Matthew 5: 13-20 “Valued or Worthless?” Feb. 9, 2020

Boardman UMC Rev. Jerry W. Krueger

What do you value in life? What do you perceive as worthless?

We value family, friendships, our pets, and care and compassion in our lives. We value Jesus Christ and our faith life. We can value a car or a home. We might value the comfort of familiar surroundings. Many things we can value.

What do you think of as worthless? Worthless meaning no perceived or real value. Beta Max recorders from the early 1980’s are worthless. Pet rocks. Someone who promises to follow through, and fails to do so time and again, their word becomes worthless.

Jesus address three issues with the crowd and disciples. He introduces the concept of salt which is necessary for life. It enlivens flavors, preserves foods. It’s part of the Old Covenant sacrifice, and relates to loyalty and covenant fidelity. OT writings in the Book of Numbers 118: 19 refer to “sharing salt”.

Yet if salt loses its flavor, it becomes worthless. Salt loses its saltiness not by chemical reaction, but by becoming so impure, so mixed with other elements, it loses its function.

Salt doesn’t exist for life, and neither do we as Christians. Salt and disciples, are tuned to the outside world for Jesus. If we become so diluted by the world, we lose our primary function of relationship with God, through Jesus Christ.

Next, Jesus addresses “light” as metaphor. Light portrays Christians as illumination for the world. The main function of light is NOT to be seen, but to let things be seen AS they are.

Adding bright light in a dark room points out imperfections; stained walls, shabby carpet, hidden cobwebs all come to light, and can be addressed. We are called to bring light to the situations of life needing illumination.

The city on the hill can’t be hidden. It is up there on the horizon, and it is to be seen. Jesus Christ wants us to be emboldened by being visible agents of hope, compassion, justice, mercy, change, and grace in the world’s culture around us.

We who follow Jesus are salt and light, and are called by Jesus to accept and believe the word of Jesus, and live out our lives in a new way that flavor and illuminate the world.

Then, Jesus instructs us to “let our light shine before others.” This isn’t about bragging how deep your faith life is or one-upmanship.

This is about you going about your work and letting your works for the Kingdom speak for themselves.

The Gospels are not intended to be harsh limiting rule bound structures for us to live in. Rather the Gospels are to inspire, to stimulate imagination, to ask about status quo, to see what situations can change for the better.

When you engage in works of mercy, piety, and community, it is not for you, it is for the kingdom. Serving with Kingdom people at 2nd Harvest, Eastbrook Mission Barn, West Blvd. Elementary, Trash and Treasure, Veteran Outreach, ushering, singing. It is not all about you.

It is about letting your light shine like a light, a beacon on a hill that others will see and be drawn to and perhaps their lives changed for the betterment of the Kingdom.

Jesus shifts focus from salt and light, and speaks of abolishing the law, or the prophets. “I have NOT come to abolish the law or the prophets, I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill.”

There were some followers who wanted the prophets’ teaching and the Law set out to pasture. The thought was there was no value in the law and prophets, because Jesus would grant great interpretive latitude in his words.

And there were those who misunderstood and feared the new freedom that Christian faith would bring.

So, at the conclusion of this teaching by Jesus, we hear these words, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew shares Jesus’ words informing us that those who teach words contrary to God, who loosen a commandment, will be punished.

Scribes and Pharisees lived inadequately, and to exceed their lived obedience (righteousness) means doing more. Not refraining from committing murder, but Not hating. We are called to create a just society that challenges the accepted cultural norms of injustice for some, of unethical attitudes and treatment of the created order. This means humans, animals, the earth, and nature itself.

Jesus is informing those hearing his words about the scribes and Pharisees. Two groups knowledgeable of the OT law coupled with the teachings of the prophets. The Scribe/Pharisee interpretation un-righteously locked down OT laws and teachings of the Law and Prophets. Mercy and grace would be seriously lacking.

But Jesus is saying, there IS value in the teachings of the Prophets and of the Law. He is the fulfillment of it. Use the law and prophets teaching, and couple it with the Christ’s loving compassion and grace filled covenant, and stop thinking about self.

Help others, love your neighbor, don’t get so enamored with keeping rules and regulations that you forget that you belong to God.

God wants a sound righteous relationship with his children. This is not about abolishing the Law of food laws or animal sacrifice. This is directed to those who fear the new freedom we have in Christ.

This continuation of the Sermon on the Mount is about being upright, upfront, not hiding our faith, but not bragging about it ether. This is about using the light of Christ to illuminate the needs in our community that hide in darkness and then addressing them. Think and jot down some needs in our community today. Human trafficking, racism, food insecurity, drug use, housing issues, work issues? This teaching is about what we value, what we know Christ calls us to do on his behalf.

I understand the value of salt and how it flavors a meal, preserves food. I understand the power of light in the darkness that calls us to come close to a place of safety and hope.

I understand that as a Christian, you each are like the city on the hill. Your “Christ-like” light is there for all to see. Don’t hide it. Don’t be ashamed of it, don’t downplay your faith and actions, but let your light shine in a humble and righteous non-bragging way.

Also recall, there is great wisdom in the Law and the teachings of the Prophets. Without fear or trepidation, we are to address the OT teachings with the mind of Christ and know that Christ loves us dearly and only wants the best for us.

People of God, you are the salt and light of the earth. Give God thanks and praise for whom He is. Give thanks for Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christ calls to you today so you may faithfully live out your lives for Christ the remainder of your days.

And all of God’s light-filled people proclaimed, AMEN!

  August 2020  
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