Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Feb. 6 Sermon: Cooped Up

Sermon Texts:
Isaiah and Matthew


One thing I’m sure we all got into touch with this past week is the experience of being cooped up.
We were cooped up anyway with various illnesses, so we’ve been hanging around the house for a couple of weeks.
Experience of being cooped up.
From today’s reading, we hear that God is much the same—He doesn’t care to be cooped up.
Jesus says it this way, “You are light—who lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel?”
In John’s Gospel, he calls Jesus Christ the “true light, which illumines everyone.” So, by Jesus telling his disciples that they are light, he’s saying that he lives in us.
And when he lives in us, he doesn’t like to be cooped up in the house. He wants to be let out.
Isaiah speaks about what kinds of specific ways the light is shown to the world—things that we might call “social justice.”
And lest we think that “letting your light shine” means putting a smile on your face or name-dropping “Jesus” or “Praise God” into every other sentence, Isaiah tells us what letting your light shine really means. I’m certain Jesus had Isaiah’s instruction in mind when he began preaching this “Sermon on the Mount” and made such bold declarations about his hastily assembled congregation:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice,
To undo the thongs of the yoke,
To let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly!
Isaiah 58:6-8

Jesus said, “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.” Every time you share with the hungry; every time you tend to the homeless; every time you clothe the cold and naked; every time you refuse to hide your face from the suffering around you but look it square in the face; each and every time you do that, you breath life-giving air onto that tiny little light burning within you causing it to burn even higher and brighter!
Jesus also turns from this discussion to a perplexing discussion about fulfilling the law to the stroke of the letter—something Paul would have no doubt scratched his head at (had Paul not already written everything we find in the Bible)
Jesus seems to say that one of ways that we can let our light shine is by observing the law to the best of our abilities. And what is it that is the law is most about? Loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
Salt and Light for the Whole World. Jesus' teachings in the Sermon are directed far beyond the narrow circle of the disciples themselves. We are to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. Matthew 5:13-16 is connected, as if with an umbilical cord, to Matthew 28:19.

Salt and Light Give Glory to God, Not Ourselves. The goal of being salt and light is to give glory to "your Father in heaven" (see 5:17, 6:9, 11:25). These two metaphors are perfect for depicting a ministry that points beyond itself to God. Salt shouldn't call attention to itself in a well-seasoned dish. It enhances the combination of other ingredients. Light illumines other objects in the room beyond itself (Reid, 36).

It’s a good thing we hear this at an early age and begin to try to learn it, for we must spend a lifetime reminding ourselves to keep our light burning! It takes constant attention, lest we succumb to that temptation to “hide our light under a bushel.” There in the opening verses of what surely must be The most famous sermon in the world, “The Sermon on the Mount” right after the poetic and status-changing opening which we call “The Beatitudes,” Jesus looks out at a crowd of close disciples and lesser-know followers alike and makes some very bold declarations: You are the salt of the earth! You are the light of the world! Has something that been said to you lately? Has someone boldly looked at you and proclaimed such good news?

You can go a long time without hearing that kind of declaration. More often than not, you don’t hear anything that comes even close. Instead, you hear, “You’re not who we’re looking for!” “You don’t measure up.” “You’re too old.” “You’re way too young—come back when you’re more experienced.” Or, something just as disappointing. It’s enough to snuff out any kind of light flickering there within you. But you don’t hear that from Jesus. Instead, without first passing out an aptitude test or requiring a year-long internship, he proclaims, “You are the salt of the earth—you are the light of the world!” Like salt, we are to conserve the well-being of this world we inhabit—as light, our good works stand out or lights up in such a way that God is made known.

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