Posted on Tue, Feb 8, 2011
Rev. Jim's Sermon for February 6, 2011
“Shine Your Light
Rev. Jim Merritt
February 6, 2011
Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Yahweh will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. I love that reading from the Hebrew Bible and the book of Isaiah. I have to take just a moment to testify to the fact that God has done so much for me throughout my life that I cannot keep silent. I am compelled by my own sense of awe and wonder at what God has done that I absolutely cannot keep from singing, I cannot keep from shouting, I cannot keep from lifting up my voice like a trumpet when I think of how good God is. Don’t you agree with me this morning? Haven’t you experienced the goodness of this God, our God, THE God, who loves us more than we can ever imagine and will never turn away from us. So let us all shout together with voices like trumpets about how God is blessing us right here and right now and in this very moment!
And our Gospel this morning tells us, Do not hide that light under a bushel or under a basket, but to put it up on a lamp stand so it can enlighten the entire room, the entire house, and even the entire universe. So let’s think about this passage together.
Salt. Many of us have issues with salt. It’s one of the both/ands of life. Our bodies require a certain amount of sodium in order to live. Most of that comes through salt. AND if we take in too much sodium, it will kill us. When this gospel was written, salt had two primary purposes. First its preservative qualities were highly desirable. You see they did not have the luxury of the latest Maytag or Kitchenaid appliances to keep their food cold if not frozen. They depended on salt to help do that. Salt was also used during this time to purify and it was used in sacrifices. We know that salt does not lose its flavor and that it can be watered down or adulterated so its flavor and other abilities is diluted.
So, what about this “Light of the world” business? Once again, it comes from Isaiah, “O Come, house of Jacob, come let us walk in the light of the Lord.” We know that it is Israel’s calling or vocation to be the light of the world. Professor Daniel Harrington writes, “The light imagery is developed in the saying in chapter 5, verses 15 and 16 in which Jesus’ followers are challenged to active engagement in their “good works. The goal of which is to encourage others to Praise God, or “Praise your Father/Parent who is in heaven.” Put simply, one way to let our light shine brightly is to be always engaged in doing good works.
The “city set upon a mountain” is a reference to the city of Jerusalem, built on Mount Zion and to the City of God. The Old Testament and the Torah envision all the nations of the world coming to Jerusalem, and that the result of those pilgrimages would be perfect peace. I know in times like these many of us would be glad to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or to Egypt or almost anywhere else in the world in order to bring about peace, God’s peace.
Have you ever considered this question; in what sense DID Jesus fulfill the law and the profits? Harrington offers three possibilities;
“Until heaven and earth pass away…) is very solemn. This is more of that eschatological discourse we’ve been talking about for several weeks now. The writer is talking about that time in which God’s kin-dom comes in its fullness. He’s suggesting that both the law and the prophets remain in force until them. That would be a little bit scary except that the Gospel also tells us that the works of Jesus will even outlast the law and the prophets and will become our focus for living.
Finally Matthew goes to some lengths to emphasize the ongoing importance of this teaching and that it will not pass away. He recognizes that there is some difference between what the Jewish Rabbis would call grave commandments and light commandments. Matthew is saying, observe all of them, not just the grave ones, but the light ones as well. And then in just a short jab, he reminds his readers that the best is example of NOT following this teaching is the Pharisees who do NOT practice what they preach. Righteousness, says Matthew involves fidelity to God’s will revealed in the Torah and Jesus’ interpretation of it.
And in so doing, my sisters and brothers, our light will shine brightly. We will no longer be able to hide it or prevent others from seeing it. The world will recognize us by the way we will with each other and by the quality of our relationships with others both familiar and unfamiliar to us. Our lights will shine brightly enough not just to change our own circumstances but also the circumstances of those around us both near and far away. I love what Michael Strassfeld says, “Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is thereby not diminished.” I also have some news for you, today, YOU have light to share and the world needs your special version of the light. Mary Dubar says, “It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.” I had the privilege of being on a conference call last week with a new Episcopal Divinity School student, Val Kanende, who is from Uganda and worked very closely with recently murdered Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato. David let his light shine brightly and some would say his brutal murder is an example of why we should NOT let our light shine. I was moved when Val said, “David no longer belongs to the LGBT community in Uganda, he belongs to the LGBT community all around the world.” You see his light is still shining among us through people like Val and through people like you and me.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross once wrote, “People are like stained glass windows; they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” My sisters and brothers you and I together can shine bright enough for all the world to see. As we love each other and love all who come our way, our light shines more brightly with every passing day. As we provide for the needs of the hungry and homeless the intensity of our light continues to go. And as we give freely of the light God shines on us, many will come, and many will experience through us that light that leads us to Jesus, who is and always will be the author and finisher of our faith. Shine you light, never hide it under a bushel. Set it up on a lamp stand and share it with all the world.
God bless you. AMEN.
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 58: 1—12
Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to God? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of God shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and God will answer; you shall cry for help, and Yahweh will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. Yahweh will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
Gospel Reading Matthew 5: 13—20
“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 Parent 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 kin-dom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kin-dom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kin-dom of heaven.