Monday, February 6, 2017

The Light of the World

February 5, 2017
Matthew 5:13-20

Oh, being Lutheran and reading Matthew.
It’s not that easy.
Especially where we get to a line like the last one
we read today which says
“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes
and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

And the snarky Lutheran answer after reading this is,
“So how are you doing on that?”
the answer for all of us and for the disciples
Apparently though, the building wasn’t insured.

and for the crowd hearing this  is probably “not that good. “
I mean no one was better at keeping the law than the
Scribes and the Pharisees.
They were the law-keepers and they
were careful to watch for the letter of the law.
and they were quick to let everyone else know when
they weren’t doing a good job at it.
How could anyone compete?

 But as followers of Jesus, we are not just law followers,
we are law fulfillers.
Jesus is assuring his critics that, even though his message seems
radical and different, he is not throwing away history, he is fulfilling it.
We may not be able to follow the letter of the law,
but we follow the spirit of the law:
spreading God’s love and God’s kingdom to the world.
We are called to be different than the world,
not to be separate from the world.,
but the ones who bring light and hope and flavor to others.

Jesus is saying, that those crowds would be
more righteous than the Pharisees,
just by hearing him and being in Jesus midst
that it was inevitable. They would fulfill the purpose of the law.
Earlier at the beginning of the sermon, we heard that they are the blessed,
theirs is already the Kingdom of God,
the kingdom of heaven is theirs for the entering.

Jesus tells them
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.
Not, “You should be” or “If you do these things, you will be”
God’s work will be done, and we can be a part of it.
The light will shine in the darkness.
Join in and be part of the light.

And God knows, the whole world needs some light right now.
Whatever side of politics you are on today,
We are divided from our neighbors.
It doesn’t feel right.
And it seems to be happening all over the world in every country,
ideologies and politics have caused division
like we’ve never seen before.

The whole world is in a time of retraction,
a mantra of fear, separation, scarcity and isolationism
has been expressed in the politics of many countries and cultures.
We’re dividing into separate tribes and groups.
Some are in and some are out.
There’s a movement in the world like we need to only
take care of number one and separate ourselves
from anyone who is different.
This is the antithesis of the picture of God’s kingdom.

In times like these, just doing normal, simple decent
human things can offer some light.

Not getting hysterical,
talking to people we disagree with and not yelling at them,
not resorting to vitriol,
not taking personal jabs at people,
In times like this, just living the basics of Christian
decency can be refreshing and enlightening.

And doing the normal things that Jesus has called us to:
Giving food to the hungry, welcoming the stranger,
and standing up for the oppressed -- can seem almost radical.

Even the slightest bit of light can change the darkness
And a lot of little lights can eliminate the darkness all together.

Like this week, when people were being denied
entry into the US, thousands of other people
quickly started coming out of their homes
and going to airports and speaking up
for people they don’t know 
and will probably never meet.
Whether you agree with 
the political point or not,
this show of support 
has been a light to those who are
afraid and unsure 
about their status in the US.

And also this week in Victoria Texas,
 a mosque was burned down. It was most likely arson,
They’re not sure quite sure what the cause was yet,
but the mosque has been a target of vandals before,
possibly people emboldened by the anti-Muslim suspicion
and sentiment going around.

In the midst of the darkness of that fire,
The community came together,
Muslim, Christians, Jews and probably some nones and
atheists, and agnostics -- hundreds of people gathered
and prayed for the people who lost their place of worship.

Then, soon, money started coming in to help the congregation.
Just in a few days, over one million dollars have been raised
from all over the world, people of all different faiths,
all different belief systems all over the world
donated for them to rebuild.

And then, a member of the local Jewish congregation in Victoria,
came by the home of the president of that Islamic
center and gave him the keys to their Synagogue
and invited them to treat it like their own.
And three other churches in the area offered the same support to them.
In the face of more darkness,
people not putting their lights under a bushel,
they are turning their lights brighter.

And someone might point out, rightly,
that many of these people who have acted
in this time are not even Christian. 
Many of these people are of some other religion,
or are undecided, or are of no religion at all,
some are even against religion all together.
It’s true, very true.

But here’s what I think, and it’s something that gives me hope:
That just shows me that Jesus light is invading this world.
The salt of the Holy Spirit is flavoring things without people
even knowing it’s the Holy Spirit.
In all parts of this world, Christian and not, religious or not.
God’s hope, and love, and grace, and light
is slowly taking over the darkness.

God is getting this work done in this world.
Just like that woman who puts a little yeast into pounds of dough.
Just like the little mustard seed that invades everything.
Jesus is the Way – the way out of this mess we’re in.
Even if you’re not Christian, Jesus’ way is the WAY:
Loving our enemies, turning the other cheek , welcoming the stranger.
And in the face of that light, the darkness has no chance at all.

So not one word of the law will go away.
God will fulfill God’s promises.
God’s kingdom will come to all of us.
Even though it sometimes doesn’t look so hopeful.
It is God’s promise, and Jesus plan, and the Holy Spirit’s mission.
So it will not fail. And we are part of Jesus plan.

Because salt is salt. It can’t lose its flavor. It will always be salt.
And even if you put that little candle under a basket,
that basket will catch on fire and that light will even get bigger.

You are the light of the world
You are the salt of the earth.
God’s love will have the last word.

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