Salt and Light

Salt light

Sermon, Queen Anne Christian Church
February 9, 2014

I was supposed to preach yesterday, but because of snow all of the streets to the church were closed.  You see Queen Anne Christian Church is at the top of Queen Anne Hill and the wise DOT decided it was too dangerous for people to drive up either side of the hill, therefore church was cancelled. So instead I will offer my sermon here.  Enjoy

Matthew 5:13-20 (NRSV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. (Isa. 49:6) A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 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.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, [a] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[b] 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 does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In one of the early classes I took with Father Raschko at STM there was this long discussion about the differences between each of the 4 Gospels.  You know, Mark was written first, then Matthew and Luke, who used Mark as a blue print, and John was last and totally different.  Now Father Raschko is a Mark scholar and he loves Mark.  The Gospel of Matthew is OK, but in the words of Father Raschko Matthew was out to correct all of the mistakes Mark had made.  I, in my first or second year enthusiasm decided to sit down and compare them to see if he was right.  Silly me

I have to admit after reading both of them I discovered I loved the Gospel of Mark.  I mean there is that whole messianic message mystery thing he has going on.  You get to the end, all the endings, and it says go back to the beginning, it’s a mystery and who doesn’t love a mystery.  But I found I truly loved the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew doesn’t write about mystery, well not the way Mark does anyway. He writes about an itinerate Jewish Rabbi, he places Jesus within the historical and cultural landscape of God’s very own people.  In Matthew’s Gospel he connects the Hebrew Scriptures and the peoples own history to what Jesus did to fulfill the scripture.  He writes about doing: about being intentional as a follower of Jesus. In a lot of ways the Gospel Matthew is a Do-It-Yourself manual for how to become a follower of Jesus. Matthew connects the actions of Jesus to the law and the prophets. He expected his own community of first century Christians to do the same.

In today’s scripture Jesus gives an introduction to what the mission of his disciples and followers will be. With the words “you are salt, and you are light” He identifies the ground rules for someone who wishes to become one of his followers. Jesus doesn’t say you should be salt, or you might be light, no, he is telling his disciples, the crowd and us, we are salt and we are light for the communities we live in.  It was the disciples and now it is you and I that is to add the goodness into the lives of those we meet, provide balance and savoriness in our communities, just as salt does for the foods we eat. It is us, you and me, who are to intentionally disrupt the status quo and care for the dispossessed, and those who are hungry and ill.  We are to work for justice and show mercy, and be peacemakers, other words we are to stand up for what we believe with no expectations of ever being rewarded. Just as salt does its job without announcing its presence in the food we eat we are to do all these things not to bring ourselves recognition but because that is just what we are supposed to do.  Just as salt is hidden within our food bringing brightness and goodness to the final product, Jesus wants us as his followers to hide within the community and bring brightness and goodness to the world around us. To do otherwise means we have lost our saltiness and not helpful to the work needed by the Kingdom of God.

Jesus then recalls the prophet Isaiah who says:

I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (49:6b)

Jesus tells his disciples “you are the light of the world, to both Jew and Gentile, and you can’t hide the light. We too are to let the light shine. This means we are not just salt and supposed to care for others, fight for justice, extend mercy and be peacemakers without an expectation of a reward we are to be the mirror that reflects God’s light into the darkness we humans so frequently to gather within and around us. We are to reflect the graciously given gift of God’s light within ourselves to illuminate the darkness in our own souls. To recognize and open the dark spaces within our souls so that we are better able to reflect God’s light outward to those around us so they too may live in Gods loving light.

We are to let the light shine without focusing the light on ourselves. We are to care for those around us and to carefully walk with God, not in front, but alongside.  We have to take all the good acts we see being done in the world and go one step farther.  And that means it is not in what we say we do, it is in what we DO that is important. Jesus wants us to be intentionally active in whatever way we are called to be, not sitting on the couch or watching others. We are to be the advocate for the voiceless, the homeless, and the dispossessed. It also means just like a mirror we are only the glass that reflects the glory of God and the Kingdom of God. We are to be behind the light being the lens that focus’ the beam on who those needing the light.

We are to be advocates for social justice, advocates for the hungry, the homeless, the incarcerated, and advocates for peace but we are to say “we have done nothing; it is God working through us that has done these things.”   This is where those Matthew called “scribes and Pharisees” got it wrong. Yes they did good works but they made sure everyone knew it. God’s command is we are to do good acts because it’s the right thing to do, not inflate our own ego’s

Today we have modern “scribes and Pharisees” who do the same thing and sometimes I’m one of them.  The hardest thing for me to do is setting aside my own ego and let God stand in front of me, you see I don’t always like taking a back seat.  I must admit that I am all too often a card carrying member of the Pharisee club and I am not proud of that.  I am sure I am not alone in being a member we are, after all, humans, who make choices sometimes there are good ones and sometimes not so good.  It is a good day when I intentionally start it with the words “today I am the mirror, I am the salt.

Ruth Jewell, © February 10, 2014

Prayerful Tuesday – “I the God of Israel will not forsake them”

 

God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform; by Wm Cowper Picture by NASA
God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform        words by Wm Cowper
Picture by NASA

Isaiah 41:17-20
17
When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them,
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

18I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.

19I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,

20so that all may see and know,
all may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it. 

Advent, a time of waiting, a gestation time of new beginnings, I have heard those words many times over many Advents.  And, while all this waiting is important I have a confession to make, I hate waiting!  Yes, my impatience frequently gets me into trouble, with G-d and with those around me.  I begin before the preparation has been completed and my task, while not a total failure, does not live up to its potential.  Patience is not one of the gifts G-d has seen fit to give me. It is something I have been trying to learn for 66 years and I am still not very good at it.

I admit to being one of those thirsty people in the desert who wants to have water and I want now!  If I had been with the Israelites in the Sinai I would have marched right up to Moses and said “I’m thirsty, I need water and I need it now!”  And I am sure Moses would have looked at me with a jaundiced eye and said “get a grip; learn some patience for crying out loud.  You are out of Egypt so be grateful for what you have and quite complaining!”  Yep that would have been me hearing those words.   Yet in Isaiah we hear that G-d will provide water and more to those who are poor and in need and it is not lost on me that G-d came through with food and water during the Exodus.  So yes I do believe G-d, in Her own good Time and Way, will provide.

The key to this waiting is “in Her own good Time and Way” G-d will offer the drink and food we need and it’s always in that perfect moment.  The moment when we not only need it the most but the moment when we are open the widest for hearing G-d’s voice speak the Word we so desperately thirst and hunger for.

For the last two and half years I have been in my own time of Advent, walking in a wilderness of my own making as I waited for G-d to give me a Word I could respond to about where my ministry would take me.  And in that time there have been many impatient moments.  Many times I have tried to hurry G‑d.  I have tried to guess what She will speak and tried starting a task with no direction from Her.  It rarely works out because you cannot hurry G-d.  G-d will speak when the time is right, when my heart is open the widest to hear G-d speak and not before.

Through out this time G-d has been allowing a ministry to begin gestating within me.  To grow in concept piece by piece, step by step while at the same time letting G-d open me up to whom I am and who She is. I am learning that G‑d is my greatest counselor, friend, lover, supporter, confidant, comforter, and confessor.  All I have to do is live a life that puts G-d first, keep our relationship strong and allowing the counselor, friend, lover, supporter, confidant, comforter, and confessor work through me in a working partnership with Her.

It seems as if it would be easy to do what G-d asks of us doesn’t it?  But it is not.  Ask the Israelites how hard it was to follow the path G-d laid before them.  Ask the disciples how hard it was to walk the path Jesus laid before them.  Each one will tell you it is not easy.  Yes G-d will provide for the poor and needy but verse 41:20 of Isaiah says it best.  We are to “… see and know … consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” We fail hopelessly in that understanding.  All too often we take G-d’s handiwork for granted and do not see what the Lord does for us.  I, just like the rest of the human race, all too often think we are entitled to the abundance we see around us.  We forget just where and who it comes from, where and from whom we come from.  It has taken me a life time to understand in a small way the meaning of verse 20.  And, it has only been in the last year and half that I have worked hardest to be patient and to let G-d speak when She is ready and not me.

And now G-d is bringing me closer to an understanding of what my role as Her partner will be.  And, somehow I feel it is appropriate that G-d picked Advent for this to happen, the time for me to begin to feel the movement of a baby ministry within me.  I am excited and scared about bringing into reality this ministry of my very own.  It takes courage for me to step out and claim my role as G-d partner a courage I do not always have.  I have many fears; will I be worthy of G-ds trust, will I hurry this up and as a result rush to completion what needed time to grow, will I give up saying “sorry G-d this to hard for me,” will I simply not be enough for the task.  There are so many fears, so much excitement, and so many hopes.  The future I do not know, only G-d does, so I will keep waiting, and listening, and moving with G-d’s time and moments.  Patience is really hard but I continue to learn to lean into the open arms and let G-d teach me.

This Week’s Spiritual Practice

Do you have something waiting to emerge from you?  Waiting is hard (just ask any 4 year old) but it can be done. So this week I simply ask that each day you find yourself a quiet place and sit in silence for 5 to 20 minutes.  Listen for a Word from G-d.  It might be a Word about doing something, or it might be G-d whispering “I love you.”  Just remember whatever happens let it happen in G-d’s time not yours and be grateful for the time spent with G-d.

Ruth Jewell, ©December 10, 2013

One Body

DSCF0716

1 Corinthians 12:12-13: 12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

This last week I have been giving a great deal of thought to the importance of all of the parts of the body. And, it has given me completely new insights on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. You see I had a blocked gland removed from the underside of my tongue on Thursday and I have learned just how dependent I am on every part of my body. I mean you try drinking, talking, even breathing without using your tongue for awhile and you will understand what I mean! However, given what has been happening in our nation’s capital it seems ironic that it is my tongue that is giving me a problem.

But enough of the gory details! Paul of course is writing to his wayward community in Corinth, which has a few problems getting along with each other. Does that sound familiar? Paul is telling his young Corinthian faith community they need each other because all of them are important and all are equal in the eyes of Christ. Not unlike the conflict we’ve been seeing in our nation’s capital this past week and I am afraid it will take another Apostle Paul for a resolution to this crisis to be resolved.

What might Paul tell our community today? Well one line he might repeat is “the body does not consist of one member but of many” and that each of the members is needed to perform some task that sustains the whole body. No part of the body could say “I do not belong to the body,” the tongue cannot say “I am in pain, so let the eye take my place,” trust me that isn’t going to happen. Just as the fireman cannot say to the man whose house is on fire I am to important to get my hands dirty, therefore I will not help you. That man’s house will burn down you can be pretty certain of that.

Today in Washington DC and in the rest of this country we have people who are saying just that. “I am to important to feed the hungry, or clothe the poor, or help the sick and elderly, or do anything that would make me see you as important in G-d’s eyes. I have my house with all of my barns stuffed with grain and produce that I have worked for and if you can’t take care of yourself, well that’s not my problem.” What these so called “important” people forget is that someone else prepared the ground, sowed the grain, harvested it and stacked it in his barn, they didn’t do it themselves. Just as in Jesus’ story of the rich man with all those full barns, G-d will come and say “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20) and it will be too late.

Paul told his community, “the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect: whereas our more respectable members do not need this.” (1 Corinthians 12:22-23) Paul’s words ring with the same authority today as they did in the First Century, for those we hold in low esteem in our community are the ones who are harvesting our food, making our clothes and building our houses. Just because they don’t wear a suit and tie, or nice dresses doesn’t make them less valuable to the whole body of our communities. I would love to see the Speaker of the House in the fields of California harvesting lettuce; it would do him and the rest of our politicians good to do some really hard labor. There perspective on what is important would change dramatically, that is if they survive the 14-18 hour, 7 day a week job. Let them live for a year as an elderly person on Medicare and Social Security trying to make ends, trying to pay for food, rent and medical care on the little they have. Or, they could choose to take care of a family whose child has cancer or some other debilitating disorder. Let’s see if they could do any better with the medical bills and all the rest of the needs of a family on $50,000 a year.

Each of the “unimportant people” are part of the body of this country, and of the body of G-d. In fact according to G-d they are more important than those who sit in the “great halls of government.” For G-d tells us all “do not abuse any widow or orphan,” (Exodus 22:22) or “oppress a resident alien.” (Exodus 23:9) But those verses are conveniently forgotten.

We are all part of the body of G-d, of creation and the creator. We are all part of our country and world, whether you are a business person, a working person, a widow, a widower, orphan, or an immigrant to this country or any country. Each and every one of us is important to the wellbeing of us all and the Creator’s purpose for us as a whole people. No one is more important than the other; we all have our tasks to do in this life that will lead us into the next life. This week I learned a lesson that every part of the body is important no matter how insignificant I might think it is.

The tongue can be an instrument for good will, or a sword that hurts and divides us all. My tongue hasn’t always been a good instrument. Just like ever one else there here have been times when I have said hurtful things to others and I can’t take those words back, as much as I might wish too. Yet I have also spoken words of kindness and caring that I hope in the eyes and ears of G-d outweigh the bad.

This week has made me aware of the incredible gift of all parts of the body, the seemingly insignificant, and the ones that I erroneously hold in high honor. We all have the power to be good gifts of the body, the body of our country and world, and the body of the Spirit. No matter how insignificant each of us seems to be each is important to the functioning of this grand creation gifted to us by the creator. Paul ends his short discourse on gifts of the body with the words: “But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” Each of us has the potential within to do even greater things than we do. It takes each of us to encourage those gifts in each other such that we all prosper, just as the Creator wants.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 5, 2013

Journey

Tomorrow
Tomorrow

I am on a journey, a long journey
Begun before I entered my mother’s womb
To be carried on long after
I am finished with this clay pot

I stand on the moving head
of the pin of the now
Behind me is my past
In front of me my future

With every moment my now moves into my future of shifting possibilities
Leaving behind what was for. . . what is
Shadows of my life follow
Hazy outlines of what could be lie before me

I am like a piece in a strange board game
I cannot move backwards
Into the safe yesterday
I can only move forward into uncertainty

G-D the uncertainty frightens me
I want to go back, to the places that I know
I cannot see into the gray tomorrow
I want to know you will be there

My friend, do not be afraid, I am with you
now as I was in your past
I am in the now and travel with you,
I am there already

Ancient of Days I make my choice
I will take your hand
I will go into the shifting sands of uncertainty
My spirit will journey on, my friend calls, I come

Ruth Jewell ©September 28, 2013

Not Alone

Hebrews 12:1-2; 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Not Alone . . .

You are not alone
Surrounding you is
A cloud of witnesses
Cheering you on
Sending you
Strength and courage, so . . .

Let your burdens go
Drop them from your shoulders
Slide them off your back
Free yourself for . . .

The race Jesus calls
You to run,
Just as Jesus ran
So too you are called to run

Let your feet fly
Pump your arms high
Forget yourself
Carry the burdens
Of the weak and hurting
Let Jesus lead your on
As you let yourself be free to . . .

Give yourself away

Ruth Jewell, ©August 3, 2013

Wait

 

 

mandala_waiting 03.01.2013

Quiet, I sit in my small boat
Alone, I wait
Purple and gold sky
A sea dark and still
Alone, I wait 

Ruth Jewell, ©March 1, 2013

 

4 Amazing Women, 2 Weddings, 1 Weekend

ML, Aubrey, Heather, Judy
ML, Aubrey, Heather, Judy

Last weekend was a busy one.   I have 4 amazing friends all four who chose that weekend to marry. Not only that but one of the brides from Sunday officiated and married the first two on Saturday.  Just how cool is that!  None of this would have even been possible if R 74 had not passed and it would have been, and it was, a crime that these 4 beautiful, intelligent and loving women were unable to publically celebrate their love just as every other loving couple does.  It is with gratitude and thanks to the people of Washington State who past R 74.  If any of you ask was it worth it?  All you have to do is look at the faces of these 4 beautiful people. 

On January 23 Heather and Aubrey celebrated their commitment and love with great fanfare and joy. On Sunday January 24 ML and Judy celebrated their 19 years together with a joyful ceremony of commitment and love.  So with great love, congratulations and the raising of the wedding cup I congratulate the joining of two couples who belong together. 

Heather and Aubrey may you live long lives together.  May the strength you gain from each other sustain you over the rough places in your journey, and may your hearts soar together when all is smooth sailing. 

ML and Judy, over the last 19 years you have loved each other unconditionally even when our state said you couldn’t.  Such love deserves to be recognized and celebrated. God blessed your union 19 years ago and you have waited long enough to celebrate that blessing.  Thank you for sharing your joy with the rest of us.

As each of you travel together on life’s journey may the Holy Spirit surround you, may Christ lift you up if you stumble, and may God hold you in palm of Her hand whenever you are weary.  Shalom my friends.

Ruth Jewell, ©January 25, 2013