Colossians 4:2-6; Mathew 5:13-16
2nd Sunday before Lent
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Over the last four weeks we have been thinking about the beatitudes – those eight remarkable sentences of Jesus that speak of how we can live blessed, happy, contented, good lives.
These statements are not just key to our own happiness and contentment, but when we live them out, they are what can help us to serve our world and glorify God. Blessed lives, beatitude lives, make a difference in the world, they can help change the world for good.
In his words following immediately on from the beatitudes, Jesus described the influence of such lives as being like salt and light.
At our 10am service last week the children introduced us to a helpful acrostic, based on the word salt, and it is one that I thought may be helpful for us this morning.
S, they shared, is for “seasoning”. One of the qualities of salt is that it helps food taste good. It brings out the flavours, it enriches our tastes. When we live out the beatitudes, Jesus seems to be suggesting, we help to bring out the full richness and flavour of life. Because we are meek, servant-hearted, for example – putting others before ourselves – we can truly celebrate in the successes of others. Because we are merciful, loving and accepting of others, we help people to feel valued and safe, able to enjoy life and be fully themselves. Living a beatitude life is one that brings out the best in others. We are to be people who bring joy and wonder and hope to life. To put it simply, life should be better for others because we are around!
A is for “antiseptic”. Jesus lived in an age long before fridges and freezes. Meat very quickly went off, went rotten. To stop that decay, salt was rubbed into the meat. It kept the meat good, edible and wholesome. Jesus says we are to have a similar affect on the world around us.
You may know people whose company brings the best out of you. When you are with them, it is easy to be good, to be positive, affirming, encouraging, compassionate. In fact, in their company, you wouldn’t dream of saying unkind things. And you probably also know people who have the reverse impact on you – where you get sucked into gossip or unkind remarks or judging others. Well, living a beatitude life, is to live that first kind of life, a life that so hungers and thirsts for righteousness, that is so passionate for justice, that others want to be like that too. A life that is also pure in heart, a life full of integrity and honesty. And that takes courage, because sometimes that means being unpopular or disliked, because we don’t just go with the crowd.
L is for “life-giving”. Though we don’t give salt much attention, it is essential for the functioning of our bodies. Without it, we would die. This picks up on what we have just been thinking about. Are our lives “life-giving”? Do they make people’s lives better? Do they challenge those things that make life worse? With our families, in the community, in our workplaces, in our contribution we make to the world, are we being life-givers? To pick up two of our beatitudes, are we being peace-makers, helping to bring peace where there is conflict and division? Are we compassionate, truly mourning for the suffering of others, enough to make us want to make a difference?
And T is for “thirst-making”. Salt certainly makes us thirsty. Does the way we live make people thirsty to know God? Jesus also spoke about light, our lives shining out brightly, so that when people see us, they want to glorify God. That only happens when, to use another of the beatitudes, we are “poor in Spirit”, humble, when we know that to live such a life we are totally dependent on God, seeking his help in everything we do.
The effectiveness of salt, however, relies on two things. Firstly, that it remains salty. Salt in Jesus’ day was a white powder containing elements of sodium chloride, but other things too. If the sodium chloride was washed away, a white powder remained, still looking like salt, but useless and tasteless, having lost all its qualities. It was fit only for being thrown out and trampled under foot. How do our lives retain that all important saltiness? Through living the life of the beatitudes that Jesus speaks of.
And secondly, salt, for it to be effective needs to be spread around. It is no good being left in the salt cellar. Jesus made a similar point with light. In first century Israel, houses had few windows and were very dark. People relied on lamps, those small containers in the shape of gravy boats holding oil with a wick sticking out. Lighting them was not always easy, so once alight, people would keep them burning even when they went out the house, and for safety would put them under a bowl. But when they returned the bowl would be lifted off and light would fill the room. It was crazy to think they would sit in darkness while a burning lamp remained under the bowl.
Likewise, our faith is meant to be seen, it is meant to be spread around, it is meant to be visible. We are called to be Christians as much during the rest of the week as we are in church on a Sunday. The beatitude way of living is for the whole week – for when we are with our families, friends, colleagues, when we are responding to events in the news or in our community.
To live such a life – a life of humility, compassion, servanthood, justice, mercy, peace-making, integrity and courage – is a life that will bring us real joy, purpose and contentment; will make a difference in our community and the world; and, Jesus says, will bring glory to God.
So as we come to the end of our beatitude series let us pray for God to help us live such a life:
Lord Jesus Christ,
Help each of us to live a beatitude life:
Help us to be humble – to seek and rely on your help
Help us to be compassionate – responding to the needs of others with your love
Help us to be servant-hearted – putting the needs of others before our own
Help us to be passionate for justice – standing for what is right
Help us to be merciful – showing your love and generosity to people we find difficult
Help us to be peace-makers – in our homes, our schools and workplaces, in our community and our world.
Help us to be full of integrity and honesty – being true to our word and to who we are
And help us to be courageous – even when doing what is right comes at a cost.
And through us, may life be better for others, and may you be worshipped and praised. Amen.