jesus is telling us who and what we as his followers have already become! He is saying, via the Beatitudes, that we are now blessed and we are now the salt and the light! So let us spend a few moments clarifying who we are.
Everyone here has tasted salt. There is no mistaking it, it stands out and makes our taste buds respond. Salt is a good thing it is first and foremost a preservative; however, here in the Twenty-First Century it is used primarily to enhance the flavor of foods. So how are we to be the salt, as Christians? How are we to enhance the world we live in? One handful of salt cannot change the world, but it sure can make a difference in how a few perceive that which they are consuming.
As individual members of the realm of God through Christ we can influence the people we interact with on a daily basis. We can be the salt in their lives. We can change how they understand God by the way we live our lives and by the way we interact with them.
Good salt does not lay tasteless in your mouth; it invigorates your taste buds; it makes tasteless foods come to life and enhances even the best gourmet meals just a bit! In the same manner a good Christian does not sit dormant nor walk blindly through life ignoring the needs of others. Be a ‘salty’ Christian! Dare to share about how God is in your life! Dare to tell others that your God, your understanding of the teachings of Jesus are Open and Affirming! Tell them that Jesus wants us to care about the marginalized and the needs of the hungry, as-well-as the sick and suffering. Share with them how – at our church, the Riviera, United Church of Christ – everyone is welcome to partake of the bread of life and taste the fullness of salvation that Christ offers to all of humankind!
Jesus continues on in his conversation to bring in the allegory surrounding light. Again let us be reminded that Jesus is saying we are the light of the world. In the Gospel of John, chapter one starting at verse one, we are told: “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He (The Word, which was carried to us in the man Jesus) was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” As we delve into this scripture we see Jesus as the light that came into the world, yet as we carefully view this passage in the light of today’s teachings from Jesus’ words in his ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ we see more clearly that the life (which was the Word seen in Jesus) was actually the Light of all people, and it is that light which shines in the darkness.
Today, Jesus is clearly telling us that as his followers, we are the light of the world! “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” /Mathew 5:16/ This is our responsibility.
When I was in the midst of trying to grasp the teachings of Jesus as an adult, my father pointed out to me I could not be a Christian if I was alone and isolated from others. What he was saying to me was that I must share my faith with the community in which I live. I must walk amongst people and live the life of a follower of Christ. My father was telling me that to be a Christian there are expectations, there are responsibilities.
That is what Jesus is saying to us today!
Being a Christian does not stop once you stand up and come forward in church and confess you want to be a part of the Church! No! That is only the first step. Now we must live the life that has been given to us! In us is the light of Christ and we must allow that light to shine within and upon this dark world in which we live; and make it a better place!
Today, is stewardship Sunday. Today ends a four week series of sermons and testimonials about what it means to be a good steward. We have talked about what it means to be generous, in all areas of our lives; living with a generous spirit as we move forward as individuals and as a community. We have talked about the gift of time and how we can use it wisely, not squandering it, thus giving back to society and giving to others what God has so abundantly given to us. Last week we talked about the talents the blessed gifts which come from God. We talked about our responsibility to nurture and use our talents and not to let them become undernourished and wasted.
Today, we bring these points of stewardship together as we talk openly about treasure, money, the currency of the society in which we live, as we make our faith promise and commit a portion of what we earn, what we have, and commit that to the workings of this our church. All of these elements make up the fullness of the theme and the topic surrounding stewardship.
People have often come to me, over the years, and ask how much should I give, what portion of my earnings is the correct amount? If you have asked that question or discussed it with your family or your spouse, your partner, then you are well on the way to making a good decision. When being a good steward of your financial life includes your church, then you are growing and maturing in your faith. I cannot, I will not tell you what to give, that is between you and God. These past four weeks were meant to raise this issue up into your consciousness so that you can make the best decision that you can; and you shall. When you come forward today with your offering, your faith promise cards, your hopes and your dreams, as-well-as your gifts of time talent and treasure, if you do so with a generous heart you will be greatly blessed by God!
Let us now hear and receive the words of Jesus, found in these verses of scripture, from the Gospel According to Matthew, chapter five verses 13 thru 16.
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.
May all who have heard and comprehended these ancient and holy words be blessed this very day.
Generosity – 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15
Time – Ruth 2: 1-13
Talent – Hebrews 6:7-20b
Treasure – Matthew 5:13-16