Friday, February 06, 2015

Matthew 5:13-20 

     As with many of the parables and pronouncements of Jesus he takes something well-known and gives it a twist.  That salt and light are necessary and good is the truism in this Sunday's passage from Matthew's Gospel.  Of course salt and light are necessary:  Without a healthy pinch of salt all the flavours in the dish are understressed and hidden.  Without light the colours and contours of the room are hidden and one would be excused for having missed them entirely.  The absence of salt and light renders the world unremarkable.

     The twist in this passage is Jesus' claim that his newly gathered band of followers is that salt and light for the world.  The Sermon describing the blessedness of his followers and their vocation in the world appears almost immediately following the call of the disciples - when they bear very little with them to the hillside.  They were fishermen or householders once - once upon a time they were far more implanted in structures of human community than they are now.   Now they are (merely) followers - part of the first community Jesus has built around himself.  In Matthew's version the followers' effect on the world is described using the dual metaphors of salt and light.

     The great turns in Salvation History usually involve applications of human freedom at the impulse of God's word.  As proud as we may be of having held to a steady course for the sake of our families and our treasured networks it will be those curious and sometimes costly about-turns which we find to be necessary or right or which we feel called to undertake in the midst of life which will give our life's story its ultimate sense.  Our example of discipleship (and not just rigorous consistency) points the world to the value which must be discovered like a treasure in a field and not merely chipped from a quarry in a daily grind.  Our children could be concerned - let them be concerned!  Our abandoned co-workers might well cock their heads and wonder at it.      

Every day need not be the same.  Life can taste and look that good.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Epiphany 5 - Year B
Isaiah 40:21-31

Have you been waiting long?

I might ask this question if I already knew the answer - that we had agreed to meet at ten o'clock and now I've come running, out of breath, to the appointed street corner at 10:20.  You are sheltering from the rain under an awning.  You look bored to tears.  You're shifting your weight from one foot to the other.  Have you been waiting long?  Yes.  Precisely 20 minutes.  What have you been doing in the interim?  Nothing.  I've been waiting.
The reading from Isaiah this week says that "...they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall mount up with wings like eagles".   This might mean that the eventual arrival of the Lord on the scene will have been worth the wait, the rain, the inactivity and the long frustration. It could mean, however, that "waiting" is a more active pursuit than merely standing under an awning in the rain, puffing away at a sodden cigarette and staring down the street.

The verb in Hebrew has both a literal and a figurative meaning.  "Waiting" here means, literally, to braid together a cord out of various strands or to weave something together.  Figuratively, it means to strive after insight, to discern something solid amidst the confusing things of the world, to seek out the open door after one has been closed in your face.  It is quite active and expansive - not passive and exclusive at all.  

The reading appears towards  the end of the 40th chapter which is a grand description of everything that God is doing in the world and with his people and it has already contained one word specifically critical of those who stand around grumbling that God has not come up with the the timely goods they were expecting.  They complain that "my way is hid from the Lord and my right is disregarded by my God".  Their inclination is to stand in the rain wondering why their number has not come up. To whom the Lord gives a pointed reminder that he is at work in the world.  He is raising up the valleys and causing the mountain heights to tumble and causing life to appear in the wilderness.  He is building community and giving second chances to sinners.  

You were waiting, perhaps, for something particular.  You will do nothing until that very ship comes in or that particular letter comes tumbling through the mail slot.  But you are not waiting - not in the sense that this Sunday's reading would prescribe:  That sort of waiting would require that your eyes were wide open and not focussed narrowly on what you thought you were entitled to.  God is at work in the world.  Find your place in that work.  Discern what has an enduring value.  Be part of what God is about in the world.  It will be for you both strength and wisdom.  God will surpass your expectations.