28 Apr Salt & Light
During Lent at Calvary, I did a sermon series on the Beatitudes, those immortal lines that open Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This week we picked up where we left off on Palm Sunday. We will be continuing our journey through Jesus’ famous sermon for the next 2 ½ months to see if we can grasp a bit more of what he said, why it was—and still is—so profound, and most importantly, what it means for our lives.
I am very clear that my call is to work within the institutional church. I love my job (most days!) and am blessed to be a parish pastor. But, that doesn’t mean I love everything about the church. There are many things that frustrate me, but rather than ditch the entire enterprise (see last week’s blog on community), I am called to work for change from within the church—to name those institutional sins we commit and to call us to repentance, to be a prophetic voice for righteousness and justice, to challenge the status quo when it serves us rather than others.
One of my frustrations with the church is our very human propensity for either/or, black/white thinking. Every time we give in to such thinking, we do serious harm to God’s church and God’s world. Take, for example, the Sermon on the Mount. At one extreme, some people of faith read Jesus’ words and their primary concern is that of belief: does the Church believe what Jesus says? Now, belief is certainly important. What we believe about God, about ourselves, about other people and the world, and about life shapes us and creates the worldview from which we live. So, belief is critical.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, some people have a different concern: that of practice. Is the church doing what Jesus said to do? Are we working out our faith in practical, useful, everyday ways that actually make a difference to someone? Now, it should go without saying that practice is also critical. Jesus didn’t just talk. He did things. He healed people. He restored relationships. He fed people. He had a practical impact in the daily living of countless men, women and children.
The truth is that we need right belief to form and inform our practices, and we need the practices to shape our belief. They are two sides of one coin, and to favor one without the balance of the other inevitably leads to a distortion of who we are supposed to be as the Church. Jesus says we are to be salt and light in the world. (Matthew 5:13-16) One of the common characteristics of the two is that a little bit goes a long way. Just a pinch of salt can flavor a meal. Just one candle can show us the right path to take. In my life I’m constantly being reminded that I don’t have to do everything, especially when I encounter something amiss. I am not the only salt in the salt shaker. I am not the only candle that is burning. I can relax and let God add more salt or more light to a particular situation, if it is needed. I am only responsible for my small part.
There is so much freedom in trusting God. That doesn’t mean it is easy to trust God. But, there is joy and peace when my belief and practice intersect, when I am the salt and light I am called to be, and I leave all the results in God’s hands.
Yours for the Kingdom,