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Archive for February, 2011

  1. Way In

    Worries

    Oh, what will we do

    Today’s offertory, played by James Johnston – O Waly Waly

    “O Waly Way” (rhyme with “Haley”) is a Scottish lament, “Oh woe is me” from an 18th C. song that has a lyric like this:

    (Please forgive a bad Scottish accent, just pretend I’m from the southern lowlands …)

    O waly, waly, but love be bonnie
    A little time while it is new,
    But when ’tis auld it waxes cauld
    And fades away like morning dew.
    O wherefore should I busk my heid,
    Or wherefore should I kame my hair?
    For my true-love has me forsook,
    And says he’ll never love me mair.

    O waly, waly. “Oh woe is me” for a dying and unrequited love

    I remember being an absolutely love-sick 8th or 9th-grader

    Absolutely crazy over a girl who didn’t love me back

    And certain I would never recover

    What about us?

    How will we ever measure up?

    How will we ever get past all these trials?

    How will we ever do all we want to do,

    and be all God wants us to be?

    Two stories (one my experience, one somebody else’s)

    Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo, Eastern Univ. in PA where a friend attends

    There was a deacon in a church who didn’t “deak!” He just didn’t do what he was supposed to do as a deacon. One day the pastor called this deacon and said, “I have a group of young people that go to the retirement home to put on a worship service once a month. Would you drive them to the retirement home and at least do that?” The deacon agreed.

    The first Sunday the deacon was at the retirement home, he was in the back with his arms folded as the kids were doing their thing up front. All of a sudden, someone was tugging at his arm. He looked down and here was this old man in a wheelchair. He took hold of the old man’s hand and the old man held his hand all during the service. The next month that was repeated. The man in the wheelchair came and held the hand of the deacon. The next month, the next month, and the next month. Then the old man wasn’t there. The deacon inquired and he was told, “Oh, he’s down the hall, right hand side, third door. He’s dying. He’s unconscious, but if you want to go down and pray over his body that’s alright.”

    The deacon went and there were tubes and wires hanging out all over the place. The deacon took the man’s hand and prayed that God would receive the man, that God would bring this man from this life into the next and give him eternal blessings. As soon as he finished the prayer, the old man squeezed the deacon’s hand and the deacon knew that he had been heard. He was so moved by this that tears began to run down his cheeks. He stumbled out of the room and as he did so he bumped into a woman. She said, “He’s been waiting for you. He said that he didn’t want to die until he had the chance to hold the hand of Jesus one more time.”

    The deacon was amazed at this. He said, “What do you mean?”

    She said, “Mmy father said that once a month Jesus came to this place. ‘He would take my hand and hold it for a whole hour. I don’t want to die until I have the chance to hold the hand of Jesus one more time.'”

    Butler Street Breakfast, The Open Door Community

    Intentional residential Christian Community in ATL

    Ministry of solidarity and presence with poor, homeless, prisoners

    Frequent volunteer as a seminary student

    About 6 volunteers met by 6am at 910

    Joined residents/community members there

    To carry grits, hard-boiled eggs, orange slices, coffee, vitamins

    to Butler Street AME Church, downtown ATL

    there we would serve up to 350 people breakfast

    One cold morning I was assigned job of handing out tickets

    I stood out on the sidewalk with Leo, a 910 resident

    Gave guests a numbered ticket

    Stood in line until they were called to come into dining room

    I was feeling pretty confident that morning

    Proud of myself for going outside seminary classroom

    to serve the poor like Jesus did

    Probably feeling rather smug and self-righteous that I was out there in the cold doing the Lord’s work

    While most of my classmates were still in bed

    Proud of myself for being out there in the cold

    Man, I was in solidarity with the poor

    Solidarity with the poor?

    Maybe so. Maybe a little bit.

    Aside from having already had a warm shower that morning

    Who drove from Decatur into the City

    Who had a warm bed to go back to, if I wanted

    Could skip class if I wanted, and go back to sleep

    One other major thing set me apart

    I was wearing a brand new, teal blue, Columbia parka

    with a hood and a zip-out down lining

    guaranteed to be warm down to like 10 degrees below zero

    We were about halfway through the serving when I handed a man his ticket

    Before he took the ticket, he extended his hand to shake

    I took his hand in mine and shook it in greeting, “Good morning, brother.”

    His hair and beard were grey

    His eyes looked tired, as he hadn’t slept well – or slept much

    His hand was cold and hard, rough

    the hand dealt from a hard life

    “Good morning, brother,” he responded.

    “How about you let me have that coat. I’m so cold”

    That chilled me to the bone

    I couldn’t give him my coat. It was brand new.

    I think I bought it with birthday money

    It cost about $100

    Lame excuses started to pour out of my mouth like cold coffee

    It’s a gift

    If I give it to you, I won’t have a coat to wear

    to come down here and serve breakfast

    (As if I didn’t have several coats in my closet)

    He gave me an out. A chance to stop making up excuses

    “Tell you what, brother. I’ll go in the church and eat my breakfast. You think about it, and when I come back out I’ll ask you again. It’s okay.”

    While he was inside, I did think about it. I think I even prayed about it.

    I hoped he would forget. Or maybe not be able to find me.

    Of course, he did find me after breakfast

    “So, what did you decide?”

    I just couldn’t give him my coat

    But I promised to come back tomorrow with a coat that I would give him

    “Be sure and be here tomorrow. I will have a coat for you.”

    The volunteers always had a sharing time after breakfast

    Went around the table sharing about our morning

    At my turn, I shared how I had denied Jesus

    Matthew 25, “when you saw me naked and you did not give me something to wear.”

    Whenever you did not do this for the least of these, you did not do it for me

    I was back the next morning

    Not wearing by teal blue parka, but another coat from my closet

    and I had yet another coat in a brown Kroger grocery bag (yes, Atlanta is in Kroger country, too)

    the coat in the bag was not the teal blue parka, either

    but another, older, coat I pulled out of my closet

    But the old black man did not come back

    For several weeks, I went to the Butler St. breakfast

    Carrying my coat in the sack – an offering too late

    In fact, I never saw the man again

    Never heard anything about him

    Eventually, I stopped bringing the coat in the sack

    I put that coat, along with the teal blue parka, in the clothes closet at 910

    Somebody got them

    I’m sure the parka went first

    How will we ever measure up?

    How would I ever measure up?

    … get over denying Jesus

    In the first story

    Pastor concerned how that Deacon would ever measure up

    …. be all they could be

2. Tell The Story

Today, another reading from the Sermon on the Mount

Text

Don’t worry

About your life

What you will eat or drink

Or about your body, what you will wear

Look around you

Look at the birds

They don’t sow or reap or harvest

But God provides them food

Consider the lilies of the field

They don’t work or spin cloth

But who has ever been clothed in as beautiful colors?

… or the grass

That is growing today and thrown into the oven tomorrow

Yet God also clothes it in flowery and green splendor

And if God does these things for animals and plants

… would God forget about you?

– one made in God’s own image?

God knows what you need

So seek FIRST after the kingdom of God

And all these things will be given to you also

Don’t worry about tomorrow …

Tomorrow will bring worries of its own

You have enough to do today

First – seek the kingdom of God

And all of these things will be added unto you. Alleluia

Praise the Lord

3. So What?

How will we ever …

measure up?

be good enough?

Be all God would have us to be?

How will we ever get this whole thing right?

… how will we ever get this building all fixed up?

How will I ever get over denying Jesus that coat?

Tomorrow will bring worries of its own. You have enough to do today.

Today is the only day we have – we don’t know about tomorrow

Ed, My friend and mentor at the Open Door was gentle with me the day I denied Jesus

“Well, Joe, you’re here. And that’s a start”

What did you learn today?

What kind of choices will you make now?

Remember that Deacon the church folks thought wouldn’t cut it?

Well, he was the living reminder for Jesus for somebody … for several months

My dear friends,

Sure. We have some work to do here

Look at what you’ve already done…

I have some ideas to share … some plans to make with you

We have some ambitious days ahead of us

We will organize our efforts

Build on the good efforts of this church

Build on and strengthen relationships in our church family

Strengthen our connections in the community

And keep looking for opportunities to make more

But we need not lament – O waly waly – O woe is me

As they say…”Nobody but the devil’s happy when people of good will get overwhelmed and quit”

So. FIRST. Let us remain faithful and confident

People of faith, seeking God’s will together

We know what the Lord requires

Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with our God

We have chosen life – life together – as the Body of Christ

We are salt and light

We have a strong foundation, to build on

As we discern and prepare for what lies ahead for us – life together as the church

Let us keep in mind, that we have today

That we can make a difference today

That we may just be Jesus for somebody today

And somebody else may be Jesus for us

Today

That’s the only day we really have

Make it count

Make a difference

So let it be with us. Amen

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1 Corinthians 3:10,11,16-23

Foundations

  1. Way In

    My Experience on the High Ropes Course

    Don’t like heights

    Remember time at Callaway Gardens Circus

    Describe vacation

    Trapeze

    Scared to death

    Rappelling –Scout Camp

    Repeat performance of my trapeze act

    High Ropes at Michindo last summer

    Describe course

    Up high in the trees

    Challenges increase with each span

    Fitted for harness

    Experience on the ground of leaning way back and having the belay catch you

    Climb a basic ladder 8-10′ up

    Walk across a solid plank bridge about 4′

    Next is a rope bridge

    A little longer

    Ropes at feet like a horizontal ladder

    Two ropes as a “handrail”

    Next spans

    Rope for feet goes down to 1

    Handrails gradually disappear

    Longest/Last one has ropes hanging from above to hold

    But they seem too high to reach

    You can reach, but takes a stretch

    This is the one right before the Zip Line

    Where you sit on the platform

    Harness secured to the Zip Line

    But you have to push off from the platform

    Trust that the harness will hold you

    Trust that you will not crash into the tree at the end

    So you start with the lowest level of risk

    Move up

    In risk

    Physically higher

    End with Zip Line

    Fear went down as I got higher

    At the low end, I was doing a lot of yelling

    Nervous chatter with people on the ground

    Complaining about the ropes, difficulty

    Screaming out that I was about to die

    Looking with dread at the spans to come

    “That’s impossible!” “No way I’m going to make that one!”

    Easy to quit at that point

    Just climb down and be done with it

    Moving to higher section of the course

    Hooked up to belay lines

    Motivated to get to the end

    Only way to get to the Zip Line

    Really wanted to do that

    Although it was scarier to be up higher

    More focus

    I knew it was possible – saw the instructor do it

    Confidence

    Belay ropes would keep me from falling

    No matter what I would not fall

    At least not free fall – the rope would catch me

    Had to remember that I was belayed

    Felt better about my ability as I completed each step

    In our group, most of the nervousness, yelling , etc. came from the 1st spans of the course

    On the higher spans the climbers were …

    More quiet

    Less griping, less yelling

    More confident, more focus

    More sure about the course

    Trust the belaying ropes and the belayer

    Focus on the next step

    Not looking at the next span, or dreading the last one

    Just focusing on the next step

    Then, at the end of that span …

    Looking back with confidence in what I just accomplished

    Remembering how I dreaded that one

    And celebrating that I made it after all

    Now, for that next step

    Approached with confidence and assurance that I could do it

    Just like I did the last one

    Bridge

    We may notice the same thing in the church (maybe other areas of life, too)

    The griping, yelling, sense of defeat, and giving up comes at the low end of the course

    From the ones who haven’t learned to trust the ropes

    The ones who have moved to the high end of the course

    Are more quiet, more confident

    They are taking the steps on the rope one at a time

    Looking with confidence at the next step

    Celebrating each completed span

    And considering the next one with the confidence of having completed the last one

    Trusting in the safety of the belay

    And gaining more confidence with each step

    No griping about the course, doubting the ropes, complaining and threatening to quit

    Confidence and focus are the foundations of the ones who complete the course

    Most of the griping, fussing, and feeling defeated are from the ones who can’t seem to make it past the ladder or the first span

  2. Tell the Story

    Context

    Paul dealing with the troubled church in Corinth

    Beset with arguments

    Over authority: Paul, Cephas, Apollos

    Sexual morality, marriage

    Lawsuits

    Worship; esp. the Lord’s Supper

    Rich people showing up early and eating all the food

    Working classes come too late (after work) and don’t get enough

    Exegesis

    Paul calls them back to their roots/essentials/foundations

    “no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has already been laid for us in Jesus Christ

    Have you forgotten that you are God’s temple…God’s Spirit dwells in you?

    The Temple is central for the Jews

    Jesus, the disciples, early church – all Jews

    “even to the Gentiles” came later

    In their time it was the Second Temple

    Rebuilt after Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 586 BCE

    Built, 957 BCE

    Center of worship

    Holy of Holies – inner sanctum, God’s presence

    You are God’s Temple

    Remember Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount?

    You are salt and light

    God’s Temple is holy (set apart)

    And you are that temple

    Even with all the troubles, arguments in your community

    You are that temple – holy, set apart

    And don’t forget it, you should act like you are

    You are set apart for better things than the things that are dragging you down

    If anyone destroys that temple, God will destroy that person

    Later generation of Jesus’ followers saw the 2nd Temple destroyed

    By the Romans in 70 AD

    The Jews who fled Jerusalem were reminded …

    That destroying the Temple did not destroy God

    And God went with them ….

    By the power of God’s Spirit – beyond Jerusalem

    Like God was still with Israel during the Babylonian exile the time following destruction of the 1st Temple

    Not concerned here with God’s vengeance for destroying Temple

    Rather that God is not confined to the Temple

    Holiness is not determined by proximity to the Temple

    You are God’s Temple

    God’s Spirit dwells in you

    Therefore as you go about, spreading the Good News

    You are holy – set apart

    Even if …

    … the Temple (the building in Jerusalem) is destroyed

    … there is dispute in the church (among the people)

    … there is confusion among the leader (leadership, hierarchy)

    … all these things, even life or death, present or the future

    You belong to Christ

    And Christ belongs to God

    Therefore you belong to God

     

  3. So What?

    So even in the church

    that is to say the building, or the structure,

    physical or hierarchical

    which is made by human hands

    and subject to every human failing, pettiness, or fault

    Even there … is the place where God’s Spirit is

    And that Spirit is for the expression of God’s love for the world

    Transformational love in Jesus Christ

    That love which you have received in grace upon grace

    Not just to have and hold for yourself

    But to share and spread and give away

    Just as that love has been given to you

    I said last Sunday that following Jesus can be dangerous

    Because that discipleship has the power to change our life

    It’s no accident or coincidence that the readings for the past few Sundays have had to do with basics of faith

    Last 3 sermons

    What the Lord requires (Isaiah)

    Jesus telling us to go be salt and light – spice and vision (Gospel)

    Choose life – choose to make it (Deuteronomy)

    Rather, it is the assurance that the church is no stranger to struggle

    THAT began when God’s people first became the church – the gathered

    The Tabernacle

    The Jerusalem Temple

    The Body of Christ

    So let us not be dismayed or deterred

    Go back to the ropes course

    The fussing, griping, complaining was mostly from the ones who weren’t used to the struggle

    Like before I decided I could/would trust

    Trust the belay rope

    Trust the structure was sound

    Once I figured that out – and saw it work

    Then I could proceed on the harder sections

    The ones that, at first, looked too daunting

    That I could trust in the foundation of the construction of the course

    Put behind me whatever happened before

    And decide to make it

    One step at a time

    Trusting the foundation

    And be in the place on the course …

    Where the fussing and griping was behind me

    And I could take one step at a time

    And make it along a course that once looked like way too much for me to handle

    Until I made it to my goal – the Zip Line

    When I took that big step off the platform,

    Trusted the foundation and the harness, etc.

    And rode down the fun part

    Yelling, but this time, yelling for joy

    That I had made it

    And in that same way…we will make it

    Unafraid that the church (any church, every church) has struggled

    Undeterred and undistracted …

    by grumblings from those who are not on the same journey

    With a sharp focus on our mission and vision

    And even though there is …

    Struggle, grumble, distraction, and fussing

    It is all coming from the low end of the course

    Where it’s easy to jump off

    And climb back to the ground

    For those who are committed to making it here

    There is the progress of focused assurance

    One step at a time

    Unafraid of what lies before

    Trusting in the foundations

    Like the harnesses and belayers on the ropes course

    They will be there, won’t let us down

    It’s our foundation in the saving love of God in Jesus Christ

    That prepares us, and saves the world for a better way

    And that compels us

    To share it

    By the way we live our lives

So let it be with us. Amen

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6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 13, 2011

Frist Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs, OH
Rev. Joe hinds

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

This is life for you

  1. Way In

    Rev. Will Willimon (UMC Bishop in AL) tell this story from when he was Dean of the Chapel at Duke Univ. in NC)

    Call from an angry parent

    Daughter was bound for graduate school

    But told her father she was about to (as he put it) “throw it all away”

    To go do mission work with Presbyterians in Haiti

    “This is absurd”

    “BS degree in Engineering, and going to dig ditches in Haiti”

    Dr. Willimon responded

    I bet she didn’t get much training for that in the Engineering Dept. here, but I bet she will get the hang of ditch-digging in a few months

    Father not amused

    Concerned that some Christian commitment was getting in the way of his daughter’s career

    Dr. W. suggested that it was the well-meaning parents who started this ball rolling

    They had her baptized, read Bible stories to her

    They took her to the Presbyterian Church in their hometown

    Sent her to Sunday School, VBS, and youth group

    “You introduced her to Jesus, not me,” said Dr. W.

    Father replied

    “Yes, but all we ever wanted her to be was a Presbyterian”

    Church can be dangerous, following Jesus can be dangerous

    Because sometimes…if we’re not careful…

    Following Jesus can change our life – reorient our thinking

    And before you know it …

    We’re “throwing it all away” to go spread the love of God

    By digging ditches in Haiti

    Giving food away for free at the food pantry

    Tie-dying socks to provide medical care in Haiti

    Opening our doors to the community

    Sharing our spacious building with our neighbors

    “Throwing it away?”

    No. We know differently

    Because that is what we do.

    These things are our discipleship

    That is what we do because we have chosen to follow God’s word

    That is life for us

  2. Tell The Story

    Context

    Moses speaking to the Hebrew people

    As they are preparing to occupy the Promised Land

    During their desert wanderings he has taught them many things

    Final phase of Moses’ life

    Today’s reading is the end of Deut., chapt. 30

    Chapt. 31

    Moses told the people that he would not cross over the Jordan with them

    Moses appointed Joshua, in the sight of all of Israel

    “You are the one who will go with this people into the (Promised Land).”

    Then, in Chapt, 32

    Moses recites a song of God’s faithfulness and covenant

    Blessed the people in chapt. 33

    And in chapt. 34, Moses died

    And Joshua was full of the Spirit of God

    To lead the chosen people the rest of the way

    Because Moses had laid his hands upon him

    Chapt. 30 begins with Moses saying to the Israelites

    … if you return to the Lord your God

    From such as their idolatry (remember the golden calf?)

    And you and your children obey God …

    With all your heart and with all your soul

    Then the Lord will bring you into the land that your ancestors

    Surely this command is not too hard for you, nor is it very far from you

    No, the word is very near to you

    It is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe

    This is where today’s reading begins, the one that Perry shared with us

    I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity

    If you obey the commandments

    Love the Lord your God

    Walk in God’s ways

    Observe God’s commandments

    Then you shall live …

    And become numerous

    The Lord your God will bless you

    But if you turn away

    And do not hear, and are led astray to bow before other gods

    Then you shall perish

    You shall not live long in the land I have promised

    So, with heaven and earth (all of creation) as witnesses …

    I have set before you a choice

    Life and death – blessings and curses

    Choose life

    So that you … and your descendants may live

    (and what is life?)

    Love the Lord your God

    Which is to say, Obey the Lord your God

    Hold fast to the Lord your God

    For that means life to you

    And length of days

    So that you may live in the land that God swore to your ancestors

  3. So What?

    Love the Lord your God – for that is life to you

    Obey the Lord your God

    And what does the Lord require? (from 2 weeks ago)

    Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with your God.

    God wants us to choose life.

    And as we come together, in the shared life and ministry of the Body of Christ …

    God wants the church of Jesus Christ to choose life

    To love the Lord our God, and follow God’s ways

    For that is life to us

    As the church – the FPC of YSO, we choose life – who wouldn’t

    but we don’t have to look far to find threats to that life

    some of the same threats before other churches

    Building problems

    Financial worries

    Membership concerns

    But remember what Moses said

    You have before you life and death – blessing and curse

    Choose life

    Life together has challenges

    Someone told the story at Presbytery yesterday of a couple …

    Came to the pastor for marriage counseling

    After many years of bickering and fighting

    They were ready to move on or move out

    The couple put it to a vote. Shall we stay married?

    One “No” vote, one abstained

    Motion failed

    That’s no choice

    You’ve heard of churches rent apart by various things

    I heard of one that lamented over not having more families with children around

    But there was griping when kids came and they were noisy and messy

    … where they yearned for new members

    But were suspicious of new people trying unfamiliar things

    … where somebody stopped coming to church when …

    communion was served differently

    they stopped using the Advent wreath their grandmother made

    This is not life together – this is not life to us

    Deciding based on ego and entitlement is not life

    But when the church follows God, there is life

    When we choose not to follow ego and entitlement – we choose life

    When we choose to listen for the will of God – we choose life

    When our mission and vision have God’s word and will at the foundation – that is life for us

    I have been reading a book that I am thinking of recommending us to read together – chapter on “Choosing Life Over Death”

    Jürgen Moltmann quote

    “Where Jesus is, there is life.

    There is abundant life, vigorous life, loved life and eternal life.

    There is life before death.

    I find it deeply disturbing and unsettling

    when I think about how we have become accustomed to death –

    to the death of the soul, to death on the street, to death through violence

    to death-before-life”

    The author continues, “to this list I’m compelled to add how disturbed and unsettled I feel whenever I think about how accustomed we have become to the death of the church.”

    And I have seen, in these last few weeks

    Bright-eyed people in this church

    People who are committed to this church

    Not just as a beautiful building in the heart of YSO (and it is!)

    But as an expression of the Body of Christ in the community

    I heard somebody say that one of the biggest concerns here is survival

    Some may understand that as an expression of desperation

    I understand that as an expression of commitment

    I understand that as saying “we have something here worth preserving”

    And I stand before you today …

    In front of evidence of that very sentiment (construction)

    This is worth preserving

    This is worth living

    This is worth carrying on

    And I don’t mean just the building

    I’m talking about our life together as the church – the Body of Christ

    Our people here are worth life

    Our children and youth are worth life

    Our seniors, many of you life-long, or long-standing members – you are worth life

    Families and friends, single and married

    The found and the searching

    Our diversity

    We don’t all look the same

    Short hair, long hair

    Robes, dresses, and pants

    Women and men

    Caucasian, people of color

    We – are – worth – life

    Paul said it to the church at Corinth

    For we are God’s servants, working together

    You are God’s field, God’s building

    And you have chosen life

    You have been through difficult times

    You have had disappointments

    Some in the congregation

    Some from the presbytery

    Some from other places, maybe. I don’t know.

    But you have chosen life

    You have persevered through bureaucratic frustrations

    I don’t even know all of them

    But I know that you decided…

    In the year of our Lord 2011

    To extend a call to me as your pastor

    Maybe I wasn’t even your first choice

    But you did what you had to do with the system you had to work within

    Maybe, as Fannie Lou Hamer said, you were just “sick and tired of being sick and tired”

    And you took a risk – a financial risk

    And I don’t think you called me to lead you to the death of this church

    You have chosen life

    Now we are called to take this life..

    … this living and breathing Body of Christ

    … and with a sense of pride and commitment

    Continue the legacy of mission and outreach

    Build up one another

    To pray that the Lord will

    Build us up where we’re torn down

    And strengthen us where we’re weak

    And we will be the expression of Progressive and relevant Christian faith

    In this community – and beyond

    And whatever else happens, we will do our best to be faithful

    To follow God

    To love God

    And hold fast to God

    Because THAT means life to us

    So let it be with us. Amen.

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5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

February 6, 2011

First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs, OH
Rev. Joe Hinds

 

Matthew 5:13-20

“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. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 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. 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. (vv. 13-16)

  1. Way In

    Salt and Light

    Flavor

    I love seafood.

    Grew up in south Mississippi

    Spent many summers on the Gulf Coast with family in Gulfport, Biloxi, and Ocean Springs

    Shrimp, fish, crabs, oysters from the bayou in front of my grandparent’s house

    Close enough to Louisiana that we ate seafood Cajun-style

    Lots of spice: garlic, onion, peppers, hot sauce

    When my family moved to East Hampton, NY (Springs Community) on the east end of Long Island

    I was back in seafood country

    Fish, lobster, clams, scallops

    They prepared it differently

    Many ways EE of LI is more like New England than NY

    Food being one of those ways

    Not a lot of “heat” like I was used to, esp. on seafood

    Pepper, hot sauce, etc.

    For example, a local dish was clam pie

    Sort of a quiche

    Clams and potatoes baked in a flour crust

    Some salt and pepper, but no other spices

    I made my own once, decided it needed some heat

    Added garlic, onion, pepper sauce (Crystal)

    “that’s more like it”

    A friend tasted it …

    “Joe, you’ve ruined our clam pie”

    We were used to different types of seasoning

    I still like my seafood with some heat (and most other food, too)

    Even if you don’t like your food spicy

    Imagine eating anything without a little spice

    Just a little salt … don’t want to overdo it (health)

    Today’s Gospel reading tells of salt and light – now, think of light

    A true story about a friend in Alabama, a pilot

    Flying to an unfamiliar rural town

    Late in the day

    Getting dark, cloudy, low visibility

    Also low on fuel, but determined to make it to destination

    Now past sunset, stormy, no visibility, no radar on the field

    He couldn’t find the airport

    Even if he knew where it was, couldn’t see to land

    Fuel dangerously low

    He knew he was above the town

    Began to circle, flying as low as he dared

    As he circled more and more times he could see headlights below

    Lights were travelling in a line

    He followed them

    At a point, the lights began to split up

    Friend noticed they were lining up

    At last he could tell that they were lining up along the edge of the runway at the rural landing strip

    Now he was able to find the landing strip and land just before running out of fuel

    Ad he landed he saw the field, lined with cars, trucks, and even tractors – all with their headlights on.

    The lights guided him in.

    Bridge

    Jesus tells the crowds that gathered to hear the Sermon on the Mount … You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

  2. Tell the Story

    Follows the Beatitudes

    Jesus preaching to a crowd

    Near Capernaum, north shore of the Sea of Galilee

    Where he pronounced a blessing on the ones who gathered

    And the ones like them

    The mourners, the poor, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the ones who hungered and thirsted for righteousness

    “Blessings are upon you…”

    But not blessed for your own comfort or satisfaction

    Not just blessed and set aside as trophies “won for Jesus”

    Rather like Abram, in Genesis 12, who God “blessed to be a blessing” (Gen. 12:1-3)

    A calling out/sending out

    You are Salt

    Qualities/Uses of salt in biblical times

    Seasoning for food

    Preservative

    To keep food from spoiling

    Jews put it on grain offerings so it wouldn’t rot before offering it to God

    Salt and water wash for newborn babies

    Covenant-making

    Casting of salt over the shoulder of the one you are making a deal/covenant with

    Salt was a precious commodity

    Committing it to the covenant was of value

    Medicinal

    Wounds, especially in time of war – spears and swords

    Salt in the wound

    Painful, but healing

    Sometimes people would cheat others when trading in salt

    Seller mix in some sand

    Buyer got diluted salt

    Seller had more to sell

    Can’t separate the sand back out

    The diluted salt was worthless

    You are Light

    On a hill – show the way

    Reflect the light of Jesus in the way you live your life

  3. So What?

    Called to be Salt and Light

    Actually, Jesus says we are already there – “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world.”

    Go public with it

    Salt/Spice and Light

    Jazz it up

    Add pleasure and tastiness to life

    Show it off

    Faith and action go together

    Like salt and potato chips

    Remember the verbs from Micah 6 last week?

    Do. Love. Walk

    You are the light if the world

    Not the light of the church or of your house – but the world

    Obviously, it’s important for light to abide in those places, too

    Necessary for our instruction and preparation

    Let your light shine before the people

    Don’t hide it under a bushel

    Don’t’ worry that it may get blown out

    But let your life shine with it

    So that others may see

    Psalm 34:8, “Taste and See that the Lord is good.”

    The light of Christ

    The gift of grace and transforming love that you have known

    Now go out as …

    Witnesses to, and

    Agents of

    God’s transforming love in Jesus Christ

    Be the light of the world

    And let that grace and love show

    Jesus said that he was not the abolition of the law but the completion of it

    And he is calling us to completion as well

    Today’s reading follows the Beatitudes, the “Blessed be’s”

    You are blessed

    Now go and do

    You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

    Jesus didn’t say …

    “You are about to be salt and light,” or

    Try real hard to be salt and light,” or

    After some training you will be salt and light.”

    He said you are salt and light

    When I did Clinical Pastoral Education at the VA Hospital in Atlanta

    My supervisor didn’t say, “go visit patients as a trainee”

    My badge said “Chaplain” just like his did

    When I went into a patients’ room – I was the chaplain

    I was the one sent to sit and listen, or pray, or just sit with

    We are not in training to be salt and light

    We are complete

    We don’t have to worry about not being good enough

    Because, but by the grace of God, none of us are

    We stand on that same hillside on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee

    Among that same crowd

    Ordinary people called to do extraordinary things

    Claim it

    We are salt. We are light.

    We are blessed to be a blessing

    That’s why we do what we do

    Reach out into the community

    In hospitality – welcoming others – welcoming all

    Says so on our bulletin

    Reach out to those in need

    The work we do among the poor, the forgotten

    Friends, you know as well as I do…maybe better

    It’s important for us to increase in number

    True

    But it is critical for us to be faithful to our calling

    That’s why we are here

    In fact, I believe that is why we are still here

    This church does not stand in the middle of the community for nothing

    We have a unique opportunity to be salt and light – in YSO

    And I believe that as we continue to do so

    And be salt and light

    Living as God has blessed us to live

    Reaching out, caring for others, offering hospitality

    People will see – a taste

    And want to be a part

    Will want to have some of what we have

    … a reason to open our hearts and doors and minds

    To love one another, and our neighbors

    Let us always be on the lookout for opportunities to be salt and light

    Claim it – Jesus says we already are

    Not wanting to blow our own horn, it may be easier for us to acknowledge it in others

    So we can encourage each other

    recognize it in one another

    Who do you see that is Salt and Light?

    Watch for it

    Let them know. Give them a gold star

    Remember that Jesus said

    We are the salt of the earth

    We are the light of the world

    So let it be with us. Amen

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