Sermon Sunday 9th February 2020
Matthew 5. 13-20
May the words of my mouth and the meditations in our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.
Are we obvious Christians?
My son Simon is now 32, but when he was younger he loved the Where’s Wally books? You might also be familiar with them. Basically, you look at a busy picture with lots and lots going on in the scene and the idea is that you have to find a character called Wally who is hidden somewhere in the picture. He’s distinctive by his stripy red and white jumper and wooly hat but not always obvious to see. Simon would spend ages sitting looking at the pictures trying to spot Wally.
It made we wonder whether we are like that as Christians?-distinctive but perhaps still difficult to spot.
I’d like to start my sermon today by reading part of our Gospel passage again but this time from The Message Bible-a Bible which uses contemporary language. It goes like this:
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light-stand- so shine!
Imagine meeting someone for the first time and introducing yourself-a bit like this- Hello, my name’s Jeanette, who are you?
And they answered-“ Hello-I’m the salt of the earth”, or “Hello-I’m the light of the world”. I wonder what your response would be? If you’re anything like me you’d probably be a bit concerned you’d stuck up a conversation with someone slightly strange!
But that answer is exactly what Jesus is asking us to do in today’s Gospel passage. To be the obvious Christian! To be the person who brings out the God-flavours and God-colours of this world, and moreover, to be proud of it!
This passage in Matthew’s Gospel follows on from the Beatitudes within the Sermon on the Mount. It forms a part of Jesus’ direct teaching to his disciples and followers about how he expected them to be/what he expected from them as his followers-who, remember, were ordinary, normal people.
These teachings are about Christian character and they are rooted in Christ and our identity, our motives, our deepest love and (hear this), our influence in the world as Christians.
So, after the Beatitudes, we come to where Jesus uses these very simple images/metaphors of salt and light to help his listeners understand how they are called to interact with the world.
In Jesus’ day salt was a precious commodity-used to enhance the flavour of things and preserve them. Salt was also valuable and was used to pay soldiers their wage. The Latin term for salt is actually the origin of the word salary. Hence the expression “he’s worth his salt”.
Salt has a distinctive taste, if it loses that distinctive taste it is no longer good or useful as salt. And notice that salt needs to be actively combined with something, such as food, to be effective. It’s not much use sitting in a bag in the cupboard!
But what is it about us as Christians that make us distinctive in the world, that gives us our particular taste, that distinctive taste which Jesus is referring to? Perhaps it’s about having heart-about approaching our Christian life with passion rather than a yawn! After all, salt is spicy-not dull and boring. Our words and deeds should actively season the world around us.
But there’s another important Biblical association with salt. In the Old Testament-salt is a symbol associated with occasions where God shows his covenant or his agreement with people. It’s a sign of a God who keeps his promises forever. (Leviticus 2;13, Numbers 18:19)
So, when Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth”, he is making a connection with the fact that we are called to be those who introduce people to a promise keeping God. Because at the heart of our faith is a God who keeps his promise, a God whom we can rely on. A God of love who longs to be in relationship with each of us. Sometimes we might not always notice this, perhaps we are too busy or have other things on our mind. Thankfully, God doesn’t give up on us, he has made his covenant, his promise to his people, to us, even to a point of his own son dying on a cross for us.
Then Jesus talks about us being the light of the world. Now the Gospel of John says Jesus is the true light, (John 1:9), yet here we have Jesus calling us the light of the world?
We take it for granted that when we flick a switch a light comes on so we can see where we are going and what we are doing. But in Jesus’ time they would have had to spend time filling a lamp with oil and then lighting it. So to do all that and then hide the light under a basket made no sense at all. And when Jesus said. “A city built on a hill cannot be hidden” he was referring to the oil lamps which would be placed on the hills of the city to act as a beacon which could be spotted from miles away.
So when Jesus says we are the light of the world, he is suggesting that we should position our metaphorical lamps in a place which will give off as much light as possible. The implication being that our faith should be evident to all. The behaviour of God’s people should be a light which draws others towards it.
Living as salt and light may not be easy though. It’s hard to be distinctive.
But notice that Jesus is saying “You ARE the salt of the earth. You ARE the light of the world”. He’s not saying you it’s what you should be, or you could be if you wanted to- but you ARE. “You ARE the salt of the earth. You ARE the light of the world”.
Jesus is making a statement of fact.
Jesus knows he wants us to make a difference in the world.
Not to conceal our faith and our belonging to Christ, not to bury the Word of the Gospel, but to let it circulate in our life, in our relationships, in real-life situations, as a strength that galvanises, purifies, and renews.
Like both salt and light, our relationship with God should have an obvious impact on everyone who comes into contact with us. Be it in our workplace, with our friends and family, or with our local community, we are invited to speak about this promise keeping God, to reflect a God-like or Christ-like behaviour in all that we do.
And our motivation for this?- comes from Jesus’ love for us, his sacrificial love for us. It comes- because we want to be in relationship with Jesus-he attracts our hearts to him, and the way we live our lives should be an expression of our belonging to him and of how we are transformed to be a sign of hope and love to others. It is both who we are and how we are to be. That’s why Jesus was so adamant that we do not lose our saltiness and we do not hide our light.
So, are we obvious Christians? Like Where’s Wally, can we be spotted in the busy picture of life? Where do we sprinkle our salt to bring out the God-flavours? Where do we shine our lights to bring out the God-colours? Amen