Morning Worship: ‘Hear Jesus speak: You are called to be the salt and the light’

A woman was checking out at the grocery store and the clerk told her, “Have a nice day.” The woman replied: “I have other plans.”

“That [have a nice day] is not something Jesus would have said,” the Rev. Daisy Machado said to begin her sermon, “You Are,” at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship service Friday. “He said ‘go and sin no more’ or ‘rise up and walk’ or ‘go and make Disciples.’ Go be salt, be light. But lots of people say, ‘I have other plans.’ ”

Her Scripture, Matthew 5:13-20, is part of the Sermon on the Mount. 

Jesus, she said, used salt, light and the law to teach the Disciples who they were. Jesus, sitting out in the open but in a very intimate way, told his Disciples, “You are salt; you are light. Not ‘I think you might be’ or ‘I want you to try really hard to be,’ or ‘You should have a committee to develop a mission plan,’ ” Machado said. “We think of these as commands but Jesus meant them as descriptions of who the disciples were.”

She quoted the Talmud, which states that the world can exist without pepper but not without salt. Salt was valuable in biblical times; the word salary comes from the Latin word for the portion of the wages that Roman soldiers were paid in salt. Salt enhances flavor and it preserves meat.

“Jesus was telling his followers that they should add zest to the lives of the people around them,” Machado said. “They should be an example for others, but this is the messy part — they have to interact with people, to get involved [in the world]. What good is salt if it never gets out of the shaker?” 

Salt is not useful to itself, so Jesus’ followers exist for others. They were not to be overbearing, she said, not browbeating people about their sins, but they should use the right amount to flavor a dish. 

“The Disciples should live with the blatant hope that God is in the world,” Machado said.

Salt in biblical times was a compound of sodium chloride and other elements like gypsum. If the sodium fell out of the compound, the residual product was thrown into the road.

“The salt compound lost its flavor; pure salt will not change,” she said. “We lose our distinctive character when we can no longer be distinguished from the tasteless values around us. We lose our usefulness. We must remain faithful to who we are.”

The Disciples were the light of the world because they received their light from Jesus, she said. “He called them not to see but to witness acts of justice. The cause of these actions is God in heaven.”

According to Machado, some people don’t talk a lot about what difference the church can make in the world.

“People are skeptical of the influence the church can have but Jesus did not share that point of view,” she said. “However imperfect and human the Disciples were, and however imperfect and skeptical we are today, we can make a specific impact.”

She continued: “The church was not important in the world when the Gospels were written. Jesus was talking to the poor. Was it hyperbole to tell them they were the light of the world? How could nobodies be light? How could they make a difference in the Roman Empire? Yet the church grew and expanded. We have to realize that Jesus got it right — those who feel the world’s pain, who build bridges, who have mercy, are light to the world.”

No one puts a light under a bushel after it is lit. 

“This bushel is a vessel big enough to cover a lamp. The lamp is not snuffed out but covered,” she said. “What are our bushels? Self-absorption, a life where religious endeavor is unimportant. A light does not end up magically under a bushel; the only way to cover it is to put the bushel over it.”

Jesus asked his followers to show up in the dark places and light them up. 

“He was describing the here and now, not the future,” Machado said. “Jesus was talking about the Disciples in the here and now and he is talking about us here and now. The abundant life is the gift we give to others to make a difference for others. We have to dare to be singular, to be distinctive in how we use our money, our time, what we value.”

The way we remain distinctive, she told the congregation, is to acknowledge that we are yoked with God, and Christ invites us to play a role in the mission to engage the world. Machado then added that Fred Craddock, the noted preacher, said that Christians have two tasks — witnessing and “benevolent intrusion into the world.”

“We have to reject self-interest and self-protection,” she said. “We have to feel the pain of our neighbor.”

Jesus told the Disciples that he came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it. He called them to live in the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law. 

“Spiritual righteousness originates in the heart,” Machado said. “Jesus calls us to be transformed. We have made the world to be a certain way — full of violence, greed, corruption and inequality. There is little light and less flavor.”

“Hear Jesus speak,” she continued. “We need to make a difference because we can. ‘You are,’ he says to each of us. I want to remind you, sisters and brothers, that you are all of great value. You are all important for God’s design. You all have to get out of the shaker. You are called to be salt, be light. You are the ones called to expand the church beyond stained glass and stone walls.”

The Rev. John Morgan presided. Bud Brown, the host at the Baptist House, read the Scripture. 

The Motet Choir sang “Come Down Angels,” a traditional spiritual arranged by Patti Drennan. Virginia Oram was the soloist. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, directed the choir. The choir sang “God is Here” by Glenn Wonacott as the introit all week. 

The Allison and Craig Marthinsen Endowment for the Department of Religion supported this week’s services.

For those who would like more information about the 47,000 children at the borders see the following resources: 

-To I donate funds for the children on the border: South Texas Refugee Response

-If you want to read and learn more about why the Central American children are coming to the U.S. read this pdf.

-If you want to sign a petition asking President Obama for immediate protections for the arriving children refugees visit Protect the refugee children arriving at our border.

-Here is information for Mike Seifert who has been in the south Texas Valley area working as an activist for over 30 years:

Michael Seifert

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Rio Grande Valley, Texas