Epiphany 5A (With A Hat Tip to Pete Seeger)
Scripture appointed is here: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Epiphany/AEpi5_RCL.html
You. Salt and Light. You.
I have said it before, and I will say it again. I don’t get to choose what scripture we hear on Sundays. In the Episcopal Church, we use what is called the Revised Common Lectionary which designates the scripture in order that we might hear the majority of the Bible over the course of three years while at the same time having the scripture match the traditions and emphasis of the Church calendar.
So, when the Gospel reading on November 16th only a few days following the United State’s Presidential Election, was Luke 21:5-19—a text which speaks of the destruction of earthly kingdoms, it was not text I had chosen. It was a text appointed long before our current context and designed to draw the Church year to a close while setting us up for the following Sunday’s celebration of Christ the King.
“When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down."…"But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name."
So, this text with its explicit assertion that those structures of human creation will pale in comparison to THE new creation at the hand of God, precedes the feast day intended to remind us that as Christians our primary allegiance is to Christ and NOT to any earthly government.
And so, as the Church year drew to a close and we prepared for Advent, we were being reminded by the liturgy and by the text, that we are to prepare for a new Creation that is better than ANY that the powers of this world have in mind.
And, it was text proclaimed in the first days of the presidential transition of power…
And, then last week, the words of the prophet Micah juxtaposed with the immigration ban and the images of refugees fleeing danger only to be turned away: “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”.
You can see the challenge facing the preacher—the challenge of how to preach on the appointed scripture given the current political landscape. To quote a colleague, whose name I will omit for obvious reasons, “what will I do when my congregants accuse me of having a political agenda because I preached the Gospel?”
Because I preached the Gospel and proclaimed the words of the prophets.
Because those words castigate the powerful and raise up the weak.
Because, the poor are blessed.
Because, the mighty are brought down.
Because, the scripture has an uncanny way of speaking to the brokenness that we are in right now, a brokenness depicted on every screen and played out in real time as borders are closed and policies are enacted that threaten the least powerful in our midst.
So, if the Isaiah moves you. Hold the truth that the prophetic is pastoral to the persecuted and the poor. Hold the truth that when the scripture speaks of the destruction of earthly powers, it is speaking with the intent that those who are being destroyed by those powers will find the strength to endure.
Hold the truth, that the Gospel has a political agenda.
An agenda grounded in a place and time and a people who were in the midst of political and religious persecution. An agenda grounded in a truth that was held close and dear by Jewish religious practice and culture—the truth that God is a God of liberation.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?”
I can only imagine, how the hearts of the oppressed quickened at these words and how the fist of Rome clenched at the notion that these people would ever be free. And, I can also imagine the sweat upon the brow of the prophet who overcame the fear of speaking truth to power…
Lest we forget, John the Baptist who extolled us to prepare a way was jailed and then executed.
Truth to power is a dangerous thing. That was true then, and it is true now.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book “The Cost of Discipleship”—a cost he bore in his own execution--wrote thus, “The messengers of Jesus will be hated to the end of time. They will be blamed for all the division which rend cities and homes. Jesus and his disciples will be condemned on all sides for undermining family life, and for leading the nation astray; they will be called crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace.”
Crazy fanatics and disturbers of the peace—arguably un-Minnesotan.
But, how like Christ.
Which brings us to this season, a season in which we are asked to consider what Christ is like. In order to explore this theme, the lectionary pairs prophecy with Jesus’ earthly ministry and in this pairing furthers the revelation that God in Christ is both fully human and divine.
Human and divine. In exploring what it meant for Jesus to be human and divine, we are asked to consider our own humanity. A humanity grounded in the assertion that we participate in Christ’s divinity.
He abides in us and we in him. And when we covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons—we do so because we know that Christ is in ALL persons.
This is about Christ and hence it is about us--about who we are when we accept our calling to be as Christ in the world.
And this is who we are:
We ARE the salt of the Earth.
We ARE the light of the world.
When we accept our identity as disciples who carry Christ in the world, we are as Jesus describes, salt and light. And when we are, Christ is.
And when Christ is, we will find that we have been gifted with a power that shall allow us to assist in the fulfillment of that new creation in which
The Lord will guide us continually,
and satisfy our needs in parched places,
and make our bones strong;
and we shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Our ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
we shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
we shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
When we are, Christ is. We have the power to fulfill God’s purpose.
Because of who we are. Not because of what we were or what we will become. But because of who we are RIGHT NOW.
We are enough, as salt and light, we are enough. And out of who we are, we will repair and restore all that is broken. It is in our nature, the human and divine made manifest.
In this, we are salt,
we are light,
we are hope.