Matthew 5: 13-20 2-5-17 Rev. Tony Clark ACCUCC
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
What is this? You could probably taste this if I gave it to you right now. But if I put it in a pot of soup? Probably not.
What is this? If I lit this single match in this sanctuary at midnight with the lights off, you could see the flame, but it probably wouldn’t help me get to the door without tripping.
Jesus said you are salt of the earth and light of the world. However, each of us is just one grain of salt or one little light in the world. Not much on our own, but together salt enhances flavor, and together all the light beams illuminates a darkened room.
Friends, today, we have added a few more grains of salt to our little salt shaker, we’ve added a few more beams of light to all of ours, and it is together that we enhance the flavor and light up the world.
In modern English we have one word for you. It stands for you as one person, and it also stands for all of you. Most other languages differentiate these, including ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The passage we read today is totally directed to you—meaning everyone in hearing distance. If you are from the South, it’s the difference between y’all, and all y’all. Jesus says, “all y’all are the salt of the earth. All y’all are the light of the world.” And that last verse is this: “Unless all y’all’s righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never reach the kingdom of heaven.” This is not an individual mandate. This is a comment that only together will any of us reach the kingdom. Living into God’s will is not just about personal living in the ways of God, it is about how the community together discerns and acts in the ways of God.
Today we just increased our “all y’all” capacity. These seven people bring their grain of salt, their little light, and add it to ours. Actually, all of them have been adding their lights to ours in lots of ways, so what we did today was recognize that they are us and we are them. We simply acknowledged their salt and light in our midst, and we celebrate that our saltcellar got a little fuller and our light in the darkness got a little brighter.
Our faith is stronger when we practice it together. Our faith is fuller when we together work toward the fullness of our neighbor. Our faith is richer, tastier, lighter and brighter, when we recognize that the kingdom is intended for all people together and none of us alone. We perform our sacraments—Communion and Baptism—in community because our faith is stronger when we do it together.
Participation in the kingdom is about relationship, not just my own right relationship with God, but our right relationship with God and all of God’s creation. Righteousness is following God’s law, and it has nothing to do with how well I or any one of you follow that law; it is about how we all discern and follow that Law together. Christianity is never about me alone. It is about all of us together, all the grains of salt, all the beams of light. It is about love and peace and justice as it is practiced by all of us together.
In this passage Jesus said, “If you break one of these commandments, you will be considered the least in the kingdom of God.” Jesus doesn’t say, “If you break one of these commandments, you will be out.” He says you be the least in the kingdom. That means that you are still in the kingdom. But he also says that those who keep the commandments and maintain relationship with God and God’s creation, all y’all will be great in the kingdom. The commandment is about relationship. It is about seeing who needs a hand and reaching down to bring them up. It is about treating your neighbor as you would be treated. And not just one of you, treating all neighbors as all y’all would be treated.
All y’all together are salt of the earth; all y’all together are light of the world. Don’t hide your saltiness. Don’t hide all y’all’s light under a bushel! All y’all, let your light shine! The kingdom of God is intended for all, and we are called to make sure everyone gets there. Today we have a few more grains of salt, a few more beams of light to help us do it.
Blessings on you who have joined us today; may your light be added exponentially to ours. Blessings on us who receive them today; may our light be seen beyond our doors. Blessings on our neighbors and all creation; may our light shine so that everyone can reach the kingdom together. Amen.