Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany: Salt and Light

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Yr A RCL: Mt 5:13-20 and Isa. 58:1-12

February 9, 2014

The Rev. Gillian R. Barr

Church of the Good Shepherd, Pawtucket, RI

(This sermon was preached from notes in rough outline form, so that is how I am posting it)

I. Salt and Light are familiar images

A. salt: reveals the true character, complexity, depth of flavor

B. light: brings something out of obscurity, beats back darkness, clarifies way forward

C. both do this just by virtue of being what they are

D. they do not restrict or limit—they enhance and free and illuminate and attract

D. C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun—not because I can see it, but because by it I see everything else.” 

II. Those are the roles that healthy and mature faith plays in our lives and in the world

A. illuminates how we see the world

B. points up complexity of life and God’s desires.

III. Young adults and faith

A. I have worked with a lot of young adults in my ministry. The generations my age and younge: Gen X and Gen Y—have many more who describe their religious affiliation as “none.” (“n-o-n-e,” not “nun”!)

B. Sociologists recently did survey of young adults and asked them the first words that came to mind as their impression of Christianity. The descriptions they gave were “hypocritical,” “judgmental” “focused on right-wing politics” “focused on narrow personal morality rather than on how Jesus taught and lived.”

IV.

Today’s young adults are not the first to complain about the hypocrisy of organized religion

A. Today’s Lesson from Isaiah has God complaining about the hypocrisy of the people of israel and their focus on worship instead of justice and mercy

B. In Gospel Jesus complains about the Pharisees

V.

This past week I was on a retreat/workshop led by the Rev’d Martin L. Smith, noted spiritual writer who really speaks to me—actually he could read the back of a cereal box aloud and I’d find it inspiring.

A. Topic was confession, the Rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent—to help priests be better confessors

B. Odd topic, especially if our image of confession is from the Roman Catholicism of our childhood or from novels or movies

C. Stereotype of going into a box, reciting a list of superficial sins and getting a mechanistic penance. Done just because it was required.

D. Anglican tradition of confession *very different* from Roman. It is optional, not required: “All may, some should, none must.”

E. It is pastoral in character, not legalistic.

F. It is meant to help us identify what is getting between us and God—what bushels are hiding our light, what is causing us to lose our savor.

G. It is intended to *free* us so our light can shine again, so our witness can once more have savor and integrity

VI.

My other job is as director of the Jonathan Daniels House, [JDH] a new young adult ministry in the Diocese.

A. JDH is part of Episcopal Service Corps, a network of 20+ similar sites stretching from New England to Hawaii.

B. Each site is a group of young adults 22-early 30s who have committed to live together for a year in intentional simple Christian community.

C. They work in a social service agency 5 days a week and 1 day a week they participate in leadership training, retreats, spiritual development programs to help them learn to reflect on how God is active in their lives and in the places they are working, They receive a minimal stipend to cover living expenses.

D. This is a radical commitment. It focuses on the Gospel’s demands of justice and love.

E. But even as there are few young adults in our pews there are so many young adults interested in this year of committed service and solidarity with those on the margins hat there has to be a selective nationwide application process.

VII.

A. When we are able to be honest with ourselves and with God about where we have fallen short, our witness becomes more authentic.

B. When we show our commitment to Jesus’s way of living, to doing justice and loving our neighbor, our light shines forth.

C. Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Amen.

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