5th Sunday after the Epiphany | Matthew 5:13-20
If you watched the news this morning, or listened on the way here,
Then you probably already know.
Bill Belichick announced an hour ago that Tom Brady will not start tonight.
Instead we will see Jimmy Garoppolo, in what promises to be a very defensive game.
Nevertheless, as it is every year, this will be the most watched Superbowl ever.
Maybe you believed that story.
And maybe you didn’t.
Maybe you know that there’s no 7/10 A.M. press conference.
Maybe you’re a Bears fan and you don’t care.
Or Maybe you prefer soccer.
Maybe you don’t know a receiver from a linebacker,
But as you live and breathe you know:
Benching Tom Brady in the Superbowl would be…impractical.
And so if you experienced, even for a moment,
Any combination of shock, surprise, or apprehension,
At the idea that the Pats were not showing up to the game with their star,
Then you are at least a little closer to understanding how Jesus feels this morning.
We are now a bit deeper into Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount.
As you develop a picture of the scene,
You might imagine little groups of people beginning to gather –
A bit like a stadium filling up before practice.
The crowds are summoned, perhaps,
By the long list of blessings you heard last week.
They’d like some of that, too.
But when they arrive they hear that
God’s own people, who are called salt and light,
Could end up neither salty nor bright.
It might sound tricky, but it’s really simple.
Salt is only good when it is salty, when it has flavor.
And if it doesn’t –
If all it does is raise your blood pressure, then you may as well toss it out.
Likewise, light is only helpful when you can see it.
If you cover it up, you can’t see where you are going.
That’s when you trip over an end-table,
Break your wrist, and spend the night in the hospital.
That’s a different sermon.
The bottom line is this: When salt and light don’t do their job,
They are about as much good as Tom Brady sitting on the bench in the Superbowl.
But you are called to be salt and light, tasty and bright.
You are meant to light up the world.
You are meant to give it flavor;
To make it interesting and joyful;
You are meant to give a picture of God’s Kingdom that is actually appealing.
For all of that I consider verse 16 to be one of the most frightening passages in all of Holy Scripture.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
When you are out there living as the people God has made you to be in His Son,
When you love people recklessly, truly, and fully;
When you give mercy as if you would never run out if it;
When you forgive as one who has been forgiven;
When you speak beauty and truth and kindness to people who don’t even know what that would sound like;
When you live within the Beatitudes Jesus spoke last week,
You are seasoning a world that is so bland,
You are lighting up a room that is so dark,
That people begin to see and taste who never have before.
You might imagine the first time a baby tastes cake, or opens his eyes.
Suddenly the world, for all its trouble, is big and bright and delicious.
The flip side of that is that if your light is hidden;
If you have lost your flavor;
If your good works are too few or if they are obscured by your not so good works,
Then people don’t see them.
Then people don’t give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Then you’re no good to Jesus, and no good for anything else,
Except to be thrown on the walkways outside.
Nothing is more disappointing to Jesus than salt not being salt, light not being light, you not being both, and His Father not being glorified.
If Jesus sounds grouchy this morning, that is why.
His Kingdom is not supposed to be a bland, dark, and empty place.
It is supposed to be bright, and savory, and full of people who saw the Beatitudes,
Those blessings He worked in you, and were encouraged to play along, too.
You can live that way.
You are salt.
You are light.
Jesus says so.
Jesus has done so; He has made you so.
Once you walked in darkness, once you were darkness,
But you have been epiphanied. You have been lit-up! Enlightened!
You know Jesus for who He is!
He is blessing, peace, and covenant.
He is making good on the promises God made through the Law and the Prophets.
He is doing what we could never do.
He is fulfilling the commandments we would not.
When Jesus says that He has not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets,
When He says that not an iota, not a dot will pass from the Law until all is accomplished,
Jesus means that in Him, God is not doing a new thing.
This is what He intended from the very beginning.
And so Jesus comes to us proclaiming God’s Word,
Bringing His Kingdom,
Fulfilling all righteousness for you.
Like a lamp, Jesus, the Light of the World,
Would be placed high upon a hill for all the world to see,
On a day when even the Sun would not shine.
And all that to forgive us, to restore us, to make us tasty and bright again.
Epiphany is really the season of the Church that just goes on and on and on.
Epiphany continues for us because that same Light – uncreated, divine, and glorious
The light that filled the sky on Christmas Eve,
The light that burst from the empty tomb, shines on.
Jesus continues to light us up at font, pulpit, and altar.
And outside these walls, the world is lit up through all of you.
You’ve been baptized into Jesus’ own death and resurrection.
What goes for Him, goes for you!
He is salt, so you are salt.
He is light, so you are light.
He is righteous, so you are righteous; even more than the Pharisees.
And yours is the Kingdom of Heaven.