Monday, November 06, 2006

Sermon on the mount part 2

So remembering Jesus begins this message by taking our perceptions of blessing, and cursing and turns them upside down, we come to the next passage. This is Jesus way of explaining how important this all is. And please let me warn you, I am going to say some pretty harsh things in the following paragraphs but please realize I am preaching to myself as well.

Jesus says, you are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its "saltiness" how can you salt it? It is worthless. Then he says, "you are the light of the world" and also shows us that a city set on a hill cannot be hidden, and if you hide the light it is also, worthless.

Now I have heard many sermons about this passage. It is infact a standard call for Christians to be the light of the world and salt to the world. Most of the sermons I have heard talk about the natures of salt, and the natures of light. And they are fine. It is true that light chases away darkness, and that salt is a preservative, and was a highly sought after and indispensible part of the culture. These are all true and they help us to grow. However, so often these become calls of morality. And I will get into that discussion in the next few messages as Jesus flips that on its head as well. However, I will contend that there is something much much more going on here than God asking us to be good little boys and girls.

There is no denying the absolute impact of these statements, I pray you can hear them again with fresh ears. No frail cliches these verses. Jesus says you are the salt of the earth, and if you are not salty then you are good for nothing. And says the same about light. The fact is, if we as the followers of Jesus, and the citizens of the kingdom of God, are not the radically different people that we are called to be, we are good for nothing in Gods kingdom. Jesus is telling us, if you are not the salt and the light, what good are you?

We must remember that in this culture, yearning for power, for freedom, for their pride to be re-established, their goal was conquest, and in their good Jewish minds this meant not only being militarily powerful, but also morally and ethnically pure. They were looking to sway God by their piety to redeem their place in the world. But Jesus tells this people, all the world looks to you. You are what seasons the world. You are what gives light to the world. And if you continue to merely imitate the desires and the lusts of this world, what good are you.

Now we are not talking about some silly morality. Let me say loud and clear there is nothing light giving about being Ned Flanders. If you avoid words on the naughty list, and dress conservatively, only listen to gospel music and go to church three times a week, you are not being salt. Now there is nothing wrong with these things, infact there is much right about them. But the message that we are to be good little boys and girls so we can be salt and light is just not true. Jesus goes on to say that people will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. And please let me assure you, no one is praising the Father because you said shucky darns instead of shit!

We become salt and light to the world when we begin to live in this new order. When we esteem the least in the world, when we eschew power, when we love unconditionaly, and sacrificially. Remember the beatitudes set the tone here. We are called to live a life with such different priorities and focus that the world says, "well they may be crazy, but if everyone was that kind of crazy this world would be a better place" The world is looking, are we making the poor more important than the rich? Are we seeking after success and power just like everyone else? Are we looking out for number one? Are we actually living in a love for our brothers and sisters that makes others desire what God has given us? Are we truly leaving the kingdoms of this world, power, fame, self interest, self determination, consumerism, title and degree mongering, for the new kingdom of God. Are we losing our life to find it?

This is not moral encouragement, it is a declaration of independence. It is a revolution! It is the kingdom of God come!!!

Be salt!!! Be light!!! if you aren't, what good are you?



hamo said...

i love the sermon on the mount and always feel so inadequate next to it.

i have a friend who says 'jesus gave us no ideals'

everything he said he intends for us to do...

its pretty confronting.

might just go back to not swearing, drinking and rooting around!

The Rev said...

Inappropriate David


urbanmonk said...

Ive taken the long way around to get to this truth. Spent many years trying to be salt by not swearing and going to church. Its funny how that phrase "see your good works" has been interpreted culturaly by The Christian Borg collective.

Is it pssible that the pendulem can swing back a bit too far in the other direction? When you finally get that it is for freedom you have been saved..( Gal)I guess that is to be expected in some respect.

Diana said...

I can only speak for myself...but I was once one of those who went to church three times a week, didn't swear, didn't drink, and so on. I actually believed that I was being the salt of the earth. Yet, I was so self righteous. I looked down my nose at anybody who wasn't as moral as I was. Well, about 2 years ago, I got knocked off of my horse. I won't say that I am salt now, but I will say that I am moving in that direction. And the reason I say this is because I have become more approachable to the sinner. I no longer feel superior to him. I am beginning to feel compassion for the lesser and I guarantee you that is something that I have not felt in a long time. Once I became part of the elite who were better than the rest, I became the judge of the lesser, not the friend. Thanks, good sermon!

David said...

You ask "Are we actually living in a love for our brothers and sisters that makes others desire what God has given us?"

Reading between the lines in your "When house church goes Freddy" entry, one sees an isolated and insular community with slightly wackish tendencies developing. If that's what God has given to you, you can can keep it, thank you very much. Especially when you add your own rantings about revolutionary change through the upside-down kingdom of God.

Who wants that mess? I bet that most those people, those on the margins, would actually like to live in suburban normality. Not is some wierd, upside-down, socially abnormal experiment.

The Rev said...

well Dave, don't come then.

As to your assertions they have been proven false as we often wind up with a house full of people you say want something else.


SocietyVs said...

I love the book of Matthew, namely the passges in reference and you call to 'living a different life'. I noticed faith gets so mundane and everything stays the same...I like the fact we are called to a higher type of morality...something that much better than what is standard.

I love the idals of being 'poor in spirit' (identifying with the poor), loving our enemies (hard to do), pre-emptive action is violence or sexuality (stop entertaining thoughts = no action), etc. It's just unreal the depth of those teachings and how much they can impact society and our faith...I will 4-ever strive to be 'godly' these teachings I see that.

David said...

I thought the Holy Spirit was supposed to enable people to live a "godly" life. Or does the Holy Spirit take it from "bloody impossible" to "exceedingly difficult". And how does it work in practice? For example, you have your meths pipe in hand ready to drag in another extremely pleasurable dose, and you get some kind of prompting from the Holy Spirit that indicates you should stop?

Or does the Holy Spirit change your mindset so you no longer engage in excitingly ecstatic pleasures offered by some recreational drugs (except of course for caffeine and alcohol, but these hardly compare to "ice").

Or maybe you share your drugs with others.

Anonymous said...

I am always intrigued by what it means to be salt and light. A mate who is a chef told me once that salt not only preserves, but when used properly it brings out the flavour of everything else around it. So in essence highlights the other spices used in the dish.
Now I am not saying that Jesus was directly referring to this fact of salt when he said this (he could have been, but I’m not going to be the one putting words in his mouth), but I sure as hell find it interesting within the context of the Sermon on the Mount. I find it paints a very different picture then just being good and nice and going to church 3 times a week. It paints for me a picture of people living holistically; not just aiming at ticking the right boxes, of people highlighting Gods presence in everyday life.

urbanmonk said...

I have a question..

Would it be fair to say that there are degrees of saltiness? ie: the parable of the talents? Do some people have more salt than others? Is it fair to assume that some will not be as salty as others, but never the less season their environment in some way? Even if it is not that much? And if you are not that salty, is it an indication that you are not seasoned yourself? or, that you just have a lesser gift.

I ask this, coz in my working life, I have been in the same stew/pot with the same people for almost a decade. I have tried really hard to be very salty indeed, But in nearly ten years, it appears to have had very little, if any effect at all.

The vocation Director of a cistercian Monastery told me a story of some one who asked Bernard of Clairvaux why he continued to preach when people never stopped sinning. The answer of course was that although people never stopped sinning, they did think twice about it.

Perhaps I answerwed my own question..but interested in your perspective on this line of thought.

these days, I may appear to be not that salty at all, but even so, I feel that all has not been in vain. Much like one of your paintings rev( one of which i would like to purchase, I might add) I feel that as i have been worn down, gouged out, and smoothed over some, that I am becoming saltier.. or, perhaps, what little salt i do have is just becoming more authentic.