Good morning, Christ Church!
What I want to compose this week is a grace note. I know that over the last several months these daily devotions and weekly reflections have focused particularly on the many challenges we are currently facing in our world today. And that is certainly meet and right. Our faith, based on the Good News of Jesus Christ, is about giving us the strength and confidence to meet whatever comes our way. As Paul so powerfully wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38) It is that unshakable affirmation that forms the bedrock of our lives even in the most difficult moments.
However, and at the same time, we must remember that our lives are always about grace. We are here because God is love. The creation all around us is filled with God’s glory made manifest in awesome beauty that we humans will never be able to emulate. (Have you gone out yet, right after dusk, to view Comet NEOWISE now on the northwestern horizon? It is spectacular. Trust me. You don’t want to miss it, as it will not pass this way for another 6,800 years!) We have been redeemed. We have been set free to live life joyously and joyfully no matter what our present circumstances are. As one songwriter has written, “It’s a crazy beautiful life.” To which we are called to respond, “Amen!!”
All of this is to say that the followers of Jesus live in a constant state of thanksgiving. Yes, we do lose sight of this when we start taking things for granted or grumbling about the molehills we have managed to turn into mountains. That is why we must acknowledge that someone like the beloved Francis is often referred to as the saint most admired but least imitated! He understood that our truest nature is about thanksgiving and he lived his life accordingly. We are called to do the same.
On that note, I turn to Matthew 5:13, with great thanksgiving for the lives and ministry of Rick+ and D’aun Miles. Their time with this congregation has certainly been complicated by Covid-19. But their love and devotion to the work they were called to do here has never been diminished. Indeed, you all have been the salt of the earth. We thank you for that.
Faithfully in Christ,
“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.” (Matthew 5:13)
Again, this discourse on discipleship found in Matthew chapters 5-7 begins with what we have come to call the Beatitudes. And again, these blessings are not to be understood as a code of conduct. They are, instead, the natural state of being for those who have grown closer to God through a deepening relationship with God’s son.
Having placed this before his disciples, Jesus now reminds them that this state of blessedness is not something to be grasped and hoarded, hidden away like some pearl of great price. It is to be shared with those around us simply by the way we live. Indeed, in a world that too often seems like bad gruel, bland and tasteless, we are to be the salt that returns a savory grace to our communities. You could say that, yes, we are called to be the spice of life.
What do we know about salt? Well, three qualities come to mind for me. The first is that it is perhaps the greatest preservative the world has ever known. Plutarch had an interesting way of expressing this: “Meat is a dead body and part of a dead body, and will, if left to itself, go bad; but salt preserves it and keeps it fresh, and is therefore like a new soul inserted into a dead body.” That may be a bit hyperbolic, but we get the point. You and I are called to live in the world in such a way that unconditional love and joy are preserved and thereby real freshness is restored to those around us who have died emotionally and spiritually.
Secondly, I associate salt with purity. Followers of Jesus are to value real truth and honesty, humbly honoring one another by upholding the standards found first in the Ten Commandments and then in the Good News Jesus came to proclaim. In a world that seems to have abandoned entirely such standards of purity in favor of “winning at all costs” for the sake of personal power and gain, this may be the greatest of salt’s qualities that we are called to manifest right now. As James reminds us in his letter, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for the orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
Finally, salt IS about zest! Jesus is calling his disciples to bring real flavor back into the world by way of divinely inspired enthusiasm, awe, compassion, appreciation, joy, and celebration. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” Talk about salt losing its flavor. Frankly, this is one of the reasons I have chosen the Episcopal tradition. We love to sing and dance and celebrate! This is a crazy and beautiful life that God has given to us and we are to enjoy it and share that joy with others.
Which brings me back to Rick+ and D’aun. You have brought the salt to season this time of transition here at Christ Church. Through your gifts of music and sense of humor, powerful preaching and commitment to the liturgies of this congregation, you have reminded us as to who we are and whose we are. Above all, through your love, gentle kindness, and pastoral care offered in friendship to this congregation, you have modeled for us the spirit in which we are now called to welcome the person whom God has called to lead us next. For that, we can never thank you enough. But we can certainly ask God to bless you:
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Rick+ and D’aun, we are confident that you will continue to worship the living God in the ministry that the Holy Spirit already has in store for you. And we know, from experience, that you will be a blessing to the people you are called to serve.