EPIPHANY 5, A –February 9, 2014

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah58:3-9a; 1 Cor. 2:1-12; Matthew 5:13-20

 

“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5)

 

The winter Olympics in Sochi have begun, and we are now seeing on display the best athletes our world has to offer. Men and women who are at the peak of physical fitness and mental toughness will perform incredible feats of skill, strength, and stamina. The best among them will be honored with medals and lauded by their fellow countrymen.

 

I will watch when I can, as I love sports. One of my favorite programs growing up was The Wide World of Sports. I can still hear the theme music in my head and see the guy who epitomized the agony of defeat falling off the ski jump ramp and slamming into the ground. There were no medals for him!

 

Accolades are for winners: for the best; the strongest; the fastest; the smartest; the most successful. They are the ones we look up to and praise and want to emulate. They are the ones we want leading us. The average (and worse) fade into the background and are forgotten.

 

“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” Who was Jesus referring to when He said this? They were not the ones people looked up to and praised and wanted to emulate, such as the priests and rabbis and Pharisees. Nor were they the most important and influential among them. They were not even the most charismatic and dynamic of those who were coming to see and hear Jesus. No, the salt of the earth and the light of the world were people Jesus had just referred to as being poor in spirit; meek; sad and mourning; and persecuted. They were hardly the cream of the crop! They were average, and even lowly, people who were little noticed by most and faded into the background of their society. Nothing set them apart from the crowd. Nothing made them stand head and shoulders above others.

 

Nothing, except for this: they believed in Jesus. They followed Him and listened to Him and came to believe that He was the Messiah, the One God had long ago promised to send who would rescue them and bring God’s blessing to them. Now, at this early point in His ministry did they know that He was truly God, come to them in the flesh? Did they know that He would save them from their sins and rescue them from the clutches of death and hell by bearing their sins and offering His life in their place? No. But, they believed that God was with Him, and for them in Him. They looked to Him for God’s help. This faith set them apart. Others did not recognize their value, and even they themselves may have felt very unimportant, but that did not matter. Their faith in Jesus is what mattered. By that faith Jesus made them salt to salt the earth and lights to enlighten the world. He would lead them to bring blessing to others and glory to God.

 

He will lead you to do this, also. For, you who believe in Jesus are “the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” You are the most important people in Norwalk and Stamford and Fairfield and Shelton and other towns in CT. You are the most important people in New England; in the U.S.; and in the world. You are:

  • Not because I say you are;

  • Not if you feel you are;

  • Not if you have an important job, or skills that are rare and in demand;

  • Not if people recognize that you are.

    You are the most important people in the world, the very light of this world, because Jesus – the Creator and Ruler and Upholder and Judge of this world – says you are and has set you apart as such. It is what He says that is true and matters. And, He says that you are the most important people in this world, the salt to bless this earth and lights to enlighten this dark world, simply because you believe in Him.

     

    Simply because you believe in Him; but, don’t ever think that your faith in Jesus is a simple or little thing. It isnot. Now, it may seem so. The message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is foolishness, and not wisdom, in this world’s way of thinking. The good commandments that God gives to guide our lives are seen by many as overly harsh and judgmental and even detrimental to one’s personal well-being. “We will be better off if they are relaxed and brought up-to-date with a 21st century understanding of human nature and well-being!” we are told. Faith in Christ crucified, then – not only trust that His death covers your sins, but also trust that what He says is good and should be followed – is not simple or easy. It is hard. It will bring you trouble.

     

    But, it is the power of God to bring you life: life with God through the forgiveness of all of your sins; life that will triumph over death and bring you to live forever with God in heaven. This life is hidden now, hidden under sickness and disease; under sins and the weakness and timidity of faith; hidden under one’s seeming unimportance in the world. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” Holy Scripture says. God reveals them in Christ, to those who believe in Him.

     

    Trust in Him, and take to heart what He says! “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” Your faith in Him makes you so! Therefore, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Go forth and live as followers of Jesus Christ, people at peace within because of His forgiveness and blessed with His Scriptures, His words of life.

     

    God does not need Sunday morning Christians, people who worship and speak of Him in church but show no evidence of their faith during the week. Let Christ shine in and through your life every day of the week! Since it was average, and even lowly, believers that Jesus spoke to and proclaimed to be the salt and light of the world, it is in average ways in your daily life that the forgiveness and life you have in Jesus can shine forth. God has given you an extraordinary life in Christ! Let that life shine forth!

  • Be an extraordinary husband. It is not two dozen long-stemmed roses on Valentine’s Day that will show you to be so, but faithfulness and fidelity to your wife; bearing with any weaknesses and failures with constant, sacrificial love and forgiveness; speaking highly of her as God’s gift and blessing to you in Christ; and especially by leading your family in worshiping and following Jesus.

  • Be an extraordinary wife. This doesn’t mean greeting your husband at the door with a martini and in a negligee, but helping and supporting him to guide the family; forgiving him and bearing with his failures; speaking highly of him as God’s gift and blessing to you in Christ.

  • Be an extraordinary employee by not working primarily for personal gain but for the good of the company and the customer.

  • Be a friend who listens and cares, is willing to challenge at times, but above all embodies the love and compassion of Jesus.

    Basically, be a Christian with whom words and deeds are one. Words without deeds are hypocritical and not heard, while deeds without words do not direct praise to God. When seen as different and asked why you act as you do, give praise to God. It is He who guides and directs your life with His good Word.

     

    Who is up to this? We all fail many times, don’t we? But, we have Jesus, who has fulfilled all things. With Him word and deed always matched, always pleased God. He has done for us all that we are supposed to do, and then paid for and forgiven our sins by His death for us. In Him God forgives us continually, and so we can live joyfully and at peace, assured of His loving care.

     

    This is the Gospel we have to share, in word and deed. By it we shine as lights – Christ’s light – in this world of sin and fear and loneliness and death, and so give glory to our Father in heaven. By our lives of faith let us all praise to Him through Jesus Christ, now and forever! Amen.