some background: our churches came together for an event called “Brat Bowl,” where we cook a lot of tailgate food, divide teams up, and play a backyard football game. We change “admission” – proceeded that go towards the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, are matched by Thrivent Financial, and help restock the foodshelf at St. Andrew to feed hungry folk in Portsmouth. This year, they took a step further – they made the decision to come together to do one worship service together – something they did with some reservations, but in faith……trusting what they got back was something greater than what they gave up.
Ok, before I say anything else, take a look around. I think we have to take a minute and give thanks and celebrate that TWO CHURCHES are worshipping together today, in a Sunday. Two communities of faith have come together as ONE BODY OF CHRIST to worship God today, to seek the Kingdom of God together and celebrate Christ’s presence among us around this table, the sacrament of Holy Communion. Maybe this seems like not a big deal to you….but to me, it’s a big deal.
It’s a big deal because you are being the church – the community of Christ, people who WITNESS to the good news of Jesus Christ, that in Christ’s death and resurrection God has shown us the extent of his grace and love…..that this grace and love is for all people and UNCONDITIONAL, and that such grace and love SHAPES how we LIVE and ACT in the world – towards each other, towards all people, and how we live for God.
Worshipping together today is a big deal because you’re proclaiming to people that the church isn’t a building, a place, a set pattern and routine that can never change – the church is the Holy Spirit moving among people and joining them together in relationships where we share our joys and sorrows, our struggles and hopes, and our deep questions as we seek for God in this world and in this life.
And as the church, we are people – not perfect, but with our own flaws, failures, and brokenness….affected by sin. We’ve still got a long way to go in fully living into God’s vision of life in the Kingdom of God here on earth. But we are people who are loved by God nonetheless.
You are the church. We are the church.
And so, today is a really big deal. I hope you know that. Because it’s never easy to share. It’s never easy to risk people not being happy or not showing up, or showing up early because worship time changed or not putting money in the offering plate. It’s never easy to risk giving up some of the ways you have done church for so long. Sharing is never easy – it takes faith….faith that God is always faithful in our sharing.
And where I guess this all leads for me today is that YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH. Simple, ordinary people….doing extraordinary things by faith. You’re “salt of the earth” kind of people – people who for the most part don’t think of themselves as a “big deal,” but are doing things that are a “big deal”…..being church, living out lives as an extension of God’s grace and love. When I think of “salt of the earth people,” I think of you. I think of things like:
Caring for one another and for Elsie Wright and her family at the passing of her husband Woody…..a funeral service held at Holy Communion and reception here at St. Andrew when Holy Communion’s renovations were going on.
About 3 weeks ago, coming together as church and assembling over 75 kits for adults with intellectual disabilities – a Day of Service with Lutheran Family Services & the Synod.
Supporting each other’s respective ministries & supporting each other – Feeding the homeless at St. Therese this past week; the preschool at Holy Communion; attending funerals & memorials; Christmas caroling together; Advent and Thanksgiving Eve worship services together.
And I think that’s what it means to be “salt of the earth” people. Perhaps we don’t think of what we do as “that big of a deal.” But it is.
And in our gospel today, that’s what Jesus is preaching in the second part of the Sermon on the Mount. He’s preaching in Galilee – to Gentiles, ordinary people who are living outside of Jerusalem, living outside the place where all the religious people and things and places are. And Jesus affirms them, he is telling them – YOU are the salt of the earth; YOU are the light of the world….YOU are the community of God – YOU are the church. These are people who are definitely not a big deal….they’re not Pharisees or scribes.
But Jesus calls them to a “greater righteousness” – one that exceeds the Pharisees and scribes. One that fulfills the INTENT behind the law – not just practicing it word for word. Jesus calls them to live and act with the intent to LOVE – both God and neighbor.
This text reminds and affirms us today of who we are, and it also challenges us to live into this call to “higher righteousness.” Definitely not to earn God’s favor, but because God wants to bless others. God wants others who haven’t heard to know that they are blessed – that they are the salt of the earth.
The fact of the matter is, there’s all sorts of “salt of the earth” folk out there….but they don’t know, they don’t believe what they do is a “big deal” – that the work and roles they live out in their lives are “big deals” in God’s eyes – caring for elderly and sick, teaching children, engineers who keep things safe, honest businesspersons and accountants…mothers, fathers, grandparents, brother, sister, friend, son, daughter. I could go on and on.
And I think that is our challenge today….. INVITING those other “salt of the earth” people to SEE and ENCOUNTER God as we have – to be affirmed in who they are and what they do, and to see what they do is a “big deal” – because through them, God is communicating and extends his grace and love to the world – a grace and love made known in Jesus Christ.
And we do that by being the church like we are today. But because we’ve also got a long way to go to live into God’s vision of new life, that’s also going to require some seeing and dreaming on our part.
It’s going to require that we start seeing those other “salt of the earth” people like ourselves. It’s going to require us to start dreaming of ways that we can make space for those people to not just take part in what we’re already doing…..but to dream of new ways and spaces where they can make this community theirs as well. It’s going to require us to share this great call from a God to be church with those who say “yes” to the invitation to be SALT AND LIGHT, and to seek a higher righteousness themselves.
So that’s what I want you to start doing. Start seeing, and start dreaming.
In fact, while we’re sitting around eating at brat and watching old men re-live their glory days, it might be a good time to start dreaming together…..imagining new ways we can be church together, and to start seeing those other “salt of the earth” folks who might just well be signs of God doing new things among us.
And I’d love to hear more about what you think as well…..in fact, that means a cup of coffee, lunch, or shooting me an email. Because in the 4 months I’ve been here, you know this about me: I love to see, and I love to dream……because God’s got a lot of big things planned, for you, for me, for us, for the church and the world…….and for salt of the earth folks like us, that IS a “big deal.” Amen.
All in all we had a great day: good weather, good fun, good food, and lots of fun and laughs. And those conversations were happenening – folks were talking to each other. Getting to know each other. Getting a better understanding of each other. It was a glimpse…..of God’s Kingdom breaking through a bunch of “salt of the earth” folk being willing to share a whole lot of things with each other, and being church!