First United Methodist Church
February 5, 2023
Rev. Lauren Hall
It Needs a Little Salt
Several years ago I went on a week-long retreat with a group of camp directors. The trip involved several extreme adventure activities such as white water rafting, rock climbing, hiking – those type of things. About halfway through the second day, one of my friends asked me why I was so distracted. My response was to begin reciting a list of projects that were not getting done because I was in the middle of the woods in Tennessee instead of at work in the office.
My friend laughed and reminded me that there will always be more things to do than we will ever get done. Each time we complete a project, one or two more will rise to the surface. We can very easily get caught in a cycle of never-ending do, Do, DO! Every once in awhile, it’s important that we take some time to DO nothing.
He was right. I am a doer, and I have trouble slowing down and taking what my colleagues call a Sabbath. Technically, a Sabbath is a day in which you DO nothing. No work, no homework, no housework. It’s not just sitting in a chair and meditating – Sabbath is a time to appreciate God’s creation and your family, perhaps by going to church or watching a movie, reading a good book, or doing something relaxing like traveling somewhere to see a concert or cheer on your favorite sports team.
I don’t think I’m alone in calling myself a doer. I think lots of people are doers. Americans are doers, prompted along, no doubt, by the Protestant work ethic. But even the Puritans spent Sunday together as a family, worshipping God and spending time with one another.
Now, just so I’m not misunderstood – I’m not saying that doing is wrong. Occasionally you might need to spend a whole day checking things off your
“to do” list. But then you need a Sabbath. Your body and your mind need some time for you to just “be.”
When Jesus says that he has not come to abolish the law or the prophets, he is affirming that there is a place for law in this world. The law is about doing. It is about practicing righteous living by following the commandments of God. We need the law, so we can know what to do and what not to do.
But when Jesus says he has come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, I think he is suggesting that being his disciple is not as much a matter of DOING as it is a matter of BEING.
The people of Israel were facing a period of enormous theological and social change during the time of Jesus. The temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed and rebuilt, and in a few years, it would be gone again. Jerusalem itself was under Roman authority. Parties and factions within the faith community had different ideas about the future of Judaism, and they were often in conflict with one another. The present was unstable, and the future seemed uncertain.
That doesn’t sound so unfamiliar does it? You and I are living in a time of enormous theological and social change. The number of people joining the Christian faith is in decline. The United Methodist Church has parties and factions with very different ideas about the future of the denomination. Congregations are shrinking, and buildings are being sold. People are forming faith communities and worshiping in different places and spaces and redefining what it means to be Christian and Methodist in an increasingly diverse and rapidly changing culture. The present is unstable, and the future seems somewhat uncertain.
When I think about all of this, I think about the image of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. We know we can’t stay in Egypt, but we’re not sure
about what’s on the other side either. We don’t even know if we can trust that the walls of water won’t come crashing down on us as we cross. It’s a heavy burden to carry on our shoulders.
So, how are we, the disciples of Jesus Christ today, supposed to be in this situation? How are we to live?
Jesus says we are to be salt, intensifying the flavor of the world around us. Jesus says we are to be light, shining God’s grace into the despair and fear many people feel. Our goodness is to be so obvious, so in evidence, that, through our presence, the very presence of God’s love and grace is felt in those around us.
As we think about how we can accomplish this, it’s important that we don’t get so caught up in the spiritual do, Do, DO that we ignore the importance of the spiritual “be.”
We have to think about what it means to be a disciple. How do we let God’s light shine through us and how do our lives enhance the flavor of God’s love in the world?
As we consider these questions, we have to think about them in terms of how we can be disciples as individuals, and how we as congregations can be lamps through which God’s love and grace shine into our communities, and how we can be salt that intensifies God’s presence in the world.
First thing we have to remember is that in our Scripture, Jesus doesn’t say go be the light of the world. He isn’t asking us to go out and rescue the world like Superman or Batman. No, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” You already are. Just like last week, Jesus was blessing the crowd, not pointing out who is blessed and who isn’t. Jesus isn’t asking us to do anything. He is giving us an identity.
For those of us who are seeking to become followers or disciples of Jesus, God is inviting us to “be” by transforming our lives. God wants to make us super salty, radiant with light for all to see. That’s what this week’s text is all about. Christ is inviting us to see what being salty and beaming with the light of God might look like.
So, why, you may be thinking, does the pastor stand up here every week, sharing more things for you to “do?” Why should we participate in the events that are scheduled for this week? Why can’t we just go home and “be?”
Well, the second part of the message in today’s scripture says, “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.”
We are called to begin “living salty” everyday, and to keep the light that is within us shining 24/7 and 365 days a year. Every so often we are called to go out and “be,” to shine our light so that others can experience Christ’s love through our witness.
Whether you travel to South Bend with our Missions team to help Cultivate prepare food for hungry children, or volunteer for Hospice or Meals on Wheels, or participate in community service groups such as Kiwanis or Rotary, or attend a sporting event at Plymouth High School or Junior High or one of the colleges, remember who you are and know that your “doing” and “being,” are adding Christ’s flavor to the world.
The good news we need to hear out of this teaching is that it isn’t our job or our responsibility to transform someone so that they will have a relationship with the living Lord. It is God’s job alone to convert a heart. Our role is to be
witnesses, through our teaching and being, vessels through which God’s love and grace flow, and lamps through which God’s light can be seen.
So spend some time this week looking for beacon opportunities, or situations that need a little salt, and just “be” that salty radiance. Let us pray…
Loving Creator, you have placed within us the spark of your Divine Light. As people of your justice and mercy, you cause us to shine. We long to grow closer to you and to walk in your ways.
Forgive us, Lord, when we fall short in our mission. For the times when we fail to be your disciples and overcompensate by keeping ourselves so busy in our doing.
Give us hearts that are open, generous, and unafraid, so that your divine spark might ignite within us and make us shine throughout the world as beacons of your kindness and your love. Amen.
Invitation to Discipleship
As you go out into the world this week, remember that you are the salt of the earth, so be salty. You are the light of the world; let your light shine. May your thirst for justice and righteousness be like a city on the hill that cannot be hid. Go with the blessings of the one who makes us salt and light! Amen.