readings on which this sermon is
be found at: http://web.me.com/frsparky/iWeb/r038.htm
s038g11 Sunday 5 Amberley 6/2/2011
In the name of God, Life-giver, Pain-bearer and Love-maker.
(Fr Jim Cotter http://www.cottercairns.co.uk/)
‘You are the salt of the earth’ Matthew 5.13
Salt, unlike other spices, isn’t used to add it’s own flavour to food;
it is used to bring out the flavours already an integral part of the
food. One doesn’t eat a bowl-full of salt, a little
enhances what is
good in other things. So similarly the task for
‘christians’ is to
bring out the good in people other than ‘christians’. Other
already good, and we just make that good evident.
Similarly as ‘christians’ we are light to the world. We
world a cheery place, where people can be who they are and appreciated
for who they are.
However often it seems the church wants to focus on how good it is and
by contrast how bad the world is. We want the world to become the
bowl-full of salt, and no wonder the world protests. So too
light. Light needs real objects on which to
shine. If everyone were
light, what would be seen? Often it seems that the church
keep people back in the dark ages, believing in a three tiered universe
because it is biblical, and hiding from others (and herself) the beauty
of evolution, the magnificence of the stellar and the microscopic
world. I believe that this is sad, and in doing so
unnecessary and in
plain contradiction to our words from scripture today.
When I lived in Adelaide (on the West Island :-) the main road north
passed by the salt fields of Dry Creek, and this has always been an
image I have recalled when I hear some ‘christians’ talk as if everyone
have got to become ‘christians’ like us. Those salt fields
horrid place, essentially uninhabitable. People have used
‘coming home from the salt mine’ meaning leaving the drudgery of the
work-place to rest, relax and enjoy life.
And, of course, even the biblical imagery of salt is not always
We are told Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt when she looked
backwards towards Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed.
Surely the Lord
didn’t do this because she didn’t want to miss the
looked back because of the subtle desire for power (which lurks in all
our psyches) - she was regretful to be fleeing. If we too,
‘christians’, want to exercise power over others, we too may suffer the
Salt, in moderation is good, and the food which flavour the salt
enhances, in moderation, is good. Light, in moderation, is
a world bathed in light, in moderation, is much better than a world
groping around in darkness.
And this makes me reflect how religions often deny this goodness in the
adherents as well as goodness in those who aren’t. Why is it that
often encounters with the divine cause people to want to shrink away,
and make this a pattern that others must also follow?
I suppose the classic example is the heavenly vision that the prophet
Isaiah had: on seeing the vision of God he proclaims his sinfulness and
insignificance. God will have nothing of this.
Isaiah is lifted to
his feet and told to go to the ancient people of God. God
interested in our sinfulness, God is interested in us getting on with
life amongst people.
Again I am grateful to Brian who wrote recently: ‘One author has
written “what would be the influence on a child’s life if the parents
.. informed them daily that they were a
terrible person? You are not even worthy to pick up the
crumbs under (our)
table”.’ Rather worse than being told ‘children are to be
seen and not heard’ - a very common expression when I grew up.
And why is it that we have taken on a religion which ever keeps us ‘on
our toes’, fearful that we might overstep the boundaries, or be found
that we have made a mistake! Why is it that we have a
stifles creativity? Why is it that we just assume that God
favourites, that we have to earn our way into heaven?
I spoke recently of St Paul, straight after his Damascus Road
experience, going off to ‘Arabia and Damascus. It took him
years to unlearn all the orthodoxy he had been taught. He
had had a
gutful of others telling him what to believe, how he had to measure up
and who he had to challenge, marginalise and alienate.’
I know how much of my life has been spent learning orthodoxy and then
extricating myself from it. Indeed it is the energy from
to find freedom from orthodoxy that enables me to prepare and preach
sermons. I continue to find that there is so much in the
written to free us from those thoughts.
After I had posted off my sermon last week, it came to me that even
after Jesus gave the sermon on the mount when he said ‘blessed are the
poor in spirit’, his disciples did not realise that Jesus words were
primarily addressed to them. ‘‘All they were doing was
with Jesus, fighting over who was the greatest, giving Jesus good
suggestions about what to do with the crowds who were following,
protecting Jesus from children and generally telling Jesus how he
should conduct his ministry ..’ even after his words. So
sermons didn’t make a lot of difference to the attitudes of the
disciples - so perhaps I shouldn’t look for instant results either
:-) The beatitudes invited the disciples to see the good in
crowds who weren’t following Jesus, but seeking to live lives of
integrity and charity. They were to be salt and light to
I often speak about being gentle, on ourselves and on others, be they
‘christians’ or ‘calathumpians’, and I need to hear and head this as
much myself as anyone else does. And this attitude of being
an acquired skill. It takes learning and practice, like
that are valuable. It is addictions which subtly lure us -
our better intentions. But good things are those that build
good intentions. But it takes time and practice and a failure or
Jesus tells us that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes
and the Pharisees. Now I would have a hard job competing
scribes and Pharisees in terms of their devotion to God.
the orthodox, the devout, those who tithed. But in all this
and is selfish. It is done to gain heavenly ‘brownie
points’. It is
all about that person’s relationship with God. So the man
'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues,
adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a
give a tenth of all my income' (Luke 18.11-12) was not
lying. In his
estimation he was righteous. But he was wrong.
Righteousness is not
about being ‘not like other people’ it is about being ‘like other
people’. This is what the incarnation is all
righteousness cannot be alone, or even in a ‘holy huddle’ of like
minded devotees. Real righteousness is about being with
and by definition, all other people. And it is precisely
become one with other people that we enter the kingdom in the here and
now. It is when we are open to be fed by people other than
‘christians’ and when we recognise and appreciate the reality of people
other than ‘christians’, then we are being who we are called to be and
we become a force for good in this world. For God has no
interest in my salvation: God is interested in the well-being of all,
whatever name they might call the divine. When the church
instrument for the appreciation of the contribution of all rather than
a cause of division and discrimination, then the church fulfils what
God would have us do.
And again, it is our corporate theology that needs to reflect
Your efforts and my efforts in the world are in the long run good but
if the church corporate is not accurately reflecting this, our
individual efforts are for naught.
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