Monday, February 7, 2011

Salt and Light!

This past week we were all reminded of the importance of salt.
Where would we be without salt to make our roads free from snow and ice?
They are finding out in Dallas this week the importance of salt.
Dallas is where the super bowl will be played today and the weather there has been snowy and icy, and they don’t have any salt for the roads.
Dangerous road conditions led to this headline, “Snow adds to weather misery in Dallas-Fort Worth”
Salt in our case is what saves us in our difficult winter conditions.
Salt is the subject of Jesus preaching this morning.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?”
If we lose our connection to Jesus we lose our saltiness.
We fail to live righteous lives and we fail to have faith in difficult times.
We fail to have our righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees.
Likewise we know the importance of light.
Without light how can we see in the dark?
How can we find our way?
We are the light of the world.
And if we are not shining with the love of Christ how will others see through the darkness.

It might seem like a tall order that Jesus has given us.
This is a lot of responsibility to be the light of the world and salt of the earth.
But where else are people going to find their way?
How else are people going to have a sure footing and safe travel through the journey of life?
The truth is that there have been other people who have come before us.
There have been other people who were salted who shined light into the dark places.
All of us have these people in our lives.
We all know of someone who we looked up to and thought I want what that person has.
I want to have a faith like that person has.
I want to serve others like that person does.
So we know that what Jesus asks of us is not impossible.
I would say that we need to be even more salted now than ever.
When religion is seen as a negative thing.
When religious morals and values are being eroded we need now more than ever to be the light of the world to be the salt of the earth.
We cannot expect that the world will be able to teach peace, love, and compassion.
We know that it does not.

For example, in a reactionary move the state legislator is considering adding more reasons to allow the death penalty in New Hampshire.
It is no doubt that the murders from home invasions are awful.
But I am not sure that killing more people will solve the problem.
Have we as a society totally given up on the idea of reconciliation.
Have we given up on forgiveness?
Only people who are salted know that these are important moral beliefs.

I was thinking of the people in my life who I have met who where lights shining for me, of the people who were well salted in their lives.
They all shared certain characteristics.
One, they all had a deep relationship with Jesus.
They studied their Bibles even into their later years knowing that God’s word was the key to knowing their Lord.
They had disciplined prayer lives, and they all felt worship was the highlight of their week.
Two they all had a certain amount of humility.
Not fake humility, but the idea that they were no better than anyone else.
Three they all were eager and able to forgive.
Four they were about creating peace in their lives.
In their families, in their churches, in their homes they were about peace.
Not peace as a political slogan but a deep and abiding peace in the depths of their souls.
Five they had a faith in the possibility of a better tomorrow.
Six they loved deeply and told you that they loved you.
Seven no matter their life circumstances they had faith in God’s ability to do something amazing and wonderful.

I am sure there are more but these were the ones that came up easily for me.
When I think of what Jesus meant by being salt and light I think of these things.
Not because they are great religious ideals (even though they are) but because they were brought to life by someone I knew and respected.
If we are able to live as Jesus teaches us to I think that some people will revile us.
But I also think that some people will look at us and think, “I want what that person has.”
I want to have faith in the midst of trouble and turmoil.
I want to love more and say it to those I love.
I want to have a deep and abiding peace.
I want to have faith in a better tomorrow.
Maybe you are one of those people like me who desires more out of life then the accumulation of wealth, or winning the big game, or being the best and brightest.
I want more than this.
I want what Dorothy Ricks has.
She is an extraordinary woman who was the chair of my internship committee while I was in seminary.
She had seen many things in her life.
She had good times and bad times.
And she had this thing about her.
She was faithful, loving, caring, and a person of great peace.
She loved Jesus and knew her savior well.
She was my teacher, and my guide for the year I was on internship.
Then there was Ms. Rene.
Another salted person who lived a life of service.
She was the first one at the church every morning and the last one to leave.
She was one of the people that started the homeless feeding ministry.
She was strong, clear, and filled with the spirit.
She was my teacher too.
I could go on and on of all the people I have known who were well salted who shined a light into my life.

To be salted and the light is to know Jesus and who he is.
That is why the sermon on the mountain is so important because Jesus is giving us a road map on how to live.
We live through Jesus.
Jesus fulfills the law, by helping us see it in life.
If you want to know what it means to follow God then look at Jesus, know Jesus and his teachings.
The problem is that we fall away very easily from our relationship to Jesus.
We get busy and other things get in our way.
We are too busy to pray, or study the Bible.
I will worship when I get other things in my day.
And then we lose our saltiness, we lose the light that makes us see through the darkness.

This is not about following the law.
It is about knowing Jesus so well that instinctively without thinking we live as the salt and light.

I want to end by saying that our children especially need this.
Our children have lost their way.
This week I heard a report that kids are less connected to social networks.
Because of this they are becoming less compassionate.
Malcolm Smith of the University of New Hampshire gave a lecture this week and said that “repeat bullies have a deficit in social learning and are missing basic values like manners, civility and kindness. He says they think they are better than others.”
We need to be salted ourselves and remain in relationship with Jesus and one another.
The church is still that place where we have to show up, and we have to deal with other people.
The Church can be the place where we show that kindness matters, and that we are no better than anyone else.
But that God loves us all the same.
That we are all equally sinful and saved by the light and salt that is provided by Jesus Christ.

I believe that we have an important part to play in our world.
That we can be the place that continue to teach about the important morals of peace, love, kindness, civility, and compassion.
Jesus told us that we are the salt of the earth; we are the light of the world.
And through us others would see God and glorify God’s name.
Jesus believed that we as the church centered in Jesus can provide safe travel through the dangers of life.
People would see our good works and think, “I want what they have.”
So go out and be the salt of the earth and the light to the world.

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