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Good Morning, Covenant Family. Don’t you love it when you make a plan and immediately need to change it? Well, that is happening today. In the schedule we put together, today’s Covenant Weekly was supposed to be a ministry highlight. We have one written for you, but due to my sickness a couple of weeks ago and Brent’s sickness over the past couple of weeks, we haven’t been able to record it yet. We will get that to you next week. For this week, then, we are going to take another look at the Sermon on the Mount - a collection of Jesus’ central teachings found in the gospel of Matthew. And the next few verses talk about salt and light. Let’s consider Matthew 5:13-16 in this Covenant Weekly for February 13, 2024.

Matthew 5:13-16
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Jesus is talking to people who claim to be a part of God’s chosen people. While his audience wasn’t what we would call “the church,” when Matthew puts together his record of Jesus’ teaching, he is doing it for those who believe they are a part of what God is doing in the world. In this sense, it is presented to us who claim a connection with God through Jesus as a way for us to think about ourselves.

And Jesus describes us first as salt of the earth. Just so we’re clear, they did not live in a northern climate where salt would be used on roads to melt ice. They lived in a place where salt was used for two primary purposes - to flavour food and to preserve food. It was to make food better and to help food last. The description here is that people who are aligned with God’s way in the world should act within the world in ways that make it better for everyone. This aligns with Jeremiah’s direction to the Israelite exiles after Jerusalem was conquered and many were taken away to Babylon. They were lamenting and struggling to live in a place that wasn’t aligned with the things of Yahweh. They were growing bitter and divisive. And Jeremiah wrote these words, recorded in Jeremiah 29.

Jeremiah 29:5-7
“Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

In short, live in a way that makes the place where you are better. Picking up from Jesus, Peter tapped into the same idea when he wrote these words in 1 Peter 2.

1 Peter 2:12
Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbours. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honourable behaviour, and they will give honour to God when he judges the world.

Individually and collectively we need to consider whether or not we are living in a way that aims to benefit the whole of our town, society, and world or are we just trying to work things out for my best and our comfort? If our actions and behaviours are focused on ourselves exclusively or primarily, they aren’t aligned with the example and the teachings of Jesus. We aren’t being the salt of the earth that we are meant to be.

And then he continues with the metaphor of light, specifically light on a hill that shines for others to see. This corresponds to the idea that we talked about a couple of Sundays ago where we are invited to live as ambassadors in a kingdom embassy - the embodiment of God’s kingdom here in a world that so easily gets swallowed up by darkness.

I love this picture because it reminds us that what we have to offer, if we embody it well, doesn’t lead us to live in fear. So much of what I see and hear from Christian churches and from Christians in public spaces is filled with fear. Fear about people who believe differently than us. Fear about people who have agendas that oppose us. Fear about people who have different ethics than us. And that fear leads us to act in either fight or flight ways. There is a ton of fighting out there…seeing people as our enemies because we are afraid they will contaminate us or harm us. And there is a lot of flight out there…people trying to stay within their bubble - safe from the outside world. In many places, both flight and fight are seen together as people yell about the issues “out there” taking a posture of fighting, but the only people they are really yelling to are people in their little bubble.

But if we are the light of the world, we don’t need to be controlled by fear. Darkness doesn’t overwhelm light. Light shines in the darkness. John describes the life that Jesus brought this way, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” If we focus on being the light, we don’t need to have or live out of fear of the darkness! In fact, we can - we should - be a part of dispelling the darkness.

As you, as I, as we live our lives - both gathered together and scattered throughout the week - we are invited, called, challenged to be salt and light for the good of the world we live in. I pray that, with God’s help, you will offer flavour and brightness to the world around you this week.

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