Some homiletic thoughts: since I’ll be likely preaching in the center aisle this morning, what follows is what I’ll take in my head, no guarantee it will actually be verbalized this way.
Imagine the scene: Jesus is sitting on a mountain and stretching out across the slopes are people of every sort: education, occupation, gender and belief.
This week’s brief passage from the Gospel comes right after the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: Jesus starts with, “blessed are the poor, blessed are the peacemakers, and blessed are those who mourn.”
And you can picture the crowd being very excited at first with this bold new teaching. But then there is a moment of discomfort, as the crowd begins to look around: well, that person over there stole my mule. And that family over there didn’t pay the proper Temple tax, and that family over there, “well, did you hear their son failed out of rabbinical school?” These people don’t look very blessed at all. And then, as they keep thinking, maybe they begin to consider losing tempers with a spouse, harsh judgment on a child, weighing the scales at the market to charge more than they ought to have.
And as minds are beginning to wander, Jesus continues,
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world, a city set on a hill.
You are a light that ought not be covered.
You. Who? Me? Her?
I don’t know what is a tougher part of being a Christian: realizing that Jesus is calling me into discipleship, or realizing that Jesus is calling all of the people who drive us crazy into discipleship with equal enthusiasm.
I think if we get tricked into this calculation – and let’s admit it, we do it often – instead of being salt and light, we become hidden, dark, and bland – the opposite of that which gives flavor and that which gives sight to others.
It seems as if today’s Gospel calls us out of ourselves: it calls us to be more. When Jesus teaches us about salt and light, he’s not just challenging us to be better: to be good people. Most of us here, I think, are good people.
No, Jesus calls us to be people who are constantly in relationship: people who give of ourselves in order to call others to be more, others to be better.
And this is really easy to say, of course, standing up here. The question needs to be asked, what about those situations in which we think as if God is completely missing: illnesses, addictions, break-ups, lies, fights, deaths – the same list of things that have been breaking human hearts since forever?
I don’t have an easy answer. And if I did, I’d be lying. But here is what we do know – even if we’ve forgotten it in one way or another – the reason we can be salt or light is because God has gotten mixed up in our lives in a permanent way.
Jesus can call his followers – for all of our imperfections – salt and light because it is that same Jesus who lives in us because we’ve been baptized, and that same Lord who is constantly renewed in us when we come forward to receive the Eucharist.
But today, I think we’re challenged by the Gospel to walk up carrying our burdens, and, receiving the Body of Christ, to leave just a few of them behind, so that we are renewed and refreshed, ready to be salt and light for others.
And so, let us come to the place where all eat for free – where all are fed to the fullest – let us come to the place where Jesus, who is salt and light, shares that with us. Having met the Lord, who is our light and salt, bring this goodness to all we meet this week.