Last week, I talked briefly about the root of the word, politics… how it refers to the city or the citizen… and how at its core, politics are the relations between people who live in a society. As Christians who live in this society, we have unique sympathies that guide our engagement in this society.
But there is another reason why Christians shouldn’t shy away from politics.
It is because our very faith is political.
We serve a leader who will never be in the White House.
We claim citizenship in a Kingdom that includes this country… but is far bigger than this world.
We pledge our allegiance… as we affirm in the vows of baptism … to Jesus Christ, our Savior and promise to serve him as our Lord.
Those are political statements.
Men and women through the ages have died for believing those things… and yet, we believe them anyways.
When we become disciples, we choose to serve the Kingdom of God.
As disciples, we serve… we follow… the risen Lord.
So, what does it mean to be a disciple in today’s world?
It doesn’t matter if they are man-made problems like Aleppo, or natural disasters like Hurricane Matthew… the chaos of our climate today is overwhelming and part of us wants to run inside the safety of our homes and ignore it. But as disciples, we are called to love and serve this world.
How can we, the church, serve the Kingdom today?
This morning, we find our answer in Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount.
In “The Message” translation, Eugene Peterson, starts off these verses with these words:
“Let me tell you why you are here…”
You see, this whole sermon is full of instructions for the people of God. It reminds us of the attitudes we are supposed to carry with us into the world. And it tells us what we are supposed to do – how we are supposed to live. These words of Jesus are so important we are going to take the first part of next year, in January and February and dive in deep to this message.
Today, we focus on a few verses that describe our witness to the world.
Whenever we see the word “serve” or “service” we often think about the good works we perform or the ways we give and distribute goods. We think of projects like Ingathering and school kits, Joppa, CFUM, all of those ways we use our hands and feet to make a difference.
But “to serve” also means “to be of use” and points to a specific purpose for being and belonging.
“Let me tell you why you are here…” Jesus says.
Let me tell you how you can serve me, how you can serve my Kingdom…
“You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.”
We are the salt of the earth.
I know that some of us here can’t always have salt, because of dietary restrictions, and perhaps you know better than all the rest of us about how useful salt is!
When you sprinkle salt on watermelon or on tomatoes – the flavor of those fruits become brighter and more crisp! When salt is added to soup, it becomes rich and deep. When we sprinkle salt onto roasted vegetables, or French fries…. Mmmm…
Salt takes what is already there and it brings out the flavors. It helps us to taste what was hidden.
That is our job as disciples. We point to the hidden work of God in this world and bring it out. We are supposed to help the world see and taste and experience God – even though they can’t always see him.
And one of the ways that we can be the salt of the earth is by pointing to the good news and movement of God in the world… by lifting up stories of hope and life. Remembering those stories, pointing to those stories, telling those stories to our friends and our neighbors help us to remember that there is hope even in desperate situations. And they allows us to share the source of our hope – Jesus Christ.
On our “next step discipleship” handout for today… you’ll notice that the very first step, our exploring step… is that we simply notice, we are aware of, the salty people in the world. We start to see that God is moving through in our midst and we, too, want to join in.
And once we become aware… once our eyes are opened, then we can go out and serve.
The thing about salt is that it does no good sitting on the shelf. You have to use it! Just as salt has to make contact with food to be effective, so as people of faith, we need to be out in the world, helping folks, praying with them, listening to their stories.
And the next step you can take as a disciple is to go out there and try it out. Hear that call to serve and try seasoning something!
This church has so many different ways that you can dip your toes in to a world of service. You can prepare casseroles for Under-The-Bridge. You can go to CFUM and dish out supper one night. You can join with others and package meals. You can bring in canned food items for DMARC. Next week, you can give towards the Ingathering kits which will be sent across this world to help those in need…
But your salty life isn’t confined to the church… It also happens in your own backyard.
Every time you attend a youth sporting event or concert…
Every time you mow your neighbor’s lawn…
Every time you sit down and have coffee with someone, you can be, bringing out the God-flavor in this community.
You can let people know they are important, that they matter, and that you – and God – are there.
Jesus continues by putting this message another way – you are here in this world to be light – to help the world see God.
This faith of ours is not a secret to be kept locked up – it’s meant to be made public – it’s meant to shine out wide and far.
And friends, we all shine in different ways.
Some of us are a strand of Christmas lights twinkling in the cold darkness.
Some of us are campfires that provide warmth and light and food.
Some of us are flashlights – portable, willing to go anywhere to be of service at any time.
And as we think about the next steps in our discipleship, part of what we need to do as we serve God is figure out what kind of servant we are called to be. What are the unique gifts that God has placed in my life? What are the things I can offer to this world?
Do you have a passion for food? Or art? Are you able to teach? Or called to lead? Are you an encourager? Or do you have a knack for understanding technology?
Our Lord and Savior does not want or need people who all fit the same mold. We are each here, called into community, because it is our unique gifts, fitting together, that create a light that shines far beyond what any one of us could do.
And that light is meant not for the church… but for the world.
We can’t keep the good news hidden away. We can’t keep the transforming power of God under a basket. We have to let it shine.
As disciples, we are ambassadors for God everywhere we go. The clothes you wear, the place you choose to visit and live in, the work you do, the protests you join, the types of people you eat with in public… all of these things can tell the world something about you… AND the God who you claim to follow.
The question is… what message is your light sending to the world?
“Let me tell you why you are here…”
Every day you are a living witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ… whether you want to be or not!
So, disciples… citizens of the Kingdom of God… choose today to serve Jesus.
Choose this week to go into the world loving, praying, and serving.
Choose this week to be the salt and light that will open the eyes and the heart of someone to God for the first time.
Be that salty, light-filled person that will cause someone else to say, “wow… I want to know more about why they do that.”
May we be salt. May we be light.