We go through a lot to do "church". Think of the time and money and effort and energy put into making sure we’ve got a place to meet on Sundays, all the work that goes into the various events and traditions. People give up so much in the name of church, so today I ask you, "Why?" What’s the point?"
In Matthew 5:13-20, we see the answer. Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth" and then: "You are the light of the world." He doesn’t say he wants to you become those things. He says you are. Think about that. These are probably two of the more famous illustrations in Scripture.
First, salt. Think of how necessary salt is. A couple of weeks ago, Atlanta was a laughingstock on the national news because the road salt didn’t make it out of the trucks and where it could be useful in time to do its work. In Jesus’ day, salt was how they preserved their food. It was essential or their meat would rot, be worthless, cause them to go hungry.
Jesus says you are that important to this earth – and if you aren’t being the salt, where else will the earth get that benefit?
And then there’s light. I don’t have to unpack that one too much. You get it. When it is dark, you need light. There was an ad on during the Super Bowl this year talking about how amazing the human eye is. They said the eye can see the light of a single candle 10 miles away, the length of 146 football fields. Light is powerful – especially when it’s shining in the dark.
So think about where you’re shining. After all Jesus says you are the light. He has made you that light by filling you with his. He has made you that preserving salt by preserving you from the decay of sin and shame and making you fresh and new through the forgiveness of sin and the promise of faith. You are now what he uses to show light in this dark world, to preserve this dark world, unless, of course, you’re trying to hide it.
So, really, the question is, how are we doing? How does this world that we are preserving, this society that we are enlightening, how does it look? Think about that.
If a house is dark at night, there’s no sense blaming the house; that’s what happens when the sun goes down. The question is, "Where is the light?"
If, in the days before refrigeration, the meat went bad, you didn’t blame the meat. That’s what happens when the bacteria are left to breed unchecked. The question is, "Where is the salt?"
If this society has gone bad, if it is dark, there really is no sense blaming it; that’s what happens when sin lives unopposed. The question is: "Where is the Church?" But you don’t even get off that easy. Make it more personal: If the world around you is bad – there is no sense blaming it. That’s what happens when sin goes unchecked.
The question when you see problems around you is, "Where is your salt and light?" Where are the fruits of your faith in the lives of your family and neighbors? They need it. I think of all the heroes we heard about who helped total strangers during our recent storms. They were shining their light.
But if your salt is hiding in the salt shaker, it’s not doing what it’s here to do. If your light is hidden under a bowl, what’s the point? If church hides in a church building, if all we do is do church things for the sake of tradition or our own comfort or our own benefit – as important as those things are for our being light and salt – if that’s all it’s about for us – what’s the point?
Think about it. That same candle that can be seen from 10 miles away in the dark doesn’t do as much at the beach on a sunny day. Don’t get me wrong – I love the beach on a sunny day. That’s fun.
And going to church – gathering with so many other lights to bask in the glory of God’s light - that’s awesome. It’s then that we are reminded of the love of Jesus that preserved us from sin’s decay, the light of Jesus that gives light to our dark worlds. While it is so necessary for us to be at church, basking in the light, strengthening our light – it doesn’t do the good it should if that light is never seen outside the church building. For the salt to be salty it has to get out of the salt shaker.
I started today by asking, "What’s the point?"
What’s the point of going to church – every week? What’s the point of sacrificing so much to have this building to invite our community to? What’s the point of so much work? The point is the light. It’s Jesus. And the things we do – this church stuff - It’s not the ceremonies, but the strength God gives us through them to be what we are. Being at church isn’t about fulfilling a requirement but refilling our tank for the long road of life ahead. The Lord’s Supper isn’t going through the motions of the bread and wine just because Jesus said so. It is the spiritual nourishment that we receive in partaking of Christ’s own body and blood for our forgiveness and our encouragement of a shared unity of faith.
It’s about the strength that he gives us – re-salting our saltiness, adding lumens to our light, all so that we may be what He has made us.
You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world, because you know Jesus. So get out of the saltshaker and salt. Take that bowl off and let your light shine.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday at 8 & 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.