October 10, 2018 — Mobilizing an Army of Salt and Light

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C. S. Lewis said, “Friendship . . . is born at the moment when one man says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .’” A few months ago, at a One Church Service, we shared one of those moments. I said, “I am so tired of the church being labelled as bigoted, small minded, myopic, angry, and defensive! I am so tired of being defined by what the world says the church is against and not what Jesus says we are for.”  And you applauded! Very loudly.

It seems to me that we live with the tension of believing that the gospel is the good news that will bring healing to the world while feeling profoundly misunderstood as hateful bigots. A recent Barna study concluded that the two most popular words used to describe the cultural perception of “Christians” were “irrelevant” and “extreme.” In other words, “out of touch,” and “out of balance.”

Jesus had another idea. He called us to be salt and light! Specifically, He told us, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13-16). As salt and light we are called to serve, engage, and love the world. And this past Sunday — our first Trinity Serves Sunday — you did just that. The church family across all generations was mobilized as an army of light and love. It really was a beautiful sight to behold. Together we had the privilege of sorting clothes and organizing the shelves of Neighbor to Neighbor; providing a deep clean to the building that houses Building One Community; assembling toiletry kits for the homeless in the ongoing work of Pacific House; cleaning, touching up paint, assembling and serving breakfast at New Covenant Center; cleaning up after the 5k race and family walk at the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich; landscaping and cleaning up in Pacific House’s six Stamford locations; clearing trash at Jackie Robinson Park and inviting neighbors to a free community lunch with games and activities for children; and also holding out a gracious invitation to stand with anybody who needed prayer.

Lots of activity — but did we really make any difference? We can be confident that we did when we remember that we are the light of the world. Our light is His light. God is light (1 John 1:5) and we therefore walk in the light of the Lord and as children of light (Isaiah 2:5, Ephesians 5:8). Equally, we are the salt of the earth. God intends to empower His people, His church, to be the salt of the earth. Jesus is saying, “In me, you all are the most powerful instrument that I have chosen to restore, redeem, heal, and create a thirst for God among people in a broken society.” So, whatever we turned our hand to on Sunday, whatever God called us to do in love, the influence and impact will always be supernaturally charged. The sum total will always be more than the many acts of love. 

Salt and light are metaphors that indicate the influence for good that we have in the world as Jesus’ disciples. The word “influence” is derived from the Latin root meaning “to flow.” And as salt and light, we are to continuously flow in the love and power of God. So don’t let Sunday be an end to the adventure. God’s desire is for us to rediscover His joy in giving and serving — and there are so many ongoing opportunities at Trinity to participate.

We can get out into our community, as we did on Sunday, and look around at the vast need and brokenness on our doorstep and feel overwhelmed. That is not unreasonable. The UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has something helpful to say to us. He describes the ways that the Jewish community has not only survived but also contributed to the flourishing of the world though redemptive participation — what he calls “taking up their identity as a creative minority.” He writes, “To become a creative minority is not easy because it involves maintaining strong links with the outside world while staying true to your faith, seeking not merely to keep the sacred flame burning but also to transform the larger society of which you are a part. That is a demanding and risk-laden choice.”

This is Jesus’ call for us to be salt and light. A call to love the world to new life through redemptive participation. A creative minority has an alternative view of faith and work that encompasses everyone’s life, not just some sort of Christian elite class.

You are the light of the world; you are the salt of the earth — and together we display His victory in love in our time and in our world. History bears out the truth that the advancement of the Kingdom of God does not depend on the cultural situation in which we find ourselves. Rather it depends upon our unity in His Spirit, rooted and operating in His power and love. The darkness has no fear of the church while it is safely walled up in its barracks. The darkness trembles when we — as the church — are mobilized in love to leave the safety of the barricade and go out together to be salt and light.

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