Being salt and light in the world
Never underestimate the power of a Collect. When placed at the beginning of a Eucharistic service, Collects give us a preview into our scripture readings. During the Daily Offices, particular Collects connect us to the great mysteries of our faith. In the Book of Common Prayer, there are 102 pages dedicated to just the Collects. That does not include the vast array of Collects that can be used for the wonderful Saints in Holy Women, Holy Men.
Today’s Collect is simple but powerful. “Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.” What a beautiful Collect. This particular Collect caught my attention not just for its simplicity, but for its focus on the community. It never says “I” or “me,” but focuses on “us,” the community. Set us free. The bondage of our sins. Give us. Made known to us in your Son our Savior. A simple but powerful Collect.
The idea of community is seen throughout our scripture readings for today. Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew comes from Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is addressing the community. He is addressing his followers. Jesus has just given us the Beatitudes, and now we hear Jesus address the community saying, “You are the salt of the earth.” In my mind, I can hear my New Testament professor saying, “Do you really think you are salt? Of course, you are not salt!” In the Old Testament, salt was a sign of the covenant between God and God’s people. Salt was always to be provided with offerings and sacrifices at the temple to represent the covenant. When Jesus is saying to the community that you are the salt of the earth, Jesus is saying that WE are a sign of the covenant between God and God’s people. I think that makes Jesus’ words in the Gospel more powerful. How are we to show that to the world?
Jesus gives us that answer. “You are the light of the world.” Light is not meant for its own sake. We don’t turn the light on to turn the light on. Light serves a purpose. Light is a tool. When Jesus says we are the light of the world, he is saying that we are tools for his ministry in the world. Of course, that light should not be hidden. We all come with different gifts, and when we use those together in the community to form the Church, imagine how powerful our light could be.
Our reading from Isaiah today ends with a beautiful description of what could happen if we truly lived in community, were the salt of the earth, and let our light shine. First, you have to get rid of the pointing of fingers and the speaking of evil, but then, look at all the beauty that happens. “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.” Isaiah also promises that God will be with us to guide us in this endeavor. Not only do we have God, but we have one another.
From just one semester's of living in the community at seminary, I can tell you; it is not easy. I have never seen people get so heated over how coffee should be made or at the mention of John Calvin. Even with our disagreements, living and being in a community is more than worth it. Just this semester, two separate classmates have lost parents and we have sent flowers and attended the funerals. Many of us have been sick and we have provided food and medications. We rally behind and support one another. Living in a community can be difficult, but it can also be one of the most beautiful and joyous experiences.
A lot is happening at Christ Church right now. We just wrapped up a fantastic Diocesan Convention in Wilmington learning from Invite Welcome Connect on how to welcome the stranger among us, last night Dinner on Five Continents supported the work of Interfaith Refugee Ministries, and I don’t know if you all have heard, but there is a Capital Campaign going on to help with Nave renovations and replacing the organ to help make our worship even more robust. What else are we doing to let our light shine? Are we shining our light in the right places and directions? If the Church doesn’t act as a sign of the covenant, then who will?
Never underestimate the power of a Collect. Collects can help us in our charge to be the salt of the earth as one community and to let our light shine. The Collect for the Unity of the Church helps us in that charge. Let us pray: “Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you are one and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.”