Monday, February 4, 2019
Meeting Matthew Again...Anew
“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. Matthew 5
After Jesus expands to the very fringe and fray of society how wide the claim and name of, "Beloved" is, he launches into a call/commission to be the salt and light for the world. For Jesus discipleship is never a means to an end or a cul-de-sac of individuality. It is not simply that we are, "Beloved" period, rather we are "Beloved" comma. There is more to the story that simply, "God loves you." That is the beginning not the finish line. The love of God cannot be contained or confined but must come forth from us.
Too often we can treat our Christian faith like a golden ticket to the Willa Wonka Chocolate Factory in the sky. Get yours well the getting is good...and if someone else doesn't experience or encounter God's love, that is on them. But that isn't what Jesus is up to in his life. To take the baptismal claim of "Beloved" and include every person so that every person might embrace and embody this truth for others. This is one of the pathways of God's realm. Notice Jesus isn't interested in having people covert to Christianity. Jesus doesn't give them a test or ask for an altar call. He states a truth, "You are beloved...even in some of the most gut-wrenching and heart-breaking moments." And once that trust simmers and settles into your souls, go share.
To be salty and light also is about taking part in a wider world. No one would really want to sit down to a dinner of just salt. Salt is a spice, adds zest. How is your life spicing up someone else's life right now? Where are you pouring your energy into someone else in life-giving ways? Salt is a part, not the whole. Same is true of light. For all the good light can do...especially in the night...there are also moments, like at 3 a.m., when I crave the beauty, blessedness of darkness. Light is not the whole story, it is a part, a piece of life. To be beloved is to commit and be commissioned to go forth to add something this world needs.
And the deeper truth is that your way of being salty and light is different and distinctive from my way. I need your saltiness and you need mine. I need your light and there are times you will need mine. That is the relational invitation of Jesus. To form connections to each other. Or as Robert Putnam writes, there are times of bonding and bridging (there are also times of boundaries, but that is another post). There are times we feel connected to another and times we need to create/craft a mutual pathway across a divide. The struggle is how we do that. The deeper struggle is the energy it takes to do that. The even deeper struggle is the willingness to do that.
Being salty and light stakes a claim on our life, a claim/charge/commission perhaps we would rather not accept. It is a bit of mission impossible to try to connect with others in a diverse and divisive world. Yet, that was true for Jesus' world too. Did Jesus mean that menacing Roman guard in your town? Did Jesus mean that neighbor who had the correct code to push all your buttons? Does Jesus really want me to salt and light to those who vote differently and are critical of me? How do I do that?
Unfortunately, Jesus doesn't proscribe all ten/twenty/thirty thousand steps it might take. Jesus describes a state of being and says, "It might mean different things at different times to different people."
Be salt...be light, that is the invitation...and I sense there can be more than a trace of God's grace as we seek to embody and be embrace by these words this week.