We've been talking about the revelation of God in human form, Jesus in flesh and blood, who walked the roads of Galilee and now the streets of our neighborhoods -- within us and through us and perhaps in spite of us.
It is preposterous that God chooses to reveal God's nature through us - the body of Christ meant to embody love and light. Not as islands but together as a community. This is the mystery of the incarnation and an affront to everything we know to be true about ourselves. Cause let's face it — we are all too well acquainted with the often sordid smallness of our souls and the ways we fail in love. Or at least we recognize it in our neighbor!
This week, the gospel lectionary reading is pointed.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. [Matthew 5:13-16]
But what does this mean? Some have taken this out of context as license for grandiosity, self-righteousness, imperialism, or judgment. But remember these words are found in one of the most important pieces of scripture, the Sermon on the Mount. And here Jesus describes the nature of God's kin-dom and what we are to embody as followers of Jesus.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of justice, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
This is how we are to be salt and light to the world.
Somehow I don't think Jesus was talking about praying a prayer, attending church 1.7 times a month, going to church activities or being a "good person". This was a complete reversal of the world's systems. This was about becoming people of humility, presence, mercy and grace.
This was a revolution of love and Jesus offered an entirely different way to live.
If we truly are to be salt and light, we must live differently. We will have to go beyond attending meetings and assenting to a set of beliefs and actually begin to live a way of love in our neighborhoods. We are going to have to figure out what it means to fit together as a "body" working together, every part valuable, every gift needed, to embody love.
And to the best of my knowledge, embodiment happens in bodies — in real life and real places, around dinner tables and bus stops, community forums and coffee shops, soccer games and study groups. And it happens best in proximity, when we are literally bumping up next to one another in our everyday lives.
This was so evident this week as I walked with my neighbors Kathy and Becky, as I ran into my favorite grocery clerk, Matt; as I conspired with another neighbor over coffee; as I met with my friend Senait about a community project we're working on; as my neighbor Courtney spontaneously popped over to help prepare a meal; as we gathered on Wednesday for a neighborhood dinner and gobbled up made-with-love cookies from Juanita; as we brought soup to our neighbor Diane who's been sick; and as we schemed about a new gathering place in the neighborhood.
We are experiencing firsthand that there is another way to live.
We don't have to live under the tyranny of fragmentation, anxiety and materialism. Jesus offers us the good life. A life of love and connection, simplicity and sacrifice, forgiveness and peace-making.
And maybe, just maybe, we are beginning to taste of God's dream for us and our neighborhood. Where everything and everyone is pulled into the centrifugal force of Love that is making all things beautiful in their time.
by Jessica Ketola