KINGDOM LIVING – SALT. LIGHT. DEEDS
November 10, 2019 – Rev. Donnell Wyche
We’re so glad you are here with us this morning. We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space. As a church we partner with the liberating presence of God to cultivate joy, hope & belonging as Jesus invites us into freedom, keeps us free, and helps us free others. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you’ve been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.
Immediately after concluding the Beatitudes, Jesus talks about salt, light, and deeds. He’s making a transition from what happiness is to explaining what discipleship looks like. He’s teaching that participation in God’s rule and reign requires disciples to take up disciplined practices that follow Jesus into living countercultural in the world forming a community that obeys God by publicly engaging in works of love, mercy, justice, and the protection of the dignity and worth of human life.
Salt. Light. Deeds.
Shifting gears, Jesus speaks to his disciples among the crowd explaining to them that they must reimagine themselves in the world as God’s agents of redemption.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)
What’s implicit in this instruction is the impact disciples should have on others. When Jesus offered these words there was an intense argument happening within first-century Jewish life about morality under the covenant. An argument that persists to this day, centered in and around what does it mean to be loyal to God. Do you engage practices that sided with the oppressed or with the oppressors? In answer to this question, there emerged a community that withdrew from what they labeled as the morally corrupt practices of Israel into a monastic community to live in covenant faithfulness to God. They formed the Dead Sea community at Qumran, so scholars posit that when Jesus speaks of salt, light, and deeds, he may have had them in mind. The Dead Sea is really salty, for one, and two, these individuals believed that the faithful could only practice their loyalty to God apart from the immoral, or morally corrupt members of the nation.
Jesus says that salt that isn’t salty is worthless. Because both salt and light have an impact. Salt on its own has no inherent value, it’s only when salt is added to something else that it has impact. How can salt that’s intended to be impactful be effective if it has been removed from the place of intended purpose?
13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)
Salt that has lost saltiness is indistinguishable from the dust of the ground, it is be thrown out and trampled underfoot. We might not consider ourselves as having a lot in common with the community at Qumran, but the sentiment that undergirds their removal from the immoral cultural is often mimicked by us. This idea manifests itself through our focus on our own well-being, our own right-standing, or our own moral standing to the exclusion of others. Remember that Jesus is telling us a better story, he’s telling us a story about what the community of God looks like.
Let me tell you a story.
STORY: In our work advocating for peace and justice, we sometimes find ourselves at odds with the law because not every law is moral. As people of God more committed to Jesus than to the Empire, our commitment to Jesus will impact how we behave and act within the world, which will threaten our comfort.
Recently, I was talking with my wife, Maria, about the possibility that I might get arrested for some peace and justice advocacy work. I had already discussed this possibility with our church board and we came up with a plan, but I hadn’t shared all of this with Maria. As I was walking out of the door, I said, “I may be arrested for some of things that I’m working on.” My daughter heard this and wrote me a letter. In her practiced cursive writing she wrote to tell me that she didn’t want me to do something that would get me arrested or to do something that would cause me to lose my income. She was afraid for my safety if I got arrested and for herself and our family if my arrest disrupted our family life and income.
I was so proud of her exercising her agency and for her self-advocacy. I was also a little jealous of her, I wished that I had the same kind of agency she has developed when I was kid, it might have had a significant impact my growth and development. Then I realized something that was implicit in her letter to me– an expectation of a life without hardship.
As a child, I think this is a reasonable expectation. And yet, I wanted to pause here and offer that not everyone has the same opportunities she does, and it’s not enough for us to say we have made it, or that our family has made it, and that’s it. The idea that as long me and mine are okay, that’s enough. There’s this hard saying of Jesus in Luke 12:48
48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48)
I explained to my daughter that I am where I am today because someone else saw me, loved me, and invested me. So, we take serious Jesus’ command in Mark 12:31 that we love our neighbor as ourselves. In answering the experts in the law, Jesus summarizes and quotes Leviticus 19:8-19:
9“ ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.
11“ ‘Do not steal.
“ ‘Do not lie.
“ ‘Do not deceive one another.
12“ ‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
13“ ‘Do not defraud your neighbors or rob them.
“ ‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.
14“ ‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.
15“ ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
16“ ‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.
“ ‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.
17“ ‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.
18“ ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:8-18)
This command from Jesus, which summarizes Leviticus 19, compels us to work towards a more equitable and just world for everyone, not just for ourselves. This is why my wife, Maria, serves alongside others from our church in the prisons helping those who are incarcerated stay in closer touch with their kids through a reading program that records the incarcerated parent reading to their child and sends the recording and new copy of the book to the child. This is why congregants are putting James 1:27 into practice as they open their homes and hearts to adopt and foster kids who have been orphaned. This is why congregants serve meals and serve in the medical or dental clinics at Hope Clinic, one of our community partners committed to ensuring that our neighbors have access to free medical, dental, and food resources. This is why our congregants who are in grad school also volunteer in our local schools or in after-school programs to ensure that under-resourced kids have the same opportunities they have. This why congregants are learning the about morally-bankrupt practices of payday lenders, so that they can work towards breaking the cycle of poverty that traps hard-working people everyday. And there are things that you are doing where you receive no credit or acknowledgement because of your faith in Jesus, a faith that compels you to action, action that undermines and condemns a culture that invites you focus on yourself and your well-being alone.
Entering the Tension of Kingdom Living
We all have to contend the notion that Jesus wasn’t focused solely on reforming our inner attitudes or the state of our human hearts, but Jesus is also concerned with our how we act, behave, and operate within the world–socially, economically, and politically. This is what every irrepressible dreamer already knows — that nothing is ever real until it is embodied. What counts with God and each other is not opportunities, or vision, but incarnation– but the ways we bring to life what we say we believe. What carries power and promise in the world and generates conviction, courage, and transformation is the concrete actions and steps we take to neighbor and build community. Jesus is inviting us to live morally rigorous lives that are clearly distinctive from the world around us.
We don’t need overt grand gestures here.
Jesus invites us to be faithful witnesses with our love, mercy, compassion, money, time, and presence in our world because God is already faithfully present and invites to come and join him where he is.
Hear Jesus from Matthew 25:34-36:
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:34-36)
So we can conclude that “losing your saltiness” means becoming foolish because we lose our identity as a Jesus follower and participate in a world that trades in the market-driven logic of distrust, suspicion, and alienation, all of the things that contribute to operating within the world with calculated self-interest.
Jesus invites us to realize that
13“You are the salt of the earth.” (Matthew 5:13)
“Don’t be foolish” Jesus says throughout the Sermon on Mount and salt that loses its saltiness is height of foolishness, just like the builder who builds their house on the sand and has his house destroyed. (Matthew 7:24, 26).
24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Healing. Anger is robbing you of your ability to focus. Give Jesus permission to diffuse your anger and pain. The Holy Spirit wants to transform your ability to focus and increase your heart’s ability to hear the Lord. You’re not alone and your anger is not too big for Jesus to handle.
Encouragement. Just because you didn’t see Him doesn’t mean He wasn’t there. He’s realigning you with His purpose. He’s healing wounds from the places you were violated. What happened to you was not right, and the Lord is giving you hope and strength and a new song. He’s giving you courage to forgive and a new willingness to get help.
Holiness and Home. God is calling people to holiness, to rededicate their lives, to completely surrender to His best for them. “I’m calling them home.” His love never fails, His love never gives up, it never runs out.
Freedom and healing from fear. For someone who is battling quitting smoking. The Lord desires to give you true comfort. Don’t give up. Try again. There’s no shame. Timidity is not your inheritance and addiction is not your future. Invite Jesus to realign your heart with His purpose for You. He loves you. You’re not alone.
Forgiveness. There’s forgiveness for those who keep messing up. “My door is always open to you.”
Freedom from control. You don’t have to figure everything out. Be at peace in the Lord. Invite Jesus to be in charge.
Perseverance, hope, and transformation. For those going through tough times. His grace is sufficient. Read Matthew 14:22-33 – the Lord wants to encourage you.
Peace for single moms. The Lord wants to bless and to come alongside mothers who are parenting alone. He sees your burden and He’s with you. There’s no stigma in the Kingdom for needing help. Let Him carry you.
Proverbs 24:16 – “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again…”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Psalm 103:12 – As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Isaiah 61:3 – “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes..”