Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sermon for Year A Epiphany 5

This is the last sermon I preached as the Rector of St. John's, Asheville, NC after accepting a call as the Dean and Rector of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Burlington, Vermont

You are the salt of the earth

You know you are not from Vermont
when you don’t own a pair of gloves
and when you make that confession to Vermonters
they look at your with horror.

You know you are not from Vermont
when you wake up and it is snowing snowing
snowing like you have never seen it snow
and the schools are not cancelled
and neither is your 7:30 AM breakfast meeting.

You know you are not from Vermont
when “sweetie” and “darlin’” and “bless his heart”
are part of your every day language--
but not of your average Vermonter.

You know you are not from Vermont
when you go house hunting all day
and then find yourself feeling so homesick
for North Carolina at night
that you want to cry yourself to sleep.

You know you are not from Vermont
but you know that
North Carolinians
and Vermonters alike
are all children of God
and that God calls us to do crazy, wonderful things
and set out on amazing, terrifying adventures
whether we are the ones going
or the ones staying,
the ones welcoming,
or the ones saying good-bye.

God is always challenging us
to sing a new song--
even when you loved the old song.
That dear song you have been singing
for the past 6-1/2 very full, deeply rich years.

I was sitting in the airport  waiting for my flight home,
reading the gospel lesson for today-- are the salt of the earth...
when I heard the commentator
on one of the overhead television sets in the terminal
say the word SALT
and I looked up.

Apparently there is a shortage of salt.
So many states have been hit so hard by this winter
that they could use a few million more tons
of salt for their highways.


Jesus has something to say about salt, too,
but it is not about salting highways or wintry weather.

What he says is this:
You are the salt of the earth.

Could there be a more perfect line in scripture than that one for today?
For this last worship service that I will share with you as your Rector
here at St. John’s.

You ARE the salt of the earth.
You have given my life and our ministry together flavor and zest.

You are the light of the world.
Isn’t it amazing that Jesus looks at those around him--
and I truly believe his eyes still gaze on us--
and declares them--and us--to be the light of the world?!

Jesus sees all that is light and bright within us.
Jesus urges us to let our lights shine.

No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket.
Because you know, if you did,
you would burn up your basket
and be left with nothing but a pile of ashes.

We are called to lift our lights up
so the light will shine outward.

How do we let our light shine?
You know.
You have been doing it for a long long time.

Isaiah gives some pretty good instruction.
Lift up your voice like a trumpet.
Speak out for those who have no voice
or whose voices are being silenced.
Loose the bonds of injustice.
Share YOUR bread with the hungry.

One of the great gifts of having served as your Rector
is that I know St. John’s.
You ARE St. John’s.
Not the building.
You the people are the city
that is built on this hill.

Every one of us has a part in letting the light shine.
It doesn’t matter if we are in Asheville, NC
or Burlington, Vermont.
Place is not the issue.
We are called to go where God sends us
or stay where God places us
but regardless--
we are called to let our lights shine.

Jesus says you are the salt of the earth
and you are the light of the world
but he also warns the church
how disastrous it can be
to not care,
to keep hidden that God-given light
as if it is your own personal property.

We do have a choice,
free will.
We can let that light shine
or we can refuse to even kindle the fire.

How foolish that would be.
Because the light belongs to God
not us.

God wants that light for the world
not for any one or for just a few
who happen to have power and prestige.
The light of the world is for everyone.

Jesus says YOU
(and the word that is translated YOU
from the Greek text is plural)
Plural--that means y’all.

Y’all are the light of the world!
Y’all are the salt of the earth!

Let y’all’s light shine says Jesus.
Keep y’all’s selves salty, says Jesus.

We are all entering a time of transition.
This can be so terrifying
that we are tempted to hunker down
and hold our little unlighted candles tightly to our chest,
not wanting to risk getting burned or hurt or making a mistake.

But being timid has never been God’s way.
My goodness! Mary was just a young teenage girl
when she was called to bear a child that would change the world.

And Abraham and Sarah?
How old were they when they were called to leave everything they knew
and set out on a journey,
strangers in a strange land.

God’s way is never timid.
God’s way is to throw open our arms
and say, LET IT SHINE!!
Let it shine, y’all!!

Yes, Lord, we are scared of what may lie ahead.
Yes, Lord, we do not know if we have enough salt for the road.
But we trust you, God.

We trust you
because the one thing we can be sure and certain about
is your love and your presence, God,
wherever we go.

So if you want a t-shirt for the months that lie ahead,
iI would suggest you make one with these words on it:

We are the salt of the earth.
We are the light of the world.
We are St. John’s, Asheville
and we are awesome.

You are.
Y’all are absolutely awesome.
God knows it.

And thanks be to God, so do I.
I have been truly blessed to walk this part of the journey with you
these past almost 7 years.

I love y’all more than you can imagine,
but God loves y’all even more.
Much, much more.
Don’t forget that.
Don’t ever forget.

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