Saturday, February 5, 2011

Salt & light

Matthew 5:13-20

We continue with our exploration of the Sermon on the Mount. Last week we read the Beatitudes, which is the beginning of the sermon. Blessed are those who are suffering in some way, and blessed are those who help those who suffer. Jesus wants us to know we are blessed, and he wants us to share that blessing with others, especially those in need.

Jesus continues with this call to his followers to be … salty … and shiny. In life, we must physically have both salt and light in the right balance. Used metaphorically, we also need Jesus’ salt and light, and we are challenged by Jesus to not keep his salt and light to ourselves. If we do not share this salt and light with others, it is like losing the qualities that make salt, salt, and light, light. We are to flavor the world with the salt of Jesus, and to shine with Jesus’ light wherever we go.

Many people in my life have been salt and light, in very different ways. They are unique, each with their own gifts and talents and passions that were not hidden under a bushel, but used to flavor the life of some of the congregations in my life. Some of the folks are still living; others are now living with Jesus. As I made this list, I’ve taken care to not mention the people of this congregation. But I hope you’ll find yourself somewhere in my stories about a few members of other churches.

Bob was a serious extrovert. He was never afraid to approach someone in church and introduce himself. “Hi. I’m Bob. I don’t believe I’ve met you.” It never bothered him if they told him they were long-time members who normally attended the other service. He took it in stride and continued to get to know them.

Marilyn has a passion for evangelism. When she was healthier, she would go door to door with one or two other persons and introduce herself and invite the residents to visit the church. She was also never afraid to speak her mind at church and challenge more folks to join her on a Saturday morning.

Stan was generous. He knew finances, and he had a lot to say about how the congregation spent its funds. One year, he was the person who visited my home to present the pledge card and ask for my commitment to supporting the ministries of the church. As he handed over the card, he said, “Financial stewardship. That’s what really matters.” Stan put it badly, in my opinion, but years later I understood what he meant. When you put your trust in God, you are able to give more than you ever dreamed was possible. And conversely, the more you give, the more you are able to trust in God to take care of you.

Evelyn is a leader. She was the first woman to serve on the council, and the first female congregational president. She served a term as the president of the Women of the ELCA synodical women’s organization. Ev worked for years as coordinator of the local Christians United group, inviting important speakers to give presentations to the community. For many years she has been the leader of Dorcas Circle, leading a simple Bible study for a group of older women, some of whom take naps during the meeting.

Every church needs a handy person or two or three. Chuck tries hard to maintain and update the property, both building and grounds. He’s always ready to pitch in and do, and to find the replacement parts to fix whatever might be broken, to try to implement the pastor’s ideas, and to keep everything looking great.

Ruth has a passion for hospitality. For many years she ran the local soup kitchen, coordinating thirty area congregations who each took a day to feed about 150 hungry people a hearty lunch. She knew her guests by name, and listened as they shared their struggles to find work, raise children, maintain a home – or to survive on the streets.

Dick is persistent. He had a vision for a Memorial Garden at the church. He shared his ideas with a committee, but not much happened for two or three years. Dick didn’t give up. Eventually, funds were raised, but less than he hoped for. The plans were revised to fit the funds, and the materials were purchased and delivered. With the occasional help of a handful of adults and youth, the sand was leveled out, the bricks were laid, and the garden was dedicated. Dick was gratified when the first service of remembrance was held in the garden a couple of months later.

Sarita is a teacher; retired from the schools, she joyfully shares the love of Jesus and knowledge about the Bible with her Sunday school class. It’s a challenging group, made up of a mixture of developmentally disabled adults and lower elementary children. But Sarita loves teaching and watching her class members grow in faith and knowledge of Jesus with her help.

Virginia was a prayer warrior. Each week, she would lead several women and men in listing the prayer concerns of the congregation, as a community and as individuals. As they talked, Virginia collected all the concerns, and then lifted them to God, placing them in God’s hands for the week. People knew she did this, so they called and sent notes to her with their concerns. If anyone was having trouble, they knew Virginia was praying for them.

Children share salt and light in many ways. Their unguarded comments during the children’s message, their enthusiasm for participating in worship, their passion for what is right, their concern for the underprivileged, their willingness to learn, and their readiness to follow Jesus can teach us all something about discipleship.

Unnamed, but present in every congregation, are those who share their talents and passions in quiet, almost invisible ways. They sing in the choir, visit with hospitalized and homebound members, send birthday and anniversary cards, make hand-crafted gifts, make phone calls, make and serve refreshments after church and for funeral lunches, polish brass and set up for worship, communicate our events with the newspapers, and so much more.

There are so many ways to serve Jesus, to share his salt and his light with the world, it’s not possible to list them all. But, now I ask you: How do you share Jesus with others? We are never too young or too old to share salt and flavor the world with Jesus’ love. We are never too old or too young to shine with the joy of loving Jesus and serving him.

Please pray with me. Jesus you call us salt and light. Help us to give flavor and light to the world around us. Amen