Sunday, February 16, 2020

Let Us Go Furthur!

This week’s reading sounds harsh, very hard, but it goes hand in hand with the gospel reading of two weeks ago with the congratulations and last week’s reading which was you are the salt of the earth, you are the city on the hill, you are the light of the world, this week is the law says this but ….All of these are still that sermon on the mount Jesus has been seated in the same place preaching for 3 weeks now ….

We are still seated at Jesus’ feet listening in on what he is saying to his disciples.

Then of all things Jesus starts talking about salt. Salt??  Not Just salt but he speaks of salt losing its flavor.

“let me tell you why you are here. You’re to be the salt-seasoning that brings out God-Flavors 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.” (The message Mathew 5:13)

Salt does not lose its flavor.!

“Common salt comprises a very stable, simple chemical compound called sodium chloride, which has a salty flavor. As table salt, it typically also contains minor amounts of additives to keep it free-flowing.  As it is so chemically stable, sodium chloride will not lose its saltiness, even after being stored dry for many years. However, there are ways in which salt may appear to lose its saltiness.

Historically, salt has been obtained from crude sources such as salt marshes, and minerals such as rock salt. This contains the stable sodium chloride plus other components. Sodium chloride is readily water-soluble, so if this crude salt were exposed to condensation or rain water, the sodium chloride could be dissolved and removed, and the salt could in effect lose its saltiness. 
Also, the salty flavor is detected by our sense of taste. If there were a physiological change in the functioning of our taste buds, salt consumed may no longer taste the same, but this would not be due to any inherent change in the salt itself.

In summary, salt, i.e. sodium chloride, is a very stable material which retains its properties when stored dry.”[1]  So salt is salt is salt more or less to each of us it tastes a bit different some need more some need less to enhance flavor of food but salt cannot lose its flavor!

C. Andrew Doyle writes;

“What I also found interesting is that salt did, in the religious tradition of Jesus' day, become unclean and was to be thrown away.  When it was ritually pure it was used in the temple to season incense and it was even added to the offerings.)  So... salt was a big deal in the life of Israel and in the life of emerging societies that depended upon it as a preservative.  The basic image nevertheless is a powerful one...salt without its saltiness really isn't any good to anyone.”[2]

I find this all moving me in a bit different interpretation.  In cooking we need a certain amount of salt for flavor. Our bodies need salt but a regulated amount too much or too little and well…

As much as sodium has been demonized in the American diet—mostly because we consume far too much1 —it actually plays as vital a role in the functioning of our bodies.
Sodium (like calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and potassium) is an electrolyte, meaning that it creates an electrically charged ion when dissolved in fluids like blood. Our bodies need electrolytes they facilitate nerve impulses and regulate body functions such as heart rate, digestion, respiration, brain activity, and blood pressure.

For its part, sodium helps maintain the fluid balance in and around cells (including the volume of fluid in the blood) and helps regulate nerve and muscle function.

High sodium levels in your blood—above 145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L)—can affect the fluid balance and contribute to high blood pressure. By contrast, low sodium levels (below 135 mEq/L) not only decrease blood pressure but interfere with the activity of nerve cells and the muscles of the heart and digestive tract.”[3]

I am wondering if I would be so off tract to say that we need to keep a healthy balance of a spiritual life and a life out in the world so that we can be the salt of godliness that this world needs?

“Jesus evokes the utility of salt but also the limits of its usefulness. Salt that has lost its salty essence is no longer salt. It is no longer fit for its previous uses so it is tossed onto the path to be trod underfoot. This image strikes me as both evident but also a bit disquieting. After all, the Sermon on the Mount is not a reflection on cooking ingredients but on the shape of God’s high calling upon our lives. How is righteousness like salt exactly? And who or what exactly is that salt that has lost its saltiness?”[4]

“Jesus then also gives a very practical understanding about light and how people don't go around wasting perfectly good (and expensive - as candles were a luxury) light. Interestingly, candles are mostly associate with worship.  Jesus may be speaking about a lamp here which is probably more likely and more relevant to his hearers' ears.”[5]

Today we often think of the city on the hill all alight much like our big cities where the glare is so strong one cannot even see the sky.  Jesus’ image, that his hearers would understand, would be a night dark as could be, lit by stars and or moon and, while one is still faraway, a gentle inviting glow from the city.

Can you hear this as a middle of the road way?  Jesus is saying we need to be a gentle, loving expression of God here on earth.  We are called not to be over powering but we are also called not to be silent.
Nicolas King explains it this way;

“As Christians we can get our mission wrong in two ways. Either we can see our task as lecturing the rest of the world on their errors; or we can think no one will listen and keep quietly to ourselves. These two images of salt and light offer a middle way. We still have to be gentle, merciful peacemakers (so the more arrogant of the two horns of the dilemma is excluded); But we have nevertheless important function of adding ‘bite’ and illumination to the world (so we can’t retreat behind the barricades into a false humility). That does not mean the world will be impressed by us, however, so Jesus warns us to expect ‘persecution’. Not, on the other hand, is there any sign here that Jesus is condemning the ‘world’: That’s just the way it is.

            Those who think that it’s not respectful to laugh in church ought to look again at the joke about putting light under a bucket, and also learn the lesson: we have no cause to be shy about the Gospel message.”[6]

Both of these images begin to shape Jesus' expectations of us...that we not remain disciples, but that we become apostles. That we not simply follow Jesus but that we are meant to go out and be an example to others.  We are to change lives by reflecting the life of Jesus. Sometimes I think we get into trouble by trying to reflect other things...but Jesus is saying, "Be salt as I am salt in the world. Be light as I am light in the world." 

Jesus is saying there are very faithful good people.  They live faithful and good lives.  They work hard to be good to color in the lines if you will. They do what they feel is required of them and try do it as best they can.

Can you hear an issue here? There was a Christian rock band back in the 80’s I love their music.  They have a song called my room…

“I live in my room, it's warm here in my room
World is spinning, spinning like a big top
I have got a secret, I will slip it
Under the door, slip it to this wicked wicked world

I read in my room, memorize in my room
I am removing myself, I am moving quietly
Those without the secret, keep on knocking
At the door, disturbance from this wicked wicked world”[7]

Being a really Good person, being a good spiritual person is well and good but ,if it is all about you…focused on you, well you are putting the light under a bushel, aren’t you? 

And then in the midst of this Jesus shifts. Jesus turns to the law; “do not suppose for one minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures – either God’s law or the Prophets. I am not here to demolish the law but complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God’s law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s law will be alive and working.” ( Mathew 5:17-18 the message)

Often people interpret these saying of murder, anger, lust, divorce as new laws but they are expansions and, if we listen carefully ,we can hear something, something pure and simple about God’s law. Not man’s interpretation of the law but God’s law. It goes further.

God’s law goes beyond don’t do this, don’t do that. God’s law, the law of love says we are called to go beyond.  It may not be murder but words in anger or hate can eat away at our soul just as killing someone can. To add to that, in this day and age, we know words kill.

If you are holding a grudge or you know someone is mad at you go and try to make amends and or ask for forgiveness. That is all one can do. Well, then we also have to forgive ourselves. Often it is our own heart that holds us back from being fully present to God.

One commentator puts it this way…

“So, Jesus teaches, it is insufficient to avoid murdering someone; certain kinds of anger and insult can themselves be a form of violence to eschew. We might note how the power and privilege of some can affect death on our neighbors, whether intended or not. The prohibition of taking someone’s life has always extended to include a prohibition against dealing in death in less explicit but no less destructive ways.

But then Jesus raises the stakes here even more. Reconciliation is a prerequisite for coming before God at the altar. That is, what if broken relationships among neighbors, family, and friends are not just social obstacles among us but a barometer for our relationship to God too? What if the obverse of murder is not just avoiding killing but reparative reconciliation? That is, the command not to murder extends even beyond the taking of life. The rejection of the deterioration of someone’s character is essential in embodying the command not to murder.”[8]

What he is saying here is that this is all about relationship and not just among family and friends but how do we interact with each other and the other on a daily basis.  To we begin and continue to interact from the point of Love or do we diminish, insult, and exclude.?

Oh then Jesus tackles divorce and adultery… Remember in that day and age and until most recently men had all the power.  Men had all the control…and even though this is the perspective that Jesus approaches his extension of the law… Jesus makes it the responsibility of the gazer not the one who is gazed upon…It is not the woman who is guilty of being the temptress, but it is the man’s responsibility to not objectify.

“Again, what matters most here is not behavior but relationality. An objectifying gaze is an obstacle to authentic community precisely because such a gaze treats the other not as a child of God, a bearer of God’s image, but as a mere object.
Thus, the call to avoid adultery is, to be sure, a way to extol the preservation of commitments we have made in romantic relationships but also a commitment to the flourishing of all those other kin we meet in non-romantic contexts. We owe it to one another to treat and see our neighbors as if they are the bearers of the image of God, for indeed that is who we all are.”[9]

In the end Jesus is calling us, calling us to live into Love this includes but not limited to paying attention to the world around us…Listening empathetically to people of the #METOO movement, hear the cry for justice in the Black lives matter movement, understand that no human being is illegal and that there is no Planet B 

That song I mentioned earlier by Daniel Amos last verse says this…

“I sleep in my room, it's dark now in my room
Time is ticking, ticking on the big clock
It's raining outside, heaven's tears
Are falling down, falling on this wicked wicked world”[10]

We are called to step out of rooms…to step out of our sanctuaries and seek to be Gods love in this world. When we live in love, we are light, we are salt ,we are the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. When we live in Love we find the courage and the ability to go further in Love.

Let us continue to work to bring a just world for all in the name of God’s love and the Love of Christ. Amen.


[6] King, Nicholas. The Bible: a Study Bible Freshly Translated by Nicholas King. Kevin Mayhew Ltd, 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment