Isaiah 58:1-12; Psalm 112; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; Matthew 5:13-20
How you worship matters! Worship without action is not what God desires.
Fasting is putting the needs of another before the needs of yourself.
When you meet the needs of others, God will meet your needs.
It is not the power of humans, but the power of God that is important.
It is the wisdom of God not the wisdom of humans that matters.
We have received the Spirit of God. Only the Spirit of God knows what is truly God.
We have the mind of Christ!
You are the salt of the earth.
You are the light of the world.
Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets.
True worship is not obeying all the rules or following the correct rituals, but obeying God and serving God’s people.
The scribes and Pharisees were good people, working hard to obey the law and yet Jesus says that it is not enough to enter the kingdom of heaven. If they cannot do it then how can the ordinary Joe enter the kingdom of heaven?
The prologue to the Gospel According to John says, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
And in John 8:12, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”
The Gospel According to John says that Jesus is the light of the world, but in the Gospel According to Matthew Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world.”
Philippians 2:14-15 reads, “Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.”
Darkness means a time of death, despair, violence, sickness and evil. The first century Jews lived in a country occupied by the Romans where opposition to their rule would result in a hideous death on a cross. The people were subject to heavy taxation from the Romans and from the Temple. They lived in a culture where a woman suffering from continual menstruation was shunned and not allowed a relationship with her own family and friends, where lepers and those with a skin condition such as eczema were forced to live outside their village away from the love and protection of the community, where people suffering from epilepsy were thought to be possessed by demons, where the widow, the orphan, the sick, blind, and lame were forced to survive based on the good will of others. Into this time of great suffering and sorrow Jesus shone the light of hope, healing the sick, the deaf, the lame, reaching out to the lonely, the aged and the foreigner and seeking to know them, teaching and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught that God loves His creation, that God loves the sparrow and the lily and that God loves all of humanity, that God loves you and me.
We too live in a time of great darkness where we fear cancer, AIDS, heart disease, COPD, dementia and death; when we mourn the death of a father, a mother, a child, victims of traffic accidents, drug and alcohol addictions, violence and hopelessness; where we fear terrorists; where we fear refugees fleeing from civil war and the constant threat of violence from their own neighbors and government; where we feel shame if we cannot afford to live in the right neighborhood or drive the right car or possess the latest electronic device or wear the right clothes and shoes.
Just as Jesus brought the light of hope to the people of the first century, we too have seen the light of the promise of God in the Christmas star and find hope in the Christmas story of the incarnation of the Word of God. We live in the time of the miraculous healing of blindness with laser surgery, cataract surgery and retinal surgery and know that the healing power of Jesus is real. As we hear and learn of God’s great love for us and all of creation, we are filled with the hope of the reality of the Kingdom of God. The Spirit of God is given to us and we pray that it will burst into flame and shine forth from us as a light to the world. As our parents and grandparents and teachers passed on the Good News of Jesus Christ to us, so are we to pass it on to others. Just as God and our family and our friends love us, we are to love God, to love our neighbor, to love our self and to love all of God’s creation. We are called to share the story of God’s love and bring hope to the lonely, the desperate and the fearful, to bring meaning to people’s lives. We are to be the prism that fractures the light of God to show the true colors of the Kingdom of Heaven here and now in all that we do, at church, at home, at school, at work, at the supermarket, at play, in rush hour traffic. We live in a fish bowl where our words and our actions reflect the love and grace and mercy of our God.
In the words of Matthew 5:13-16 from The Message,
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Amen.