“When We Hesitate to Innovate” February 9, 2020
“When We Hesitate to Innovate”
Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)
1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)
(Matt 5:1) When he saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to teach them saying.. and this begins the set of Christ’s teachings that we know of as the Sermon on the Mount, or The Beatitudes. Now, it’s safe to say that this is not the only time that Jesus spoke these words of blessing; Luke tells us of a similar sermon spoken to the crowds; it was one of the primary messages that Jesus wanted folks to understand. It’s hard to say how many times Jesus said the words “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” I’m guessing it was a sermon he preached over and over, but that’s fine. They are words that bear repeating. They were words meant to usher in the Kingdom of God. To a people who have lived under the law of Moses for generations – the law of “Thou shalt not” – these words were just… weird. We still struggle with them today. In his book “A Man Without a Country,” Kurt Vonnegut wrote ““For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!” What Mr. Vonnegut misses here, perhaps, is that unlike the commandments that were written for all the nations – for believers and non-believers alike – the Beatitudes were designed for a somewhat smaller group; the Beatitudes were meant for those on the road – on the path – of discipleship; discipleship in the name of Jesus Christ. Last week, we read through the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. It is a list of blessings: blessings that come to the life of a disciple; blessings that come to those who are humble, who are pure in heart; who thirst for righteousness. Granted, these are not qualities that will buy you a lot of fame and fortune in this world, but to be a disciple of Christ is to emulate Christ. Jesus wants us to know without a doubt that the rewards are of the Spirit; the rewards are eternal.
Today, we read the 2nd part of this well-known sermon, and with all the metaphors of salty salt and bland salt, along with lights on lampstands and lights under buckets, it’s no wonder this part gets overlooked. And that’s too bad. That’s too bad because just as Jesus tells us of the hardships of discipleship and of the blessings and rewards, let’s not miss out on the part where he gives us permission to shine and then shows us how it’s done. “You are the salt of the earth. You bring the flavor of richness and goodness to this world. If you lose your flavor what will happen to the world?” That is a pretty loose paraphrase of vs. 13, but I think it gives you an idea of what Jesus is asking from us who are charged to tells the good news.
He’s not necessarily looking for ones who play it safe; who like to err on the side of caution. Nor does he insist on scholars or strict followers of the law. No, it seems to me that Jesus is painting a whole different picture here. “Go light up this world,” he tells us. “Be the salt that makes a difference.”//// I have to say, I’ve never given much thought to what it means to be the salt of the earth in the eyes of God. But this time around, it grabbed hold and wouldn’t let go. But here’s the thing: as I wrestled with the questions of “What does this really mean?” and “What is he trying to tell me?” the answer came in a very unusual way. For some reason – and you might think this is a little strange – but the answer came to me through the life and career of Henry Ford. He didn’t invent the automobile and he didn’t invent the assembly line like some folks think, but he was considered one of the greatest innovators of his time. Why is that? Did he just get lucky? Right place at the right time? Not really. Ford’s success came from his ability to inspire others with an idea that inspired him. Ford was never bothered by setbacks or by failure; they only pushed him to figure out how to make cars faster and cheaper. The bottom line is – Ford had spunk. Ford had salt, and he changed the world.
“You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.” God is giving us a nudge here, don’t you think? Don’t hesitate to innovate. Give the world a taste of the goodness of God. And as Jesus tells us (vs 15) Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father.
Amen & Shalom