Salt & Light

You are the salt of the earth; the light of the world…

You are to differentiate yourself from others – stand out – be recognizable.

In a predominantly, white, Catholic, French community, they stood out.   As those of the Muslim faith gathered last Sunday night for prayers, they stood out.  As they feared for their lives within a place they once called sanctuary, they offered prayers of peace for a broken world.  In the week that unfolded, they stood out, in their prayers for love, both for victims and perpetrator alike.[1]

if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored;
a city built on a hill cannot be hid.

Uniformity is neither desirable nor possible in a country the size of Canada. We should not even be able to agree upon the kind of Canadian to choose as a model, let alone persuade most people to emulate it. There are few policies potentially more disastrous for Canada than to tell all Canadians that they must be alike. There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. … A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate. … What the world should be seeking, and what in Canada we must continue to cherish, are not concepts of uniformity but human values: compassion, love, and understanding.[2]
(Pierre Elliot Trudeau)

We’ve had those moments of wanting to be the same.  We’ve had those moments of not wanting to stand out, or be noticed; to glide through life and not attract or scare others with what makes us unique.  It’s been awhile for most of us, but I think one of the places this is heightened is school; our kids just want to be like everyone else. It’s not peer pressure, it’s protection.  They don’t want to get noticed, because getting noticed might lead to standing out, and standing out might lead to bullying…and bullying to much worse.  Standing out has consequences; being different leads to conflict.

Yet God has proclaimed that we are each uniquely loved and celebrated (Matthew 10:30), that we have been blessed …that we might become a blessing (Genesis 12:2)…and to celebrate those gifts which make us unique (1 Corinthians 12).  Today, as we as we remember those in prayer, those who have touched the life of this church, and Olivet church, we don’t remember the sameness.  We remember their unique impact upon our lives…as a mother, or father…partner or friend.   How they loved us.  How they inspired others.  How they were different than the rest.

You are the salt of the earth; the light of the world…

Jesus reminds us that we are to stand out in this world, knowing the consequences.  We cannot help it, for a city on a hill cannot be hid, the saltiness in our food cannot be missed.   Standing out gets us in trouble.  You or someone you love has heard those doctor’s orders – cut back on your salt, watch your intake, or it’ll kill you.  Too much difference, too much salt, can be dangerous.  And whether we’re talking about the salt in our food, or the salt in our world, not enough makes it bland…too much makes it dangerous.

Imagine the church full of sameness/blandness emptied out and replaced with a church full of salty people – each with brusque personalities – each assaulting you every single Sunday what they really thought of the sermon, the hymns, the paint colours, the tie the minister was wearing…Too much salt can be a bad thing.  Or light.  Think of how much light we need to see our way.   Imagine that intensified, to the point we have to shield our eyes, then brighter and brighter and we could go blind.  Too much salt…too much light… and yes, I’m saying… too much difference can be a bad thing too.

But just enough is a wonderful thing.  I know it’s a bit of a cliché but we are the perfect planet – with just enough light to grow our foods, cause us to rejoice in the winter months, or lay out on beaches in times of rest.  If we our planetary rotation was in the place of the planet Venus, we’d have 400 degree summers.  Or instead, if we swapped places with Mars, we would be comfortable with the 27 highs, but suffer through the nights of -147.   We are the Goldilocks planet.  Not too much light, not too light.  Just enough.

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything,
but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

Brian McLaren in his book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road, describes our modern world, with our knowledge of other religions, cultures, sensitivities, differences growing each and every day.  And while our differences give definition, we musn’t forget about our similarities.

McLaren goes on to say that while there are those in certain faiths that will overemphasize their saltyness (their distinctiveness) what’s happening to mainline Christianity is that we’re losing our flavour.  We feel we need to become less salty, less distinctive, so that we can blend in, not stand out, seek our sameness in order to deal with this modern world.  We’ve seen what happens to people of faith, and suffered broken hearts because of the wrongs done in the name of religion.  But the answer to this problem isn’t to diminish our difference, it’s to keep just enough to be beneficial to the world.

Jesus, reminds us that our faith, our actions, require us to stand out (not too much, not too little) but enough to give sight to the blind, to preach an inverted world where the last will be first, to live out a restorative justice that is different than the governments of this world.  And in the midst of death, it is our Christian message that gives us hope, for resurrection is the distinctive hope of Christianity.

In the face of pluralism, we’ve relinquished our distinctiveness, our Christian-ness, because we don’t want to offend, we don’t want to get noticed, we don’t want to risk our sanctuaries becoming places of fear.  For the sake of a united Canada, we’ve hidden what we believe, in a quest for unobtainable uniformity.

Yet today, on this our annual meeting Sunday, we celebrate all that makes St. James’-Rosemount unique.  For this unique and blessed calling of hope that we are to bring our community.  For this gospel message of God’s love meant for all people.  For the compassion, love and understanding that is unique to this place.  For this blessing of light and hope revealed to us, is light we cannot hide under a bushel basket, no…I’m gonna let it shine. 

[1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/in-his-own-words-imam-hassan-guillet-s-address-at-quebec-city-funeral-for-3-mosque-victims-1.3966917

[2] Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Remarks at the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress, October 9, 1971, as cited in The Essential Trudeau, ed. Ron Graham.

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