The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Text: Matthew 17:1-9

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Just keep on going towards that little light. Maybe “going to the light” doesn’t seem like a good idea, but as I rode my bike through the darkness that is what I kept telling myself, just keep pedaling towards the light. I was riding through a tunnel, a mile long tunnel, near the border of Idaho and Montana. It was an abandoned railway line that had been converted into a fairly popular biking trail. The main attraction of this biking trail was the tunnel. There were many tunnels along the trail, but one of them stood out above and beyond the others. It was THE tunnel. The one mile long descent into darkness.

I’m not afraid of the dark or anything, but the darkness in that tunnel could be a little overwhelming. It was real darkness. Complete and total blackout. You couldn’t really even see the walls of the tunnel which were just a few feet on either side of you. You needed to have a light on your bike to ride in there, but all that did was stop other people from hitting you. A little bike light did not stand a chance against that kind of darkness. That darkness was all consuming. The dampness of the tunnel probably didn’t help, but it was almost like you could feel the darkness as you breathed it in. After just a few minutes in that tunnel I was ready to be done and make it out the other side, but it just kept going. All the way all along all you could see was this little speck of light at the end of the tunnel. That light was my hope, my goal, my joy, my salvation from that deep darkness. The light at the end of the tunnel.

Every time I read or think about the story of Jesus’ transfiguration that light at the end of the tunnel, that glimmering speck of hope on the horizon, comes to mind for me. The story of Jesus being transformed and shining forth in all His glory is like that speck of light at the end of the tunnel. As Jesus brings Peter, James, and John up on the mountain with Him and as we hear these words from them as eyewitnesses about what happened up there we are given our own, eternal, everlasting light at the end of the tunnel.

The disciples are about to set off on what is going to be a dark journey. They are going to follow Jesus to Jerusalem where He will “suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed” (Matthew 16:21). And Jesus tells the disciples that if they want to follow Him it will involve taking up their cross and following Him. The suffering He is about to endure will be real and they will suffer too if they follow Him faithfully. This is the nature of following Jesus.

But before they set off on that journey and descend into what is going to be some very think and profound darkness Jesus sets before their eyes this light. Peter, James, and John, the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, climb the mountain with Him and see Him in all His glory. This is their light in the darkness. This is the light at the end of the tunnel. This light can and will sustain them in the dark days to come.

It would be easy to underestimate what those disciples saw that day. We read this story and Matthew tells us all the details so quickly without much fanfare. Jesus was “transfigured,” he says, “His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light.” Suddenly then Moses and Elijah appear too and are standing there talking with Jesus. We know this story, we’ve heard it before so none of this surprises us. Matthew doesn’t give us any in depth details so maybe it doesn’t see like such a big deal, but what Jesus shows to Peter, James, and John on the mountain is truly remarkable.

I think that the best way to describe what happened and what the three disciples saw that day is heaven on earth. They saw Jesus in all of His glory, the way that we will see Him when He comes again with glory to judge both the living and the dead. The way we will see Him when we dwell with Him in eternal paradise. They saw the full blown divinity of Jesus, the fullness of His godliness. Not only that, but they saw two of the heroes of the faith, Moses and Elijah, great prophets of old, there with Jesus. They saw saints, men who had gone before them in the faith, now standing there with Jesus. This was heaven on earth.

That is why Peter comes up with the idea to stay there. “Lord, it is good that we are here!” he exclaims. Why would they ever leave? We can be hard on Peter and the other disciples sometimes when they just don’t get it right, but I think we can relate to them here. If we saw what they saw, if we were standing there looking at what heaven, eternity looks like would we want to leave either? I doubt it. But what they saw there saw only the light at the end of the tunnel. Once they had traveled through the darkness of the tunnel they would get to see the fullness of the light. They would see Him rise from the dead in the fullness of His glory. And with us they will see Him come again on clouds of glory to take us to our eternal home.

We travel through the darkness too and Jesus shows us this light as well. This week we start our own annual journey with Jesus to the cross in Lent. This is a darker time in our Christian year. We tone down the celebration a little bit and take some time to reflect on our own sinfulness that caused our Lord to go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the elders, chief priest, and scribes. When we think about our own sin darkness is the best way to describe it. Our lives are darkness and our lives of darkness caused our Lord to bear the cross and die. But at the end of that darkness we have the light at the end of the tunnel, the light that we see on the mountain at the Transfiguration, the light of Christ risen from the dead. The light that the darkness cannot overcome.

Lent is not the only time we see the darkness though. There is plenty of darkness in our lives day by day. The well-known words of Psalm 23 come to mind: “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” We usually take those words to apply to times when we or people we love are dying, but it is talking about much more than that. It doesn’t say “when” we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but “even though.” We walk through the valley of the shadow of death right now. This world is the valley of the shadow of death. It is a dark place.

This darkness manifests itself in so many ways. Like that mile long tunnel it can feel like the darkness will never end. It can get so bad that it feels overwhelming and every breath we take feels heavy because of the darkness we see all around. Sometimes it’s the darkness of grief, of mourning, of pain and anguish. Other times it could be a darkness inside ourselves like depression, anxiety, and fear. It could be darkness from outside too, hurt and injury caused by others, neglect, lovelessness. The darkness is there all around us. The darkness is sin and the results of sin.

But again here Jesus shines His light into our darkness. On the mountain He shows us the light at the end of our tunnel of darkness, He shows us the glory of what our eternal life will look like and gives us a glimpse of heaven on earth. He lifts us up out of our valley of the shadow of death and shows us the eternity of life that He has won for us with His death. He is risen and we shall arise. The darkness of sin and death in this world cannot hold us.

And again, right here, today, as we speak, He gives us heaven on earth again. That is what Jesus is doing as we gather here today. This is heaven on earth, the light at the end of the tunnel. As we sang “This is the Feast” (words taken straight out of Revelation 5 which John heard sung by the hosts of heaven), as we sing “Holy Holy Holy” like the angels in Isaiah 6, as we come to the Lord’s table to be fed and nourished by Jesus, we get a glimpse of heaven on earth. It is happening right here around you. Jesus has opened heaven to us. What happens here on a Sunday morning is a little, tiny glimpse of eternity in the presence of Jesus. This is light at the end of the tunnel.

So take heart in the darkness wherever you may encounter it, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that light is Jesus. He shines in the darkness for you with forgiveness and new life beyond this darkness. The darkness has not and will not overcome Him and it will not overcome you either. Christ is risen and we shall rise. In Jesus name. Amen.

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Love and Rights

Text: Matthew 5:38-48

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

One day when I was still in seminary I got a call from a retired pastor. He had some books that he wanted to give to me. As a student on a limited budget this was like Christmas come early. When book donations would come into the seminary the students would come pouring out of classrooms and library study spaces to descend on the pile of new (to us) books and take our picks. This time, the retired pastor called me directly. I would get first dibs on whatever he had. There was only one catch, I had to take all of his books. Once I had them I could do what I wanted with them (keep, donate, recycle, whatever), but I had to take all of them out of his apartment.

I ended up keeping quite a few of this pastor’s books. There was some really good stuff in there. Lots of theology books, some history books, and a set of Bible dictionaries that have all been useful for me. But one book was different and kind of special. It was a little red book. It had nothing to do with the Bible or theology at all, but I still kept it. I’ve had it now for a few years and I have never really read it, but it is still kind of special to me. It is a copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as it was first published back in 1982.

Here in this little red book the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed to us as Canadians are laid out in pretty plain English. It starts out: “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.” It’s not quite as catchy at the US version, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These kind of statements are part of the foundation of who we are in this country and they ensure that we are treated a certain way. We have rights, after all.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus kind of addresses how we understand our rights. Jesus does not deny that we have rights, but He call us to surrender some of our rights, to lay them down, as we live our lives as Christians following Him. Life as a Christian is not a life of rights, instead our lives as Christians are lives of serving the world around us as the salt of the earth. Listen to what Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

Jesus does not deny here that we have rights. In three different places in the Old Testament (in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy) you will find this phrase “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.” This was set out in the covenant that God made with the people of Israel. This is how justice would be administered. “Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” may sound extreme, but this put limits on justice and retribution. Retaliation could not be extreme and over-reactive. Punishments were to fit the crime. And, on the flip side of it, people had the right to justice. When damage was done the victim had a right to justice. Our legal system works the same way today.

Jesus does not deny these rights, but He challenges them (and us!). Do we need to exercise all of our rights? Is it in the best interest of our neighbour if we insist on our right to this, that, or something else? Or is it better if we surrender our rights, the things that we are entitled to, for the sake of our neighbour?

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also,” Jesus says.  Human nature and our sense of justice would tell us that we have a right to hit back (although maybe not physically) in a situation like this. An eye for an eye, after all. But Jesus calls on us here not to retaliate, but to make ourselves vulnerable to a second strike on the other cheek.

Jesus goes on with more examples. Someone wants your tunic (shirt), give him your cloak (coat) too. Someone is forcing you to go one mile, go two. Someone is begging, give him money. Someone wants to borrow from you, lend him money. The point in all of this is the same, however. By all rights we would not be required to do any of these things. We would be well within our rights to say no. But Jesus calls us to a life beyond our constitutionally enshrined rights and even our perceived rights of human nature. We are called to a life beyond rights, a life as Christians following Jesus.

All of this puts us in a tough spot. We are human beings living in the world that is not a particularly friendly place a lot of the time and in a country that gives us certain rights and protections against the world around us. If we let everyone walk all over us, the way that Jesus is talking about, our lives would seem pretty miserable. People would be hurting us and we would never respond to make it stop. So what is Jesus getting at here?

Jesus is not calling us to be the doormats of the world. We are not being called to always let the world do whatever it wants to us and never speak up or do anything about it. But we are being called to think about how we use the rights that we have. Are we using our rights, our freedoms, to serve our neighbour or to serve ourselves? If we strike back at the person who has hit us are we serving our neighbour or our self? The answer is pretty clear, I think. Jesus is calling us here to loosen our grip on the things of this world and understand that our time living here is an opportunity to love and serve our neighbour. This world is not eternal, it is corrupted by sin and is dying day by day just like you and me. And in this dying world, we, the salt of the earth, are called to love our neighbour as our self.

In Philippians chapter 2 St. Paul works towards this same point using the example of Jesus Himself:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselvesLet each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

This is a lofty calling. To consider others more significant than ourselves, to look out for the interests of others and not just our own interests. And yet, this is exactly what it means to love our neighbour as our self.

This is also what it means to forgive. Forgiving means not exacting punishment for the wrongs that have been done to us. Forgiving means not holding grudges because our rights and freedoms have been violated by someone else. Forgiving means loving our neighbour even though they have wronged us.

Again, Jesus sets the bar high here. So high we will always fail to reach it: “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” We know that we fail at this all the time, everyday. We fail, but this is exactly what God has done for us in Christ.

Though by every right we should be punished for our sins “eye for eye and tooth for tooth,” God has chosen to do the opposite. Psalm 103 says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” In Christ and His death on the cross we have been forgiven in this way. God does not deal with us according to our sins or punished us the way we deserve to be punished for the wrongs that we have done. Instead, He forgives us through the innocent, holy blood of Jesus which was shed for us on Calvary. By all rights we are sinners deserving hell and yet God has gone and done the opposite. He has flung the gates of His Kingdom wide open to us.

Jesus sets us free from rights. We are free from sin and death, free to love one another, because what we deserved, what was rightfully ours, was poured out on Jesus. And now all God pours out on us is His love and forgiveness, His mercys that are new every morning, His gracious, unending, steadfast love towards us. And that will never stop. That will continue right on into eternity where we will live in the presence of our God forever. We don’t need to cling to this world and the rights it offers to us, instead we can freely love our neighbour for Jesus sake. Amen.

Lowering the Bar

Text: Matthew 5:21-37

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

In my short time as a parent I have already noticed a trend in my parenting. I’ve noticed that every once and a while Leah and I make a new rule for the kids, a new way that things are to be done, or new consequences for bad behaviour, but over time the “new rules” start to slide. Eventually, despite our best efforts and intentions, the rules end up getting loosened and the consequences lessen.

This reminds me of something that happened in the National Hockey League a number of years ago too. In 2005 the league decided that they would make a concerted effort to call all of the rules by the book. Penalties that had been overlooked previously would not be overlooked anymore. For hockey fans like me who like to see lots of goals and fast skating action this was good news. However, within a few years the rules started to slide again. Penalties weren’t being called at the same rate anymore and players were getting away will stuff all over the place.

Despite our best efforts in life this tends to happen. We set the bar high in our rules and expectations for ourselves and others, but before too long we start lowering the bar to make things more manageable. We lower the standards to make it easier for ourselves to meet those standards. This is, I think, just the reality of our human nature and how we respond to rules and expectations.

Jesus confronts this tendency of ours head on today in our gospel reading. Jesus isn’t particularly concerned about parents not sticking to their guns over rules around the house or the enforcement of penalties in professional hockey, but this tendency to loosen the rule does have the potential to cause problems in our lives and Christians following Jesus. The same temptation to lower the bar that we face in other areas of life also applies to our lives as Christians. We are tempted daily to lower the expectations that God places on us to make them more manageable and this is a problem. Jesus takes this problem on today by showing us how high the bar really is.

Jesus says, “You have heard it said to the people of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with His brother is liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” These are harsh sounding words of God’s Law from Jesus. He takes the 5th commandment about murder and shows us what that commandment really means. He doesn’t stop here either, in the rest of the text he keeps going through other commandments from God and shows us how we have lowered the bar for ourselves.

To understand these words from Jesus today we actually need to go back to something that Jesus just said in the verses leading up to our reading today. These words were actually from our gospel reading last week and lead right into what we heard today. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus is confronting here a temptation that might come up in our hearts and in the hearts of our fellow Christians to think that Jesus came into this world to take away God’s law and remove all meaning from God’s commandments. But, contrary to what we might think or feel, Jesus says He has not come to do that at all. Instead, Jesus insists that He has come to fulfill God’s Law and commandments, not abolish them. The Law of God still stands Jesus says, we cannot just lower the bar to make ourselves feel better or make our church seem more inclusive or to excuse our own bad behaviour. Jesus has not come to lower the bar of God’s law.

Instead, Jesus sets the bar so high in our gospel reading today that it crushes us. Anyone who is angry with his brother or sister in Christ (fellow Christian) will be liable to judgement. Anyone who insults his or her fellow Christian by questioning their mental capacity and calling them an idiot or unintelligent will be subject to judgment. Anyone who calls another person a fool or questions their moral competence calling them a jerk will be subject to the fire of hell. The bar here is set so high that none of us, not even one of us, can even come close to claiming that we have met this standard. If you’re anything like me then all you have to do is put me behind the wheel of a car with some less than capable drivers around and you can very quickly see me get angry with my brother, insult his intelligence, and call him a jerk. And like that I am subject to judgment and the fire of hell. The bar is set high and the consequences or falling short are dreadful.

All of this would paint a pretty bleak picture of our lives as Christians. If being a Christian were simply about living up to the moral and ethical standards like this set by Jesus. It would seem pointless to try because we simply cannot do it. But we need to go back again to what Jesus said last week in our gospel reading: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus did not come to abolish the law, we see that in what He says today about our anger with our brother being the equivalent of murder and our words of frustration being just as bad along with the stuff about the other commandments, but He has come to fulfill the law. Jesus has fulfilled the law by His holy and perfect life and death and resurrection in our place. Having been arrested and treated shamefully at the hands of His own people and sent off to be crucified Jesus “was like a lamb led to the slaughter and a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 52:7) He did not grow angry with the people who treated Him like this, but instead pleaded with God for their forgiveness. And as He gave up His life of the cross His innocent and holy death paid for all of their sins of anger against Him and against their neighbour. His death paid for our sins of anger too. He fulfilled the law perfectly for us in His life and died perfectly for us on the cross and rose from the dead perfectly for us.

None of this lowers the bar. The law is not abolished, it is fulfilled. Jesus has fulfilled the law for us. Now as He calls us to be His disciples, to follow Him the way that those first disciples did, to learn from Him as they did on the hillside, He calls us to this same moral standard which is still too high for us. But now, with the law fulfilled for us by Jesus, we joyfully begin to do what He has commanded us to do. We fail, but we rest constantly on His fulfillment of the law for us.

Jesus goes on talking about this commandment and shows us how to begin loving our neighbour and turning away the anger in our sinful hearts. “If you are offering your gift at the temple,” Jesus says, “and remember that your brother has something against you leave your gift and go and be reconciled with your brother first.” In our context that would mean if you are coming to church, walking up those steps even, and remember that your brother or sister in Christ, your fellow believer, fellow Christian, is upset with you about something, you should go and straighten things out with them right away, even before coming to church to hear God’s Word and receive His gifts in the Sacraments. Jesus shows us here how loving our neighbour works in our church. We who have been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus ought to be reconciled with one another. This should be our first priority. This is even more important that coming together to worship God. After we have been reconciled we can come together, worship, and receive the gifts of God.

Jesus goes on and shifts the conversation to conflicts outside of church, “Come to terms quickly with your accuser,” Jesus says. When anyone is accusing you of some wrong doing (even if they are taking you to court!) settle it with them quickly. Don’t let it linger. Don’t get hung up on details of who did what and don’t obsess with protecting yourself and your honor or integrity. Confess your sins to your friend or your neighbour or your relative, and seek his or her forgiveness. Settle the matter quickly without delay.

Again here Jesus does not lower the bar for us. The law of God is not abolished by Jesus, but it has been fulfilled by Jesus. Through His death Jesus has saved us from the law that crushes us and kills us, that sets such a high standard that we would never even come close to keeping it, but in saving us from this crushing law Jesus does not destroy the law. Instead, because He has carried the weight of the law for us and fulfilled the law, He gives us a new life of joyfully, freely, and lovingly beginning to live out God’s law in our lives. So love your neighbour, be reconciled with those who have something against you, confess your sins to your neighbour and be forgiven, because Christ has fulfilled the law for you. In Jesus name. Amen.

 

Salt of the Earth

Text: Matthew 5:13-20

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The world we live in seems to be getting more and more messed up all the time. You don’t have to look very far to see it either. On the TV, in the newspaper, on the internet, the evidence is everywhere. Immigration bans based on countries of origin, attacks on religious groups (like the mosque attack in Quebec), protests and counter protests, angry people venting on Facebook and other forms of social media, it’s everywhere. It’s not just the United States or Donald Trump either. It’s not even just North America. It’s everywhere. The world as a whole these days feels like it’s gone right off the deep end. Hatred and anger seem to be at unprecedented levels all over the place.

We might think that this is all new, that this kind of hatred and anger has never existed before because we think everything that happens in our lifetime is happening for the first time ever, but this really is nothing new. Hatred and anger have existed ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin. Their oldest son killed his younger brother out of jealousy. Hatred and anger existed in those days too.

In the last few days and weeks, though, hatred and anger seem to be bubbling up right in our faces. We can’t ignore it the way we’ve been able to ignore it before. This presents a question for us to wrestle with: how do we as Christians, as followers of Jesus, live in a world like this? How do we relate to the hatred and anger that we see all around us?

Thankfully for us, Jesus answers exactly those kind of questions in our Gospel reading today. We pick up this week where we left off last week with the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is sitting down on the hillside with His disciples gathered around and He is teaching them what it means to be His disciple. Last week in the Beatitudes He laid out the blessings that He brings (blessed are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted, etc.) and today we hear Him describe what disciples are and what they do in the world. “You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus said, “but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?”

“You are the salt of the earth.” Believe it or not, that right there tells you pretty much everything that you need to know about how we live as Christians in this world. We are the salt of the earth. Now, we could get into all the different things that salt does and what that means for how we live as the salt of the earth. But all of that actually doesn’t really matter. There are two important things to take from this salt metaphor that Jesus is using. First of all, it means that we are different. We are different from the rest of the world around us. We are the salt of the earth. There is salt and then there is everything else. We are the salt. Secondly, it means that we are useful and beneficial for the world around us. Today we might not think of salt as beneficial all that often when we hear doctors and medical professionals talk about not eating too much salt, but salt has a purpose and a benefit. It preserves, it cleanses, and it provides flavour. Salt has its benefits. So when Jesus calls us the salt of the earth He is saying that we are different from the rest of the world and we are beneficial for that world.

I want to talk about that first part first, being different, because that is a significant challenge for us. Being different from the world around us is not exactly the most appealing idea sometimes. We don’t want to stand out or draw attention to ourselves especially when it is our faith that might be causing us to stand out. When our faith starts to feel like it is out of step with the world around us we very quickly begin to feel this urge or temptation to bury that faith, hide it away where no one can see it, so that we don’t seem different than everyone else. Rather than being different we want to blend in with the crowd, with the world around us. But when Jesus calls us the salt of the earth He is calling us something different than the world around us. Paul says the same thing in his letter to the Romans. Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” As Christians we are not called to conform, to become one with the world, and follow the world wherever it leads. Instead we have been transformed by Jesus to be the salt of the earth, His disciples, His followers in a broken, sinful world. But our sinful nature does not want to be transformed. Our sinful nature would much rather conform to the sinful world in which we find ourselves.

But if we conform, if we cease to be different, the second part of being the salt of the earth is lost. If we are not different then we cease to be the salt of the earth and we cease to be of any benefit for the world around us. Jesus says, “If the salt has lost its taste how will the world’s saltiness be restored?” Who will salt the earth if the salt is not salty? Who will bring the benefits of Jesus to the world if we refuse to be different, to stand out, and to be transformed by Jesus? If we conform to this world of sin then we are of no benefit to this world. If we conform to this world of sin we are just more sinners walking in the darkness apart from the light and that is not who Jesus has made us to be.

Jesus has made us something different, something beneficial for the world. He has transformed us and changed us. He has made us into His people who are the salt of the earth. Look at what Jesus says about us, He says, “You ARE the salt of the world.” Jesus does not tell us that we need to become the salt, or that we should try to be the salt, He says you are the salt. He has already transformed us. He has given us this new identity.

Jesus is the real salt of the earth and on the cross He salted the world with His blood shed for us. He sprinkled us with His blood shed for us in the water of baptism to transform us to be the salt of the earth. He has poured out His love and forgiveness on us so that we would be changed by the love and forgiveness into people who likewise love and forgive. That is who we are in this sinful world. We are different and we are beneficial because we have been loved by Christ and covered with Christ and changed by Christ so that we love and forgive the world around us. That is who we are. That is who Jesus has made us to be. We are the salt of the earth.

If we conform to the world, if we refuse to be different, this benefit of who Christ has made us to be is lost. But if we are transformed, not by what we do but by what Jesus does, if we are changed by Jesus, we become the salt of the earth and through us Jesus brings His love and forgiveness to this fallen world. You are the salt of the earth. This is who you are and this is what Jesus is doing through you.

So how do we relate to the world around us? How do we respond to the hatred and anger that seem to be everywhere in the world? By being the salt of the earth. By loving our neighbour as our self. By loving our neighbour who might be a Muslim or maybe an atheist, who might support Donald Trump or hate Donald Trump, who might think we should stop taking refugees or wants us to take in more refugees. We are called simply to love our neighbour, no matter who they are, as our self. Plain and simple. We are the salt of the earth, this is how we benefit the world.

Us loving our neighbour as our self is not going to change things. It will not stop hatred and anger. Our love isn’t going to trump hatred. But it will proclaim the love of Jesus that caused Him to be born into this world that is full of hatred and anger and die on a cross at the hands of hateful and angry people just like us. It is this love that caused Jesus to die for us to forgive us for our hateful anger, for the times we hold a grudge, for the times we resent other people, for the times we murder or neighbour in our hearts with our hatred. This love, Jesus’s love, forgives us for all of our sins and all the wrong we have done. This love, Jesus’s love, changes things. It turns hearts away from sin and transforms sinful people into the salt of the earth. Salt that is different from the world and beneficial for the world. Ultimately, this love leads to life everlasting and the resurrection of the dead where hatred, anger, warfare, and violence have all passed away. The love of Jesus has done this and will bring it to completion on the last day.

As you see around you hatred and anger boil up all over the place consider who Christ has made you to be. Consider how we can love this world we live in and the other people in it. Consider Christ and His love for us. Consider His forgiveness for us. Transformed by that love and forgiveness we are the salt of the earth as we love and forgive those around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.