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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sermon-- Salt & Light

Sermon for Gospel Lesson:  Matthew 5:13-20

"Salt & Light" 

You ARE the salt of the earth, you ARE the light of the world. Jesus isn't saying, “you can become the salt and light” he is saying, “you ARE the salt and light.”

Studies have been done on children and self-esteem that show for every negative comment a child hears, they need to hear 10 good ones to combat it. So if a child is called “bad” long enough, they will start living into that. 

If this science holds true, let us tell people what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5: You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world. How empowering for a person, especially a child to hear-- you are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world. Perhaps if we hear it enough, we will live into it. What a wonderful place this would be if only we told people from an early age that they are salt and light.

There is this concern in this passage about salt losing its taste and lights being hidden.

When I sing “This little light of mine” to A, he yells enthusiastically “NO!” when I say, “Hide it under a bushel.” My hope and prayer is that he will resist the temptation to hide his light with as much enthusiasm as he gives to singing the NO in the song!

My hope and prayer is that you do too. So often it's easier to hide our light rather than let it shine for the world to see. So often it's easier to remain silent than to speak up for what is right. So often we let things slide as a “joke” or don't find it worth our breath to speak up against someone who we think will never change.  But that is precisely when we hide our light and begin to lose our saltiness.

We are taught to be racist and sexist. I know, these are words people hate to hear, but the reality is, like it or not, the world is plagued by them, so as the salt of the earth and light of the world, we do need to talk about it.

In seminary those of us who were white were asked, “how did you learn you were white?” This question opened a whole can of worms because for many it's not easy to pinpoint the exact moment we found out we were white. We don't like to think that racism and prejudices were learned, because we like to believe we come from a good and loving family. And many of us do come from good and loving families. But racism IS learned.

Racism is learned in that side comment that your aunt made, in the “joke” that your grandpa told, it's learned by not being allowed to go to “that part of the neighborhood”... and they all seem harmless or not significant enough when they happen, but when all the little things build over time, they become a much bigger picture and they result in one group feeling superior or inferior to another.

I can't pinpoint the moment I found out I was white or female, but in all the little comments I heard over the years from people inside and outside my family, I gathered a picture in my mind that I was superior as a white person and inferior as a girl.

From a young age we are told who we can and cannot be. Things are slowly changing, but we're not quite there yet. Last Sunday was the Superbowl and we can see examples there. One of the most controversial commercials from the Superbowl was the Coca Cola ad where people were singing “America the Beautiful” in many different languages. People were really outraged over this one.

There was also a Cheerios commercial, this is the second of two with Gracie and her parents. The first was a huge controversy—why? Because Gracie's mom is white and her dad is black. Many people applaud Cheerios for breaking down the color barrier and showing a bi-racial family, and many people were offended to see this. But why? What are we teaching our children by thinking Gracie's family is something to be offended by? What are we teaching our children when singing “America the Beautiful” in many tongues is something to be offended by? We are teaching them racism.

Sexism runs much more rampantly in the Superbowl. There are two obvious points--- 1) women can't play professional football 2) women are often seen as sexual objects. Not only as the underpaid cheerleaders on the sidelines, but also in the commercials. This year wasn't as bad as other years, but it's still there. Think of GoDaddy commercials of years past, think of the soda stream commercial where Scarlet Johansson wants to get the message out about the product so she strips down to a tight dress, flips her hair and bites on the straw.  There were others but I don't have to explain each one.

The car commercials didn't have women drivers, and the car commercial that showed German engineers getting their wings---did you notice none of them were women? In this commercial a dad is driving with his daughter.  When the car reaches 100,000 miles and he says to her, “Every time a Volkswagen reaches 100,000 miles a German engineer gets HIS wings.” That comment may seem small and insignificant, but it's one piece in a larger puzzle of showing girls what they can and cannot be. The commercial then cuts to a Volkswagen factory where a number of male engineers sprout wings.

This may sound silly and far-fetched but I assure you, it's not. Most of us were not sat down as a child and told, “this is how to be racist, this is how to be sexist.” It is something we pick up bit by bit throughout our lives.

So as the salt of the earth and light of the world it is our job to combat these racist and sexist notions at every turn.

You are salt of the earth and you are the light of the world. I am not telling you how to be, I am telling you, you are. And I know many people might be thinking, “yeah, sure, that's nice” or “wow, the pastor obviously doesn't know me well!” But I bet you are better than you give yourself credit for. In fact I challenge you to keep a Salt and Light record.

It doesn't have to be anything long.   At the end of each day, write down or just think to yourself.... what did I do today to be worthy of the title: salt of the earth, light of the world? How did God help me to help others today?

I keep a blessings log on and off in which I write, “Today I have been blessed...” and then finish the sentence. That reminds me to look for where God has worked in my life...Now I will have to add this part.... “Today I have been salt and light by...” So I can record where God has worked in my life and how God has worked through me in others lives. It's hard for a lot of us to think in this way because we are taught to be humble and not to boast. But this log isn't about boasting, it's about empowering ourselves to be better servants of God.

For we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. As God's will, let it be so.  

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