You Are – Rev. Caitlan Gartland

You Are
Posted on February 9, 2020 by caitlanq6
Preached on February 9. 2020 at PC of Chestertown

Matthew 5:13-20

Every time I take a confirmation class to Washington D.C., anxiety is high because I share very few details about what we’ll be doing, except to say that we will spend the weekend serving others and seeing others through God’s eyes. I do tell them that this will mean spending time with those who are experiencing homelessness.

Ahead of our trip, we prepare Blessing Bags – these are reusable bags filled with things that people experiencing homelessness may need… food, water, socks and gloves, and even toilet paper. We walk around the city, looking down alley’s, wandering through crowded parks, and seeking out warm grates outside large office buildings, to offer a Blessing Bag. We are reminded to look people in the eyes, to smile and make conversation with them, to recognize their humanity.

I have taken confirmation classes on this retreat many times now and every class reflects on it as one of the most transformative experiences of confirmation. Because through it, they recognize that they are servants of Christ, that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

We know that salt and light are essential elements for life. Salt is the main source of sodium, which we need for proper nerve and muscle functions. It regulates the fluids in our bodies and our blood pressure. Salt preserves our food and can enhance the textures and flavors of things that we eat.

Light is the main source of energy for all living things. It dictates our biological clocks, helps to produce oxygen, and provides warmth. I don’t understand all of the science involved, but what I do know is that we could not survive without light.

Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He doesn’t ask us if we’re interested, if that sounds like something we would like to do. Jesus says: this is who you are, this is why you’re here. He tells us that we are critical, essential elements of life for the world. Jesus says that we have no choice but to embrace, to live into, to engage this identity and call. And you know, believing in Jesus means doing what he says!

Captured within his Sermon on the Mount, is a thorough explanation of what it means to be salt and light. We heard last week in the Beatitudes that it involves humility, mercy, seeking after justice and righteousness, purity, and peacemaking. And next week, I suspect that Joel will add more to that as he digs further into Jesus’ sermon.

What Jesus tells us here in this passage is that we are vital and necessary, that we serve a purpose. Like salt and light, we are elements or channels of life, of vision, of godliness for all the world. The prophet Isaiah declares that we bring light to that which is unjust and freedom to the oppressed. We share what we have, we care for those in need, we do something when we see something needs to be done. We are generous with our lives. And in this, God’s light will shine and God will be revered.

You are sources of life. Just last week, you gave $600 and 300 pounds of food to our local food pantry, to ensure that the hungry in our community are sustained and fed.

You are beacons of vision. You shine God’s light in places of darkness; you bear God’s vision of a better world, of God’s Kingdom. We do this each time we proclaim the Gospel, celebrate the Sacraments, and pray. You bear God’s vision when you open our space to have difficult conversations about racial injustice and when you really do welcome all people into the life of this church family.

You are channels of godliness. You seek to do what is upright and moral. You love deeply and unconditionally.

As salt and light, we heighten and illuminate the presence and activity of God. And we do so with the intention of opening ourselves and others up to God and God’s Kingdom.

Sometimes our experience of this is sacred, filling us with awe and gratitude. The boys in our most recent confirmation class experienced this as they prayed with a complete stranger who knew and felt the love of God through them and a simple Blessing Bag.

Sometimes being salt and light is more difficult and not so glorious. Sometimes it will sting. Sometimes it will expose what we don’t want to see or come face-to-face with. Speaking a hard truth, loving someone we disagree with, or being ridiculed for being faithful.

I wonder if this is why Jesus warns us about hindering our light, about letting our saltiness fade and diminish. He says that when salt loses its taste, it becomes worthless and irrelevant. And a lamp covered by a bushel basket is rendered dim and ineffective; it even runs the risk of creating a dangerous situation.

The bushel baskets can be our own doing; sometimes we pull them over our own heads – the basket of self-doubt, the basket of insecurity, the basket of little faith. I think of those confirmation students who come to D.C. kicking and screaming, insistent that they will not embrace the experience. I think of those who hesitate to serve in church leadership.

But we can also become trapped under bushel baskets we didn’t ask for – the basket of discomfort and the basket of judgment. I think of members of Congress, caught between their commitment to their faith and their commitment to their political parties, who face judgment and criticism and humiliation when they strive to be salt and light.

When those barriers are in place, interfering with our ability to be God’s salt and light, what happens?

People don’t get the help they need.

Injustice spreads.

Divisions deepen.

We ignore what needs to be done.

We bite our tongues when we should speak.

We become comfortable and complacent.

And the world won’t taste God. The world won’t see God.

According to Isaiah, we risk making our living and worshiping about ourselves and not about God. We become inward focused, rather than outward. We lose sight of who we are, of what we are, and who we are living for. We end up pointing towards ourselves instead of towards God.

Yet Jesus says you are this, for me. You are salt and light, to make me known and felt and experienced in the world. Our saltiness is not our own flavor. Our brightness is not our own light. It comes from God. It points to God. And it is sustained by God.

Friends, know and believe this truth about you, that you are God’s salt and light. You are the salt-seasoning which brings out the God-flavors of this earth. You are bearers of light, bringing out the God-colors in the world (The Message). You possess the Spirit of God and thus the capacity and the purpose of making God known and felt in the world.

You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Not by choice, but by design. Not by desire or sheer will, but out of necessity. Not for yourself, but for God. Amen.