The past weeks we have been studying the Sermon on the Mount in our church. I am speaking of Matthew Chapter 5. It is a text I have read unknown numbers of times growing up in the church.
This year has brought new revelation for me. The truths of scripture have not changed, so perhaps it is the case that I read it with new eyes.
Jesus speaks to the broken and despairing people of the Kingdom of God. God’s reign is good news to the mourning, those disappointed by life, the people who have the “spirit of the poor,” those who are merciful and meek (in that they use their power to help the poor).
It is not the rule of the world to honor the least-of-these. This kingdom honors the broken and those who put themselves aside for God’s sake and for the sake of others. In God’s kingdom, our rights are put aside for God’s right, as the King of Glory He may govern as He chooses.
I believe the surprise for me was a new realization of the depth of love I saw in the text.
Scripture tells us we ARE the light of God shining in the world; not that we will be when we have studied enough or done the right things. Suddenly, as I baptized a child last Sunday I realized that this infant is God’s light to us. In this child is already the light of God shining. As we washed him in the water of baptism, he was already placed in the center of the rewards God has assured us. In the center of a world that is lacking in the ways of God, this child was loved and honored as a child of God. He was set right into the middle of the rewards of being in God’s kingdom. He did not have to earn them.
Jesus has already put in place all that needed to be done. His death and resurrection make possible a return to what God had created at the start.
I suddenly realized that in baptism, we are as close to God as is humanly possible. We are in “the Garden of Eden” in His presence. God is available to walk and talk with us, to enjoy the creation and laugh in joy. God delights in those days and activities. He loves welcoming the child, and all the baptized. He offers us comfort or strength as we need them and promises salvation has already been won for us.
Then came the challenge.
We are salt and light in the world. We ARE, not we will be. But just as happened in the Garden of Eden, we can lose that saltiness or light if we listen to the voices that tempt us away.
If we begin right at God’s side, with all promised things ours, the question comes as a choice. God is asking, “Will you let me be enough for you? Will you trust me to care for you? Will you know that the commandments are given because I love you? Do you know commandments contain what I want for you as my child and what I want for my other children? They are for your protection and care, not for judgment.
Or, will you begin to question and leave the garden of my protection and love by listening to the voices in the world? Will you water down what you have and settle for a mere taste of the kingdom rather than a feast?
I think this was the revelation. We have it all as we begin our life in Christ. Every promise, every covenant of love put in place, is ours. Now I have to ask myself if I would settle for less. Will I come up with excuses for my anger and my unfaithfulness to God? Will I try to be like God and eat the apple the world offers and buy into distrust or apathy of the things of God? Will I put aside my privileged place in God’s Kingdom and make my desires and my ego central to my decisions?
As a pastor, I do many nursing home visits. I always marvel that the residents have low salt, low sugar diets at that time. Why? As someone who loves to eat, I will find a way to rise from my wheelchair if I am in the nursing home, my food tasteless so I can live longer in my broken health.
Perhaps I should carry that attitude into my day-to-day living. I do not want to live a saltless life. I don’t want to live away from the saltiness of others. I do not want to give up the garden and its promises for the lusts and desires that look good in the world.
Maybe Lent will have a new word for all of us this year. We can change our intentions and our thoughts. We can walk back to God’s side for the companionship we have been missing. No more saltless friends at times when we need the salt of Christ’s love in my diet. We can invite others to join us rather than give up the ways of God and be watered down to the point of apathy or earthly orneriness. We can quit fighting and join together in a walk with God.
Jesus spoke to me this season. The words were familiar, but with new eyes I realize I don’t want to settle. No low-salt diet for me spiritually. It won’t be easy, but I choose life in Christ.
Are you reading the same love letter that I am?