Summary: We love to come to church, to sit in this wonderful place, to bask in God’s special presence here. But Christ calls us beyond these walls. This place is not the destination of our spiritual life, but the launching point for our work in God’s Kingdom.
These days, if I have a few minutes to enjoy a TV show, my go-to is either some sort of home improvement show the likes of which you find on HGTV, or a cooking show, like “Chopped,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” or “MasterChef.” Though, I must admit, my favorite is “MasterChef Junior.” In any case, whatever theme or direction the show takes, there’s one assessment of the contestants’ food that comes up on a pretty regular basis. Let me see if I can channel a little Gordon Ramsay here: “This is terrible!...There’s no seasoning!...Taste this, it’s bland!” This invariably means the dish doesn’t contain enough salt, and it always makes Gordon Ramsay and the other “seasoned” (I may or may not have intended that pun…) chefs incredibly angry, because salt is such a crucial component in any dish, it’s purpose to bring out the full flavor of the food being served.
We hardly consider salt, it is such an ordinary thing. There are salt shakers on nearly every dining table, and so we hardly notice it. And yet, it is so very important. In preparation for this sermon, I did a little research about salt, and I'd like to share with you some of my findings. How valuable is salt? 40 million tons are required each year to fill our needs. Homer called it divine. Plato called it a "substance dear to the gods." Shakespeare mentioned salt 17 times in his plays. Perhaps Leonardo da Vinci wanted to send a subtle message about purity lost when he painted "The Last Supper." In that painting, an overturned salt cellar is conspicuously placed before Judas. In ancient Greece a far-flung trade involving the exchange of salt for slaves gave rise to the expression, "...not worth his salt." Special salt rations were given to Roman soldiers and known as "Solarium Argentums", the forerunner of the English word "salary." Thousands of Napoleon's troops died during his retreat from Moscow because their wounds would not heal--their bodies lacked salt. The human body contains about 4oz. of salt. Without enough of it, muscles won't contract, blood won't circulate, food won't digest and the heart won't beat a beat. Without a doubt, salt is an essential part of life. And Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth."
Light is the same way, is it not? So ordinary, so commonplace, we hardly notice it. And yet, if it’s not there, especially at night, we are painfully aware of its absence. We don’t hide light. If we were going to do that, there would be no point in lighting the candle, or turning on the light. Light is made to shine. “You are the light of the world,” says Christ.
Earlier today, we read responsively the 84th Psalm. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. O Lord of hosts, my Ruler and my God, at your altars even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!...For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” Indeed, dwelling in God’s house, in God’s presence is a wonderful and comforting place to be. Yet, we can get so caught up in the dwelling that we forget about the living! And part of our living is to be a light in the world!
Which brings us once again to this subject of change, which has been our focus throughout this month. We love our church, don’t we? We love coming to this place, with these people, worshipping the God who has given us such a blessed life. So why would we leave this place where we feel God’s presence, and go outside of this sanctuary to those places where God seems absent? This question really gets at the core of what it means to “be the church” today. If the church really is going to touch the lives of people with Christ’s Good News, it has to happen beyond these walls. We have to shine our lights out there, not hide them in here!
My friends, if we follow Jesus, we will go where Jesus goes. We will be in his presence and dwell with him, regardless of the location. I think we often don’t think in these terms. The church is the place where we encounter Christ, this is the place where we dwell in God’s presence, we think. But don’t we all know, somewhere, deep down inside, that God is “out there,” especially in the deepest, darkest corners of the world? The question is: are we ready to “take that leap”? Are we ready to make that change? It used to be all the church had to do to reach people with the saving love of Christ was open its doors; people flocked in. But not anymore, now the church has to go out the doors. Are we ready to leave our comfortable spaces to see where else God is dwelling? I know this is a scary proposition, but we can cling to Jesus in every place, and the Holy Spirit will go with us. When we follow Jesus, we WILL find that God dwells in places we never expected. And we need to go to those places as salt and light.