Not About Us 1
Sermon Title: Not about us! 8.6.17
OT Reading: Isaiah 49:6-7
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant(A)
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.(B)
I will also make you a light(C)for the Gentiles,(D)
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”(E)
7This is what theLordsays—
the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel(F)—
to him who was despised(G)and abhorred by the nation,
to the servant of rulers:
“Kings(H)will see you and stand up,
princes will see and bow down,(I)
because of theLord, who is faithful,(J)
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen(K)you.”
Gospel Matthew 5:13-16
13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.(A)
14“You are the light of the world.(B)A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.(C)16In the same way, let your light shine before others,(D)that they may see your good deeds(E)and glorify(F)your Father in heaven.
- Has anyone ever heard of the country music song "I wanna talk about me?" The chorus goes like this, "I want to talk about me, I want to talk about I, I want to talk about number one o my me my!" While most of us would not go around saying things like that, we do like things to be about us and our preferences, don't we?At least I do, maybe I am alone it that.
- For example, for my 30th birthday my younger brother took me to a restaurant called Braza Grill Brazilian Steakhouse in Cleveland. Has anyone heard of this place or been there? O my goodness, you have side dishes brought to your table and the servers come around with enormous hunks of different kinds of meat, then they shave off hunks onto your plate. When you finish your plate they come by again, to see if you want more. It is all you can eat meat. I cannot think of a restaurant that is more me than that. There is nothing wrong, in fact something healthy, about a family surrounding a loved one to celebrate. However, if that becomes one's life focus we will very quickly find ourselves empty. Ironically, the more we feed our ego the more hungry our ego becomes.
- Fighting fire with fire Jesus fights this paradox with another one. A paradox is when two seemingly contradictory things come together to form a true statement. In the beatitudes, just before our passage this morning, we get a snapshot of what it means to be kingdom people, a snapshot of a paradoxical life. If we desire the riches of the kingdom of heaven we must become poor in spirit. If we desire the blessing of comfort we must mourn our sins. When we are being crushed by persecution due to being righteous we should leap for joy.In the same way the more we feed our egos the hungrier they get.
- As an epilogue to this paradoxical snapshot of how to be kingdom people, Jesus gives us two images and a command to help us understand how to live this paradox. The images are salt and light. Both are of great value, but are useless if they exist for their own sake.Salt is only valuable if used to preserve and flavor food. Likewise, light is only useful when used to penetrate darkness. The command is to let that light shine before others so they may see it and glorify God. For Jesus, kingdom peopleare as valuable as salt is to food and light is to a dark room as long as we realize it is not about us. As Dietrich Bonheoffer says, "The Church is the Church only when it exists for others...not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell people of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others."
- How can we be salt and light?What does it mean to live for Christ, to exist for others? How can the kingdom of heaven here on earth be populated by us but not be about us? To help us all with memory all of our answers to these questions will begin with the letter 'P.'
- What is the value of salt and how can it remind us that the kingdom of heaven is inhabited by us but is not about us? In Jesus' time, Roman soldierswere frequently paid in salt. This is where we get the saying 'if someone is worth their salt' and the word salary. Salt, however, was not valuable in and of itself, it was, and is, only valuable because it preserves and flavors food.
- In a time before refrigerators the preservation of meat was a serious matter. I think Paul is encouraging us to preserve that which reflects God's image when writing his second letter to the church in Corinth. In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul writes, "from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view." One of the paradoxes of the Christian faith is how we understand humans. People are wonderful, noble, special, image bearers of God but, simultaneously, we are all broken sinners. While we should never deny our brokenness, to be salty is to preserve, our first 'p,' in ourselves and others, that image of God.
- Just as God was in Christ reconciling the world back to himself, Christ is in us by the Holy Spirit and we can be His ambassadors. Meaning Jesus is making His appeal through us to hurt, broken, people so they can, in Him, be reconciled back to their loving Father in Heaven. Salt does not say "I will preserve this meat and not that meat." In the same way, we must be salty people in all situations. How is the kingdom of heaven populated by us but not about us? By existing to preserve that which is good, holy, and wholesome in others.
- To be the salt of the earth at Kingdom Sports Camp is to preserve the joy of these kids. A camp in which we interact with children that have special needs and their siblings to learn the basics of a couple of sports. We are being salty by providing an environment where family relationships can be preserved, relationships that can be so often strained. We hope to be ambassadors of reconciliation among these families and, if we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, provide an opportunity for people to be reconciled to God through Christ.
- Salt not only preserves that which is good in food, it also provides flavor, our second 'p.' True citizens of the kingdom of heaven add flavor to what can be a dull and bland world.
- Unfortunately, the opposite is often the case. In fact Oliver Wendell Holms was quoted as saying, "I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers." If you look at the task we have been given, however, we should be anything but a boring people. In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us that we are participating in reconciling a broken,lost and hurting world back to its loving Heavenly Father. What could possibly be more exciting!? A lot of it is a change in perspective.
- This difference in perspective is illustrated in a story I once heard about Michelangelo. He was walking through what would become the Sistine Chapel. It was still under construction and he saw someone laying bricks down. This person was working with a grimace, distaining every brick he had to lay down. Michelangelo asked the man, "What are you doing?" His response, "What does it look like I'm laying bricks." Continuing on, Michelangelo saw another man doing the exact same thing with one difference. He was singing, joyfully and carefully laying every brick. Michelangelo asked the man the same question and his response was, "I am so lucky, I am building a house for God!"
- Think about how that changes how we do things like Family Promise. We are not just providing food and shelter for temporarily homeless families. Instead, we are inviting them to experience the love of God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are providing them with a taste of the kingdom of heaven. A kingdom in which we are sons and daughters of the king, our Heavenly Father. In this kingdom, no matter what happens, He will love and never forsake us!How is the kingdom of heaven inhabited by us but not about us? We provide opportunities for people to taste and see that the Lord is good, provide an opportunity for folks to discover who they are in Christ.
- Tragically, we often get stuck in our own routines, preferences, and purpose. Slowly we lose our distinctive Christian flavor by not living out His self sacrificial love. It is easy to begin thinking that church is like any club that is ran by the preferences of its members instead of a kingdom on the move. Jesus tells us that when we lose that distinctiveness we are like salt that has lost its saltiness. Salt that has lost its saltiness is not only useless for preserving and flavoring food but it actually makes soil infertile. That's why Jesus says that it should be put out in the road to be trampled underfoot. Christians who have lost the saltiness of living out Christ's sacrificial love are even worse than people who do not call themselves Christians. They not only lose their distinctiveness but they might destroy the soil of people's hearts by giving non-Christians a false view of what it means to be a Christ follower. I have heard it said that "The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."
- Ironically, our culture encourages us to have faith like this, faith that is private. It is ok if Jesus is our therapist or homeboy, but once we start proclaiming that He is Lord of the universe that is intolerant. This makes it tempting to think, "You know, I'll just be salty within the safe confines of the church community. I'll preserve that which is good and provide flavor and fullness to my brothers and sisters here but not take it out there."
- However, Jesus not only tells us that we are the salt of the earth, we are also the light of the world!
- To hide our relationship with God is like lighting a candle and covering it up. We should not be ashamed of our relationship with Him. Instead we should let it shine for everyone to see it. Being salty helps us know what it means to go on a God shaped mission, being the light of the world helps us to understand what it means to go on a God sized mission.
- The prophet Isaiah wrote, "It is too small a thing for you to be my servantto restore the tribes of Jacoband bring back those of Israel I have kept.I will also make you a lightfor the Gentiles,that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."If we are the light of the world we exist in order to penetrate, our final 'p,' the darkness in this world. We do not use flashlights to light up flash lights, right? Instead we use them to penetratethe darkness! God's kingdom is not about us because we are used to penetrate the darkness around us!
- We do not become the light of the world by grabbing our bullhorn and screaming repent, the end is near. Nor do we become the light by letting everyone know every little thing they are doing wrong, giving them unsolicited, and unwanted, advice. In the beatitudes, right before this passage, Jesus describes who we are before telling us what to do. It is very much on purpose that Jesus moves from statements about being in be beatitudes to the commandment. God is more interested who we are becoming than what we do. In the beatitudes, Jesus tell us who we are in Him, in calling us salt of the earth He gives the shape of our mission, in telling us that we are the light He gives us the scope of our mission. Who are we, redeemed sons and daughters of the king of the universe. What is the shape of our mission, existing for the sake of others. What is the scope of our mission, the world.
- We are blessed in the beatitudes, organized as salt and sent as light into a dark world. Light that shins before others so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in Heaven. How is it that the kingdom of heaven is populated by us, but is not about us? We do not do good deeds to earn our way into haven, to be honored by others, because we want others to owe us, or because we owe them. Instead, we do good deeds because we shine like the moon. The moon has no light in and of itself. Instead the moon simply reflects the brilliance of the sun. Shining to penetrate the darkness in this world.
- In our good deeds and lives, let us be salt and light. A people who realize that life is not about me, it is not about I, it is not about number one, O my me my! The kingdom of heaven is not about us. It is about existing for the sake of those who are not yet here. We preserve that which is good in a decaying world, provide flavor for dull and wandering lives, and penetrate the darkness of this world by His light. We shine like the moon. By the power of the Holy Spirit we can reflect the light of the Son drawing people back to their heavenly Fatherto become beloved sons and daughters of the king of the universe.
- Let us pray: Gracious Lord, thank you for allowing us to be a part of Your Son's mission to reconcile the world back to you. Help us to always remember that we do not exist for our own sake but so that others may know your great love for them. In your name we pray, Amen
- Receive this blessing and benediction. Let's go forth, salt for the earth and light in the world. A people who know it is not about us but what Christ can do through us by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of our Heavenly Father and salvation of the world. In God's mighty name, you may go in peace.