Matthew 5:13 – 24
Did any of you happen to catch Trump’s State of Union address last Tuesday? Comfort you now my people. I am not here to bash Trump. How could I ridicule such a self-professed genius? Sorry Lord. Forgive me, for I continue to sin. I will tell you what made me uncomfortable. I’m sitting in the what is supposed to be the safe place of my home, when spewing from my T.V. comes the cultural values of a misguided society. I will encapsulate it in just one phrase, Trump declares with the power of Moses standing on the sacred mountain, “The United States of America is now great again, greater than it has ever been before!” Spark the standing ovation, strike up the brass band, let the confetti and streamers fly, as Trump looks skyward hands on hips, striking the Superman pose, standing for truth, justice and the American way!!!!
Pulling my blanket up around me to protect myself from all this, I thought, “So, if you are powerful and wealthy you can declare your truth supreme and no other truths matter.”
Some years back, Nancy and I had to have a new furnace put in.
When the guys installed the thermostat, of course it wouldn’t fit where the old one was. So, they had to move it over a little leaving a small hole in the wall. I had always meant to fix that hole. Of course, last week,
Nancy decided to paint the hall, sooooo…. I couldn’t ignore it any longer. For those of you who are not savvy to the ways of drywalling, there are basically two steps. You apply drywall tape over the hole for reinforcement and then apply a coat of drywall compound, basically plaster of Paris, commonly known as muck. You wait a day, sand and repeat, applying enough thin coats until it is smooth. I’m sharing these Mike Holmes’ tips with you today because it seems to me to be a good metaphor for our society.
The base of society, the things that bind our humanity together, i.e., God’s foundation for creation, is found in that tape which holds everything together. As society progresses, it is like layering muck on top of this foundation trying to make it look so flawless and beautiful.
The problem comes when we have so much muck on the foundation of life that we are in danger to destroying the integrity of our foundation.
Life becomes a façade.
The greatness of America is being reinforced with a long history of colonization. People say their forefathers came to this land conquering the wilderness bringing civilization to a wilderness. Through their courage and fortitude they tamed the wild west and build a country to prosperity and strength.
That’s one truth. But it is certainly not the truth of the indigenous people of that country. The indigenous people who welcomed these newcomers to their shores, newcomers who, without the hospitality of the indigenous people would have never survived the first winter or celebrated Thanksgiving on Plymouth Rock. The indigenous people are confused by the statement that the Europeans brought civilization to the wilderness. Didn’t they already have a civilization? The indigenous people died by the thousands from European diseases. The indigenous people experienced genocide at the hands of the Europeans who wiped out entire villages of men, women, children and elders. The indigenous people were placed on land no one else wanted and fed military rations and died of starvation by the thousands. The holy lands of the indigenous people were raped for the natural resources they held. This is their truth.
But apparently, if you are the wealthy and powerful, your truth becomes the real truth, and you can ignore the truth of others, especially if they reveal a weakness in yours. You can say anything you want to promote yourself and expect people to believe you.
Do you know what my greatest fear is? At this stage in my life with more years behind me than in front of me, I am afraid that my life will be irrelevant. It is true. I am so afraid that I have lived my life complicit within the society into which I was born, taking advantage of the privileges it gave me, never questioning its norms. No society is perfect. With gain there is always a loss. Defending the Protestant work ethic in which my family took such pride, I was never open to hearing of the loss suffered by others for the gains I achieved. That I will have drifted through my life accepting society’s desires for shortcuts, banalities, desire for profits, newness, painless self-definition, unrelenting entertainment, protection through my privilege from contrary views because, apparently, if people don’t agree with you, you simply fire them.
And it is all such a façade. Underneath all these layers of muck is the foundation of that tape, trying to hold all this up. The foundation of the world, the way God intended the world to be, the essential law of God which brought order out of the chaos. A world connected, in balance where diversity is held in harmony. A world where it is acknowledged that everything is connected and everyone of us is connected. A world where sometimes we flourish because we are fed and cared for by the sacrifices made by creation and others, and sometimes we make sacrifices so others can be fed and nourished. Not a winner take all world, or a ‘Here’s to me and the hell with you’ world. You’re just a heathen living in poverty, a loser. Your truth doesn’t matter, but a world where every organism is seen and known to be an integral part of the circle of life.
Jesus knew that which is why he said to poor and meek and oppressed, “You are the salt of the world.” Hear this. He did not say he was the salt of the earth. He said WE were. Yet, it is one thing for me to know my identity as a child of God, but that is a long way from bending my life to the will of God. Here’s the punch I felt in my gut. Jesus says, “If the salt has lost it saltiness, what good is it?” Who lights a lantern and then places it under a bushel? The sad part of this parable is that it recognizes that the light, the light of God, has not been snuffed out but that we are the ones covering up this light. Have I put a bushel over God’s light as I complacently accept my privilege in this society ignoring the truth of oppression it levers on others and the destruction it is causing Mother Earth? Do we put a bushel over the light of God’s Word when we hold an inferiority complex as a church and say, “Oh, we’re just little old Wesley Church. It takes all our energy just to look after ourselves.” Do we put a bushel over the light of dialogue when we become so focused on just keeping the peace that it becomes an excuse for unproductive institutional self-absorption?
Jesus’ second belly punch comes when he says, “Anyone who breaks my law, the law of life, AND TEACHES OTHERS TO DO THE SAME, will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.
What does our inaction say to others about our faith in God? Does it say to others that we don’t really rest on the everlasting arms of God and therefore, we don’t really trust the promises of God? Do we trust them?
I confess I am tired. I am tired of living in a partisan world where people’s only thoughts are for their own truths. I am tired of the façade of making the world look pretty when deep down within there are some fundamental flaws being ignored. And, quite frankly, I am tired of living in a world where people feel they need to flaunt their privilege, are more concerned for profit and getting more than they are for the destruction of this planet and the survival of others. I am tired of living in a bubble society oblivious to everyone else. I’m tired of expressions of self-love instead of sacrificial love.
We are the salt of the earth, Jesus says. Without us the world will lose its saltiness and there will be no light on the hillside for anyone to follow.