Roger's Postings

Friday, February 04, 2011

Matthew 5:13-20. Salty Christians?? 6/2/11

(13) "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. {14} "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. {15} Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. {16} In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. {17} "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. {18} I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. {19} Anyone who 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. {20} For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Let me begin with a little story; and I would like us to think about it in relation to the text that we have here before us.
Jack's neighbour always had his outside light on at night. It was a bright light and it shone right across Jack's untidy yard as well. So every time Jack had to wander around his yard at night that light was of great help to him; and when he came home late at night and not quite with it, he always managed to pick his way through the mess to his front door, without coming to grief. His neighbour knew this and so left his light on when Jack was out at night. Now, Jack would often look at that light and think that he should get one of his own, but never quite got around to it.

Anyway, one night Jack came home late, a little worse for wear; and his neighbour had deliberately switched his light off, even though he knew Jack was out. He thought to himself, why should he share his light with Jack any more. He reasoned to himself that Jack was responsible for his own light and safety. He figured he would keep his light to himself - even though he knew that it would place Jack in great danger.
Now, this night Jack, unaccustomed to his darkened yard, picked his way toward the front door, aware that there were many dangers there, but couldn't see them. He almost tripped over that piece of wire that he meant to get rid of last week: he banged into the lawn mower his son had left out in the front yard; And then tragedy struck – he stepped on the skateboard young Johnny had left on the path; and away went his feet from under him - up in the air he went and then came crashing down onto the concrete path, splitting his head open as he landed.

Now, the blame could be placed in many quarters for Jack’s death; and many would simply say that it was Jack's own fault for not taking care of things when he had the chance. But at the same time, Jack’s neighbour had deliberately withheld that light that had always been there to help Jack at those difficult times. It had always been so important for Jack’s welfare and now he had deliberately with-held it and Jack tragically lost his life as a result.

Now with that story in mind, think again about what this text has say to us here today. Jesus here says that you are the light of the world. Every one of you that claims to be a Christian is that light. You are the light of Christ to the people around you; your neighbours and friends; the people of Adelaide. Here Jesus is saying to you and me - to each of us - not to cover that light - not to withhold it from those around us. But instead, to let our light shine so that others may see our good deeds and praise God. Yes, people around us - our community needs this light of ours as they stumble through life, with all the garbage and dangers that are about. If they are to get through life and end up with God in heaven, they need all the Christian light we can give them, along the way.

Here, remember the other metaphor that is used in this passage is that of salt. The point made, is that salt is only salt when it has it's savour and saltiness. If it hasn't got that, it is good for nothing: and elsewhere we are told that it is not even fit for the manure heap. This text says, that the Christian is the salt of the earth, again so that our neighbours will be able to savour our Christianity: that which is all important in life. So when they rub shoulders with us - if we are fair dinkum - they will see and feel the effects of our Christian life; they will taste the flavour of our life.

But the real question is, what is the Christians salt and light? That is where the second part of our text comes in. The Law and the Prophets play a vital role in the Christian’s life. They remind us of how God expects us to live. The point being made, is that the Ten Commandments and other laws are to be adhered to perfectly - for our own good as people, as well as so that we can be at peace with God.

From our Old Testament lesson from Isaiah, we reminded by God that our the Christian life can not be shallow and we can not just be ‘pretend Christians’. There we are called to be fair dinkum in living our life as God’s people. Let me read: (Isa 58:6-10) "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? {7} Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? {8} Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. {9} Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, {10} and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
That again is the savour and light of the Christian life. To love - to love God and all that he stands for, and to love our fellow human being as we do ourselves. But here it is important to remember, and to be sure that others see and taste, that we are living this way, not in order to win God's favour and approval and so to be saved; but we do so because we have been forgiven and have been saved, and are loved by God. We are salt and light, not in order be saved, but because we have been saved and because we want others to be, as well. So people will see that there is something special about the way that we live: that our way is different from the rest of society. And yes, even different from a lot of ‘Christianity’ today.

However, we can only live this way, because Jesus came and lived up to what is required by the Law and the Prophets for us. Many seem to believe that with the coming of Jesus, the Law has been done away with. But here we are reminded that this is not so. Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Law for us; but he did not do away with it. He fulfilled the Law in that the requirement of breaking the Law has been taken care of by Jesus’ death on the cross. There he took the punishment for our failure and sin on himself; and thereby forgives us and gives us his right relationship with God.

However, now the Law stands for us as the way God wants us to live as forgiven sinners: as people who are loved by God. The Commandments now stand as the way we are to live: to love God and neighbour perfectly. Here the Law points out again and again our failure to do so, but then it directs us back to our Saviour Jesus Christ: to the One where our real help comes from. First of all for our forgiveness; but also to where we can get the power and strength to live as his people: to give praise and thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ; and to be loving and forgiving to one another.

As we live with that being what our life is really on about, then we will be the salt and light to our neighbours and friends that Jesus is talking about here. Only then will they find that our Lord makes it possible for them to know of forgiveness that is there for them all; and also of how we can truly live at peace with ourselves; our world; and God Almighty himself.

Yes, as people who are Christians, we are to now live in this way. We are to live as shining lights to those around us: our lives and light will give them direction for their own lives and it will light up the pitfalls and dangers that are about them; and it will help them to find their way through those hazards to that which not only gives that which is good for life, but it will help them to know of the love and forgiveness that is there in our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, you are the light of the world - so let your light so shine before others that they may see your good deeds and so praise your Father in heaven. To him be all glory and honour, now and always. Amen

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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