Be Salt, Be Light,Be Blessed! Rev. Judy’s Homily for 5th Sunday-2/9/14
Pastor Judy Beaumont brings Eddie and Robert a Birthday cake as Betty looks on during our Tuesday Church
Be Salt, Be Light, Be Blessed! Rev. Judy’s Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time-2/9/14
The readings for this Sunday are some of my favorite as they establish what the life of the Christ follower will look like. In rich imagery and poetry Jesus, using the Aramaic idioms easily understood in his time, teaches us how to live. The Gospel is part of the Sermon on the Mount as recorded by the writer of Matthew (Matthew 5: 13-16). After the Be-attitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), after showing those attitudes and actions that enrich being with joy, happiness and deep satisfaction: humility, losing everything and depending on God alone (as the poor in the goods of this world must), a thirst for justice, compassion and peacemaking, Jesus says that we who follow his teachings, his light,are to be the salt and light of the world. We are not to lose our saltiness and we are to put our lights on a lampstand so that they can be seen. This light is to reflect Christ not ourselves, to demonstrate what it means to be Christ-like in a world that is marching to a different drummer-or many different drummers. To be light we are to understand what Jesus taught and live it though this is so much easier said than done and to do it is the operative word.
Salt is a preservative and a flavor enhancer. In Jesus’ time it was an expensive, necessary and precious commodity. In that time as in modern times, mining for salt was a difficult, back breaking and dangerous job. So salt comes with a price and so does being salty. In our vernacular “salty” is to speak up and to say what needs to be said. That is often prophetic as well. Jesus is asking us to be bold as we enhance the world with God’s meanings, ways and purposes-to be salt and light for people. The Message Bible has a lovely rendition of these verses (5:13-16):
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth….Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill…now that I’ve put you on a hill-top, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house, be generous with your lives….” (The Message).
And, what exactly are the God- flavors and the God-colors? What will people taste and see if we are salt and light? Jesus is clear in the preceding Be-attitudes and throughout the Gospels and the prophet Isaiah is clear in the first reading (Is. 58:7-10): people will taste compassion and they will see justice in living vivid color. They will therefore not go hungry either physically or spiritually. Isaiah says” Share your bread with those who are hungry, and shelter homeless poor people; clothe those you see naked, and do not hide from the needs of your own flesh and blood. Then your light will shine like the dawn and your wound will be quickly healed over….If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then light will rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom will become for you like midday”.
If we love our neighbors (and yes, our difficult family members) as ourselves and care for those in most need, whatever those needs/afflictions are-we then are healed of our own wounds and find light in the darkness that enters our own worlds. When we are salt and light we too are whole and healed. Wow!
This rings so true. Yesterday we had our Tuesday ministry and once again my heart and spirits were lifted by our people- most once homeless, a few still homeless, some broken and yet full of God’s love. When I am at my lowest and think I can’t take another step let alone provide care for anyone in need: “the convincing power of the Spirit” (I Cor. 2:1-5) takes over and we are transported together. Yesterday we sang that we are holy ground and we were. We sang about joy and we were joyful. The joy of Mary and Phyllis, Gary and Nate and Lauretta and the others as they read and reflected on the Scriptures for the day lifted all of us. The prayer time lifted the needs of those present and those prayed for to the heart of God. The hot and delicious lunch provided by Jack and Ellen was so much appreciated. The clothing in our free store was a big hit, especially for the women yesterday. Four people spoke individually with me at length and both tears and laughter was shared. And as we celebrated the birthdays of Roger, Eddie and Robert it was truly a happy day. Jesus was so right, living the Gospel brings great joy and satisfaction: it is as simple and as hard as that. The hard part is that there is so much need and it hurts deeply to know that there are such meager resources for those who need a place to lay their heads. The work is slow and tiring: filling out endless forms for Social Security Disability benefits and waiting, sometimes years, with people for incomes and housing can break your heart. Yesterday, Kris finally had good news. He filled out a housing application for persons with disabilities in 2010 and his name is finally near the top of the list. In a few months he will have his own place. He laughed then cried for joy and so did we. But 60 year old Carrie is still waiting living on the charity of others who are impatient, and Jenny has lost her housing again as she went off her meds and failed to care for her apartment and pay the rent. Giving yourself away can be endless and difficult. Yet that is also the source of greatest joy.
I will end this homily with sharing a reflection:
One of the most beautiful places I have seen is the Salt Cathedral in Bogota, Colombia. This beautiful underground cathedral and marvel of engineering was started by the miners who worked the salt mine near Zipaquira, Cudinamarca . Deep in the salt mine they carved out a chapel where they could pray. By 1932 the building of an underground cathedral was underway. In the 1950’s a major effort completed a three story underground cathedral depicting Christ’s story in sculptures of salt (halite) emerging from the darkness of the mine by beautiful strong lighting. The birth, death and resurrection of Christ, including the Stations of the Cross and other biblical scenes are artistic masterpieces. Although it is not under the jurisdiction of a bishop and therefore not an official Roman Catholic Church over 3000 people worship there each Sunday. But what struck me most was not the beauty of it all-and it was awesome, but a window where we could look in and see the helmets and lights and messages of faith by miners who were killed in this mine. It was their very lives that brought salt to the earth and beauty to this mountain. Indeed they were the lights and salt of the earth. And serving God’s poor who risk their lives to do work that must be done and yet goes unrewarded materially in this 21st Century must remain the essence of the Christ followers mission-however we enact it. But enact it we must, for to follow Christ is to do and to do is ultimately to be, to be salt and light and to be blessed.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,ARCWP