February 5, 2023
SERMON: ‘You. Yes, YOU!’ Rev. Jane Courtright
I read of a couple of researchers
who’ve been conducting experiments on salt!
I imagine that they obtained a grant of some sort!
We North Americans consume great quantities of the stuff,
in small amounts at a time…. Usually.
Of course, as some of you have pointed out,
salt makes food taste good.
It seems to bring out the flavor. BUT, WHY?
The researchers report that salt can actually
cover up many flavors of food.
AND YET WE LOVE IT!
One of their theories is that the salt makes food taste better
because it masks some of the bitterness of foods.
AND YET, they don’t know why this is!
Any of you who have been restricted to salt-free diets
CAN PROBABLY TESTIFY
…it is amazing what a difference a little salt makes!
In last week’s gospel reading,
Jesus tells disciples they are blessed.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells his followers that they are
the salt of the earth & they are the light of the world.
a little thing like salt, a fragile quality like light!
I find it interesting that when Jesus speaks of
the DIFFERENCE his followers make in the world,
He uses two rather small, often unnoticed,
seemingly insignificant substances….salt & light.
Light can be very fragile…
in small quantities it makes quite a difference!
Christmas Eve, this year, like so many years,
we celebrate the light of Christ coming into the world
through Jesus’ birth….
there is THAT moment in the church service
when the lights are turned down.
It seems very, very dark.
There are one or two candles lit at the front,
& it seems amazing what a huge difference
one or two candles can make.
Soon, candles flicker throughout the entire sanctuary.
and slowly, we can make out the faces of others,
& the room feels cozier and warmer as the light spreads.
ONE CANDLE AT A TIME.
I can remember as a child, our family had the opportunity
to explore a deep cave somewhere in Ohio.
As we descended into the darkness, I looked anxiously
at the tiny lights we had been given to light our way.
They were just miniature flashlights,
(this was before cell phone flashlights!)
But they make all the difference.
When Jesus spoke of US, his followers,
seizing upon a metaphor to characterize who we are,
HE DIDN’T SAY:
You are a great army marching into the world.
HE DIDN’T SAY:
You are a loudspeaker put up in the marketplace
to blare my message to everyone.
Jesus said that
“WE are salt & WE are light…small & fragile,
yet they can make all the difference!
Our faith, Christianity,
more particularly MAINLINE Christianity
was in its heyday 50 or more years ago.
Christians felt as though they were in the majority.
Numerical significance & cultural superiority was the
self-understanding of the American church at that time.
We were the majority faith.
This was our neighborhood, our school, our nation, our world.
Today, it’s hard to imagine there was ever such a time..
when they closed gas stations on Sunday mornings,
refused to play basketball games on Sundays.
Let me ask you:
Were YOU endangered in the stampede
leaving your neighborhood this morning
on your way to church?
I DIDN’T THINK SO!
Now-a-days, when we travel to church on Sunday mornings,
we are a minority!
I’m not referring to a minority in the pool of other faiths.
I mean, as William Willoman puts it:
“We feel small, insignificant, just a few grains of salt
within a vast secular soup of bland indifference….
with just a dash of occasional hostility and derision.”
THINGS HAVE CHANGED FOR US.
In THIS situation, Jesus referring to us as SALT & LIGHT
takes on a different and special sound.
Maybe Christians were not called
to make this OUR century,
our neighborhood, our nation.
Could it be that Christians are not called to dominate
the culture in which we find ourselves?
Perhaps our vocation is to be salt & light…
seemingly insignificant, yet surprisingly powerful…
set loose in the world to make a difference.
Some years ago, I attended a seminar titled:
I remember one of the presenters,
a scholar in Islamic studies,
answered a question posed to him, saying,
“It’s odd, but the Koran has no help whatsoever
for how one is to behave as a Muslim,
in a majority NON-MUSLIM culture.”
When you think about it, Christians have no
good instruction in our scriptures
for how we are to behave
when we ARE a majority in a culture.
Our scriptures are written for a minority…
people on the margins, people without power,
people without great social significance.
Remember the stories Jesus told
(some of which we’ll be exploring
in our Adult Forum for the next weeks!)
…stories in which something seen by the world
as small and insignificant….
is seen as FULL OF POWER
through the lens of the Realm of God?
The story about one pearl of great price,
the one lost coin, the one lost sheep,
The one about a tiny mustard seed
that grew & spread it’s branches up to the sky.
Isn’t Jesus telling us that it is our vocation
as his followers, to seem small & insignificant
to the world…
to work behind the scenes, secretly growing?
When you arrive at your school in the morning,
At your workplace, at the place where you volunteer,
Or the grocery store or bank, or at home caring for family….
You don’t have to show up in a GOLD CHARIOT
With the word ‘CHRISTIAN’ printed on the side,
Or wear a big cross
or have a Christian fish w/ a cross in the middle!
I HAVE SEEN YOU DO THIS:
You slip in quietly. You do your work.
You don’t look that different from anyone else.
HOWEVER, from the moment
when you stick up for that difficult child
whom everyone else had given up on,
From the time you listen to a co-worker
who is experiencing a tough time in her marriage,
From the hour you refuse to pass on gossip
about someone In or out of your circle,
From the time that you say a friendly word
to a grumpy person in line,
From the moment you forgive someone
who has broken your heart,
From the day when you hand food out at a food pantry,
instead of simply complaining about the poor,
From the beginning of your walk with some
who faces a serious illness or even death,
From the day when our confusion, pain & anger
forces us finally, to make a change…
FROM THOSE TIMES,
You are creating salted, lighted moments
in the world!
YOU SEE, you are the way Jesus is busy
turning the world inside out!
So, little things you do, little things like
The way you spend your money,
The words you use to speak to other people,
The way you use your body and other people’s bodies,
The jokes you tell and don’t tell,
The way you spend your time…
These small, seemingly insignificant things
from being personal matters of your lifestyle..
into the building of the REALM OF GOD!
SALT…TINY GRAINS…yet so essential in its uses.
Jesus is saying to us: “You disciples…so small.
Yet, sprinkle a few of you around in places….
home, neighborhood, workplace, school,
store, hospital, playground, church….
…maybe even somewhere else in our nation
or the world!
NO TELLING what you’ll stir up,
No telling what you’ll flavor.
Jesus puts a great deal of trust in us,
declaring us to be salt and light!
You would think he’d say,
“I am the salt of the earth & light of the world.”
Here we are, at church, & in a few minutes,
we’ll break bread & share the cup with this Jesus,
said by others to be “the Light of the world.”
Don’t be too surprised
when this light of the world turns & focuses
a bright gaze on your LITTLE life…
Calls you the light of the world
and the salt of the earth,
Because by the grace of God,
YOU, yes….YOU…are! Amen.