5 Epiphany – February 5, 2017

Matthew 5:13-20

“You are the salt of the earth…” “You are the light of the world.”

We are in the church season of Epiphany and Epiphany is a word which itself means “appearing” or “showing forth”. Epiphany is a season that beckons us to ponder what it is that God desires to manifest through us, and to wrestle with what hinders this.

There is much, both within us and without, that works against savoring and shining, salt and light. Recognizing and resisting the bushels that threaten the light is a practice and a journey all its own.

Jesus’ words this week are meant to wake us, to remind us of what we carry in our bones: the living presence of the God who bids us be salt in this world in all our savory particularity; to be light in the way that only we can blaze.

So, do we need to wake up? How are we being salt and light in this life?  Because, it isn’t always easy.  

Whenever our jobs, our hobbies or our extra curricular activities, even our volunteer work is demanding excessive amounts of our energy we can easily get burned out. We then have to position ourselves in such a way that our light is reflected to alternative targets. And sometimes the light needs to be reflected back to ourselves to give us rest, nourishment or enlightenment.

While we haven’t had much of any snow this winter. Think about what it’s like to drive at night in a snowstorm. Some roads have reflectors built in. And I love those roads, because the road at night lights up like a runway at the airport. You can see to drive clearly for miles. But when the road is covered with snow, the reflectors are hidden beneath layers of snow, ice, slush. Sometimes it’s so bad that I remember one particular evening I had to keep focused on the telephone poles along the road to find my way. When there were no telephone poles you had to rely on luck.

So, when we are covered with “layers of slush” the light of God can’t be reflected from us. It’s there, just covered up. Our lives have to stay warmed to the love of God to keep off the slush. Or we may need a little “salt” to melt those layers away. We may also have to change our position from time to time so that we are able to receive the light. Our faith remains hidden when we are not receiving the warmth of God’s love. Our faith remains hidden when we are not in a position to reflect the light. Our faith is hidden when our lives are inundated with mounds of snow and ice, layers of ice coldness.

By being reflectors of God’s light and aiming that light to people or problems that are within our limits we wind up being effective disciples. By making changes now and then and positioning our lives in such a way to receive the light of God there will always be some light reflecting from us and our faith will never be hidden.

Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth”.  

It’s a promise, not a command.

Jesus isn’t saying, “You should be the salt of the earth and light of the world.” Or, “You have to be,…” let alone “You better be,….” Rather, he is saying, you are. As in already are. Even if you don’t know it. Even if you once knew it and forgot. Even if you have a hard time believing it.

Jesus is making to his disciples a promise about their very being, he is not commanding, let alone threatening, them about what they should be doing.

In this passage, Jesus is making promises and giving out gifts. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. This is, like last week, sheer blessing.

I invite you to look deeply into your lives over the last couple of weeks and think of the variety of ways God has used you to be salt and light. Perhaps words of encouragement to others?  Your faithful work at your place of employment? The volunteering you’ve done? The prayers you’ve offered or protests you’ve been a part of? Or promises you’ve made and kept?

Any of these things may seem, in and of themselves, small. But please don’t forget: small is what God most often uses to change the world.

Once we begin to believe we are salt and light – not simply becoming or hoping to be, but actually are – we can let our light shine and give thanksgiving and glory to God.

And that matters, because if ever there was a time when we needed to be blessed with the gifts of salt and light it’s right now. Check the headlines; listen to the news; glance over the social media pages – there is an unusually pervasive sense of dis-ease in our world and there are divisions evident in our country, in our own community.  

Last week our gospel was the sermon on the mount, otherwise known as the Beautitudes, where we saw Jesus called blessed all kinds of people the world doesn’t always call blessed. What does this say about the God who sends Jesus and the communities called to follow him? Those who mourn and are meek. Those who are poor in spirit and merciful. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. These are the people God blesses and calls us to bless. Much later in Matthew, well after the sermon on the mount and just prior to Jesus’ crucifixion on another mountain, our Lord will also call us to discover his presence among those who are without shelter, without adequate food and clothing, and who are imprisoned and lonely (Mt. 25)

This is a difficult time for many people and for many reasons. We need salt and light in this world. And the crazy thing is that God has already provided it…right in and through the people who are seated around you today.

You are loved. You are blessed. You are salt and light – already! And  God is not done with us yet. God will continue to bless the world through our prayers, words, and deeds as Jesus’ faithful disciples. Jesus is making promises today, and we are all about to be changed by them. Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. Amen.