The collect and readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany may be found here. The appointed gospel is Matthew 5:13-20.
Jesus said, “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.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
What are you doing with your life? It is a question I think we all ask ourselves at various points in our life. It is the question behind children’s dreams and stories about what they will do and be when they get big. Young people wrestle with this question as they plan their future, choose schools, pick careers, make a new home for themselves. Those of us who are older sometimes look back on the past and wonder what we have done with our life. The difficulties, challenges, and losses of life often bring us face to face with this question. It is really a question about meaning, significance, purpose. In that question God is drawing us to himself. It is a question with which we will always struggle until we begin to seek meaning, significance, and purpose on God’s terms and for the love of others.
It is the question behind today’s gospel. Jesus is continuing the Sermon on the Mount. He is speaking to those he has just declared to be blessed; the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. To live the beatitudes is our way forward in this life and it is also our blessing.
You blessed ones, Jesus says, are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Our blessedness, however, is not for ourselves alone. It is a gift given us to be held and used for the life of the world. The Christian life is not lived in isolation from or without regard to others. If we do not flavor this world with Christ we are like salt that has lost its saltiness. If we do not illuminate darkness with Christ’s presence we are like light hidden under a basket. We are useless. We are not living as the people Christ knows us to be and we have rejected our blessedness.
Some of us will hear Jesus’ words and think that we need to become something we are not or that we need to get something we do not yet have. That is not, however, what Jesus says. He does not say we should become salt. He says we already are salt. He does not say we are to become light. He says we already are light. We already are what we need to be. We already have all that we need. Now we must go live the life of ones who have been blessed, the life of salt and light.
This is really the call to make our inner life and our outer life congruent. Our actions and our beliefs must reflect and reveal each other. Our faith in Jesus, our life of prayer, our blessedness must be made visible by how we live, speak, and act. They must become the foundation for our relationships with all people; family, friends, strangers, and enemies. It is one thing to believe in Christ. It is another to live a public life that demonstrates that belief.
We can say our prayers and sing our praises to God but if they do not govern and guide our actions in this world they are only self serving words that fall deaf on God’s ears. Perhaps we should spend less time speaking the truth about God and more time doing the truth of God. What is that truth? How do we do that truth?
The prophet Isaiah is clear and concrete about how we do God’s truth. We loose the bonds of injustice, we undo the thongs of the yoke, we let the oppressed go free. It means we share our bread with the hungry, we bring the homeless poor into our house, and we do not hide ourselves from each other. It means we don’t point at another in condemnation and we don’t speak evil of another. We satisfy the needs of the afflicted. In short, doing God’s truth means doing what is right, what is Godly. We live with and care for each other in such a way that our blessedness makes a difference in the lives of others.
When this is how we live our light breaks forth like the dawning of a new day and the darkness is dispersed. That light is the presence and love of Christ. As we live for others we discover that our soul is healed, our needs are satisfied, our life is rebuilt, and God is ever present saying, “Here I am.”
The meaning, significance, and purpose of our life are found in the life and well being of another. That is what both Christian and Muslim protesters in Egypt have discovered. This past Friday I saw a picture of young Egyptian Christian men standing side by side, holding hands, and forming a human chain. It was a chain of protection. Behind that chain were Egyptian Muslims prostrating themselves and saying their prayers. It is a picture of salt and light.
The meaning, significance, and purpose of our life are found in the life and well being of another. That is what the many volunteers at the Uvalde Food Pantry have experienced as they collect, pack, and give food to the hungry poor of this town. They are not, however, just distributing food. They are distributing salt and light.
The meaning, significance, and purpose of our life are found in the life and well being of another. Every time we offer forgiveness, seek reconciliation, or act with compassion we sprinkle salt. Every time we speak a word of hope, work for justice, or do for another what we would have them do of us our light pushes back the darkness.
Much of our world is dark and tasteless. Too many people live a bland existence amongst the shadows. The world and its people need flavor. They need light. They need you and me to make a difference. How are we being salt, flavoring the life of another? Where is our light dispersing darkness?