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Epiphany 5 February 5, 2017 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12]; Psalm 112:1-9, I Corinthians 2:1-12,
            Matthew 5:13-20
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
Sunday, February 5, 2017
The Rev. Janet Campbell
You are the salt of the earth . . .
You are the light of the world . . .
So Jesus told the little group
          of his first disciples . . .
right after he had described
          the life to which he was calling them,
          in that poem of blessings
          we call the Beatitudes
(we heard it last Sunday):
they were to become
God’s Community of the Blessed,
a community
that knows itself
          poor and helpless without God,
that relies not on the things of this world
          but solely on God,
that seeks to be
          meek, humble, merciful,
          pure in heart, strong in patience,
          justice-seeking and peacemaking
                    full of hope –

Such a community,
small as it was,
would be salt and light
          for the world.
This is the life
to which Jesus calls all his disciples,
calls his church,
and so,
          calls us
          to strive to be,
          in our own place and time
                    God’s Community of the Blessed,
          when things are going our way,
                   and when they are not;
          when the world seems to be doing
                    that hand-basket thing . . .
                    (going to hell, I mean)
          when we are so small
                   and the world is so large.
We are called to be salt and light
because we share
the salt and light
          of Jesus Christ.

Jesus, Salt of the earth . . .
As salt draws out
the flavors that lie hidden
in unseasoned food,
so Jesus seeks and draws out
          the flavors of holiness
                   lying hidden within us . . .
          the goodness,
          that make for a blessed life in Christ . . .
and so this community,
          small though we may be,
is called to seek and draw out
          the holiness hidden in others . . .
the goodness,
                    that they, too, may find
                             the blessing of life in Christ.

As salt preserves
what is perishable,
so Jesus sustains us
          through any danger or peril,
and so this community,
          small though we may be,
is called
to journey with and protect others
in their vulnerability and need
          with our companionship,
                   people who haven’t yet found God,
people who are lost, lonely, neglected,
people who are sick, suffering, struggling,
          people who are hungry, homeless.

Jesus, Light of the world . . .
As the dawning sun chases away
the shadows of night,
so Jesus dispels the despair
of troubled hearts and minds,
and this community,
          small though we may be,
 is called
          to let his love and joy
          shine among and through us,
          enlightening the hearts and minds  
                             of people who still walk in darkness. 
As light reveals
what is hidden in shadow,
so Jesus pierces through   
          our delusions and self-deceptions,
                   revealing to us who we truly are,
                             and who we can truly be . . .
and so this community,
          small though we may be,
is called
          to be a truth-seeking, truth-telling community,
                    challenging the delusions and self-deceptions
                             of this world,
          and enacting
          the gospel of Christ.
For the sake of this call
every member of this community,
from the elder full of years
to the newest babe in arms,
has been given gifts by God
that all together we
may continue the work
which Jesus began,
          God’s healing of humanity
                   and all God’s creation.
This is the mission
of the church.
So away with
any false modesty
that would have us
downplay or deny our gifts
          and, not acknowledging and using them,
                   deprive the community
                             of their value . . .
. . . and away with any jealousy
          that would have us
          downplay or deny others’ gifts . . .
                   and, not encouraging and supporting them,
                             deprive the community
                                       of their value . . .

and yes,
. . .  away with any secret pride
          that one’s own gifts
                   really are more valuable
                   (more valued by God?)
                             than another’s –
                   and by bringing contention
                             into the community,
                                       paralyze it.
Paul heard it happening
in the Church
he had founded in Corinth.
Blessed community gone bad . . .
Salt spilled . . . light extinguished . . .
Whatever unity they had in Christ,
Whatever love they had of Christ,
Whatever focus they had on Christ,
          about to be sacrificed
                   on the altar of contention.

Who had the highest status:
those baptized by Cephas or Apollos or Paul?
Whose spiritual gifts
were the most important –
the healer, the preacher, the teacher, the prophet? 
Whose knowledge was superior,
          who was wisest,
who most eloquent,
who most powerful?
In a comic strip
from a few years ago
an older man tells his friend
over a game of checkers
that his wife has started using sea salt
rather than regular table salt
because, she says, “it tastes better.”
“I say salt is salt,” the man continues.
“For as long as I can remember,
we’ve used regular table salt.
Now suddenly
it’s not good enough anymore.
Is that crazy or what?”

His younger friend replies,
“I prefer kosher salt myself.
Although I also like fleur de sel
and, on special occasions,
Himalayan pink salt.”                  
“Salt snob!” the man snorts.        Pickles, Brian Crane, Seattle Times 2/4/11
And so the Corinthians.
Who was the kosher salt,
who the sea salt,
who the Himalayan pink,
and who just regular old table salt?
And which salt was best?
Paul said:
“Salt is salt.”
There is no superiority
of gifts,
or status,
or being,
in the blessed community of Jesus.   

This blessed equality
we practice every Sunday in our liturgy:
all invited to the one table,
all fed with the same food,
          the same little pieces of bread
          and sips of wine
          in which all the fullness of God in Christ
                   is pleased to dwell,
all given what is needed,
and sent out
with the same mission . . .
“. . . if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday . . .
said the Prophet Isaiah,
“you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.”
You shall be
the salt of the earth
and the light
          of the world.

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters,”
Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
“I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God
in lofty words or wisdom.
For I decided to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
“And I came to you in weakness and in fear
and in much trembling.
My speech and my proclamation
were not with plausible words of wisdom,
but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom
but on the power of God.”
We may not be
titans of intellect
or heroes of holiness.
ordinary people that we are,
our faith resting not on human wisdom
but on the power of God,
what we say and do
will all the more demonstrate
          the extraordinary:
God’s wisdom, God’s power,
at work in the world
through Jesus Christ
crucified and risen.