A sermon for Epiphany 5
Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12), Psalm 112:1-9, (10), 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16), Matthew 5:13-20
This morning is another first; at least Friday afternoon I believed it to be another first. Last week I preached from lessons I’ve never preached from before. Today I’m preaching from the same set of lessons our bishop preached from last night. I don’t see this as a “for better or for worse” thing, it just is; and I was pretty sure he will not (and he didn’t) preach from Disney’s Ratatouille, so at least this will be different.
Actually it’s not the movie that’s the source of inspiration; it’s director/writer Brad Bird’s and, Remy’s voice, Patton Oswalt’s [i] worldwide excursion designed to immerse them into the culinary world hoping to add a degree of realism to a story of a mouse with dreams of being a master chef. My memory of their stories is from an interview on NPR, perhaps Fresh-Air but I really don’t know. In any case, two of their stories are particularly memorable. The first is a butter tasting, where the name of the cow, who gave the milk, from which the butter is made is known. Apparently you can actually taste the difference from one cow’s butter to another. Who knew! The other story is of a salt tasting. That’s right, a salt tasting, where 17 (or some surprisingly large number of) salts, each from a different location, are sprinkled on a variety of foods. Each salt elicits a different flavor from various foods, some enhancing one food better than another and vice-versa. I still get the impression I’m missing out on a lot of culinary delicacies.
The connection between Ratatouille and today’s gospel story is light; specifically Jesus espousing about that … so that they may see …. In my photography, I know light itself can be an interesting subject. However, more often than not, the value of light is what it illuminates, what it allows you to see. At my photography retreat last spring we spent a couple of days learning how to light subjects to get specific images. I spent two nights this week in my backyard playing with light and ice coated tree limbs, because I could not get the images I wanted in the day time, because of the distractions of the background. We know that both salt and light have intrinsic value. We also know, both are more valuable, for what they reveal in other subjects. This feature is at the heart of evangelism. But before we explore that, a word about what Jesus says about salt and light and us.
This morning we read Jesus saying: You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Not may be, not will be, not even should be, but you are. [ii] Because we are Christians, whether we want to be or not, we are salt, we are light, we are evangelist. The word ‘evangelist’ comes from Greek roots for good, and sent out, meaning: sent out with good news, or to proclaim good news. The way we understand evangelism today is to go around telling everybody about the presence of God in Jesus. It’s not a comfortable notion for lots of people. However, if we understand that being an evangelist is more akin to salt and light, that we bring out the presence of God in Jesus, that we illumine the presence of God in Jesus; just by our presence, we may relax a bit.
But then we get to where Jesus says: we’ve got to be more righteous than the Pharisees. That’s a scary thought, until we get through Jesus’ wandering all over the place logic, and realize that they aren’t very righteous at all; it’s a scary thought, until we remember righteousness is a divine gift. Unlike any other gift it’s a gift that demands that we live differently than we would otherwise. [iii]
So we are salt and light, and so we have the divine gift of righteousness, but … what if we just aren’t very good at evangelism, even salt and light evangelism? Well, Jesus does say that those who break the law, who don’t live righteously, will be called least in the kingdom. But note, they are still in the Kingdom; they are still in God’s presence. Righteous perfection is not the requirement; although, a genuine righteous effort is expected. I am, you are, he is, she is salt, we are all light. Together we can bring out the presence of God; together we can illuminate where God in Jesus are. In every circumstance, we are salt and light, we are evangelist, if by nothing else than our own humble presence.
Jesus says we are salt, says we are light. I believe we are also the message. And just as there is an amazing diversity of salt and light, there is an amazing diversity in us, and each of us reveals, each of us illumines, the presence of God in Jesus in our own way, and in unique circumstances. This amazing diversity of salt and light means that no one is beyond the reach of salt and light beyond the reach good new beyond the presence of God in Jesus. No one misses out on any righteous delicacies, and everyone knows the name of Jesus.
[ii] Scott Hoezee , cep.calvinseminary.edu, http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/thisWeek/index.php,
This Week at the Center for Excellence in Preaching,
and Amy Oden Working Preacher, WorkingPreacher.org, Commentary on Matthew 5:13-20
[iii] Hoezee, ibid