5th Sunday of the Epiphany
In this season of light, O God, show us how to be light to a very dark world. Amen.
A few years ago we were visiting Susan’s brothers-in-law in upstate New York.
Morning coffee had been made, sugar and cream put out, or at least I thought.
Pouring in two good heaping spoonfuls of sugar, adding the needed cream I took a long drink… and just about choked. Not sugar but salt is what I added. Too much salt is about as bad as too little. Too much flavor is just about as bad as too little except in the opposite extreme. Jesus tells his disciples, the crowd who continues to follow him they are to be salt. We have refrigerators and freezers; they had salt. Preservative, natural flavoring, often inconspicuous except in the lack or abundance.
Spiritual salt is similar: preserves God’s message, flavors our everyday lives, often inconspicuous to the world. When we visit the ophthalmologist we are often blinded by the bright or blue light shone into the depths of our eyes. A way to see what is and what is not there. Spiritual light is similar: we are often blinded by what we can or cannot see of God’s deep looking into our own souls. We long for light when it is dark both outwardly and inwardly for light allows objects, people, souls to be seen as they are.
God through the prophet Isaiah saw the people of Israel for who they were. Exhausted,
impoverished exiles returning home to an unknown present and future. They have known nothing but hardship and bondage and oppression in Babylon. So they fast for answers to their deepest questions: how can I get ahead, how can I show God I am the best, how can I who have returned to what was home be better than the person next door. They are acting like their captors. Empty fasting. And Isaiah thunders at them for their false living. Be humble not egotistical; stop fighting amongst yourselves; live a life of justice and mercy offering freedom to those who are most oppressed. If you have some food, share it; if you have some clothes you can share, do it. Divine fasting.
Such is the difference. Kind of like the Pharisees Jesus condemns: don’t stand on the street corner proclaiming how good you are at prayer. Be unseen yet make a difference. Kind of like salt and light. Our own spiritual lives are like that salt and that light. Made to be seen, not personal nor private. We are not a secret society shielding ourselves from the world that needs flavor and light, but an authentic life which cannot be concealed. Isaiah did not want his people to hide but to be seen for the good they would do. The words we hear often from the Hebrew prophet Micah are written during the same time period: Let justice roll down like water…
And so our own justice and our own right living is to be seen by our world. God would have us be who and what we are, living out the words Jesus speaks to us even now.
Do not fear to be free but let us use our freedom to be salt to flavor our own lives
and the lives which we touch; use our freedom to be light to give light to a world encased in fear and darkness and often despair. Being free also means to be like Isaiah: do not sugar-coat the suffering in our world but fast to respond to it. Do not fast to remove ourselves from the world but to engage with it even more. There is always hope, there is always the possibility of true right living. So let us be salt, let us be light
and when prodded by God let us fast to learn how to be more like Jesus. Amen.