Posted tagged ‘religion’

Being Salty People

April 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      April 3, 2016

                                        

“You are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13)

I find it interesting that Jesus used the present tense in teaching a large crowd of people gathered on a hillside about what it means to be a person of God’s kingdom. In the church we are more prone to talk about “becoming a disciple.” Our language indicates that it is like a destination that we haven’t reached, like driving to Alaska. In the church’s approach it’s as if Jesus said “You will some day be the salt of the earth.”

But, intentionally…without a stutter or mixing up words…Jesus said this is who you are right now. The crowd, most assuredly, would have been almost all Jewish, if not all Jewish. They knew what it meant to be Covenant-followers. They knew the Mosaic Law and the emphasis on being the holy people of God. Being the salt of the earth, however, was a new spin for them. Salt added taste, and their religion had lost its flavor. Salt preserved the essence of what had been packed in it, but the passion for and love for God had been stifled.

When Jesus tells the crowd that they are salt he’s taking them with him on a new journey. As soon as he finishes speaking to the people the scriptures tell us that he encountered a man with leprosy…one of the unclean people to avoid…and Jesus touched him. He tells him “Be clean!” And the scripture continues with these words: “Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’” (Matthew 8:3b-4)

Jesus didn’t discredit the Covenant of Moses. He simply dusted off the rigidness, the tastelessness, that had caused it to be mis-used.

“You are…”

Jesus was bringing the Covenant-followers to a new journey of being Christ-followers. It’s kind of like coming to Colorado and seeing the mountains, but then having someone invite you to come up with him into the mountains. Either scenario has the mountains as a part of it, but being in the mountains gives you a new perspective, a new level of intimacy and understanding.

As Christ-followers we are to be salty. Not “assaulting!” There are some Christ-followers, who although passionate, have a way of peppering their proclamation in ways that drive the herds away…like dumping the whole bottle of hot sauce on your taco! People run screaming to the water fountain!

Being salt is more about flavor, bringing flavor to a bland existence. It is a question that any church needs to be asking itself: How do we, as the salt of the earth, add flavor to this community and to the lives of people who live here?”

In my cupboard is a container of Morton Salt. Last week we feasted one night on steaks that were grilled. The salt came out and got sprinkled on the sirloin to add that little extra taste to it. To often the church is the salt in the container spending time with the rest of the salt in order to…what, make it saltier?

Being the salt of Christ means we’re touching the lives of those who need the flavor of hope and the taste of being valued.

“You are salt!”

Christian Discouragement

November 4, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   November 2, 2014

                                   

Philip Yancey’s new book Vanishing Grace begins with the bad news about the good news. The cultural view of Christians is not good. He uses a recent survey of 18,000 people from all over the world to share what is hard to hear. The question was asked “Is religion a force for good?” In total, 52% of those surveyed judged that religion does more harm than good.

Wow!

How did we get to a point where more people would be glad for religious beliefs to take a break…a long break?

It took a while…but we managed to get there!

Yancey recalls an article that Tim Stafford wrote for Christianity Today magazine a few years ago where Stafford, using biblical times parallels, said that Christians in America often think they are like the Jewish people taken in captivity to Babylon, living in a culture that trumpets values that are against their faith. Stafford makes the point that Christians in our country  are more like Samaritans living right beside the Jews and not getting along. In other words, sometimes Christians are polarized from non-Christians because we can’t get along. We are prone to use spiritual language to describe it, like “spiritual”, “holy”, “holy people of God”, “morally upright”, and other terms that show that we are godly, but we also seem to enjoy being in one corner and our culture in the other corner…and never the two shall meet unless we’re ready to jab and punch.

The separation, whether we like to admit it or not, often makes us look snooty and Pharisaic.

Many will disagree with me, and I’m okay with that, but could it be that instead of Christians isolating themselves in a desperate attempt to obediently follow Christ that disciples should instead take a few steps towards our culture. That does not mean that we become accepting of beliefs and lifestyles that we don’t agree with. It simply means that we are open to listening and slow to our race to judgment. I refer back to Yancey again. He makes this statement that I’ve underlined with a yellow highlighter on my iPad:

“It takes no grace to relate to someone who looks, thinks, and acts like me.”

     Of course, I entitled this post “Christian Discouragement.” That’s because I see a lot of discouraged Christians and a lot of depressed churches. Joy seems to have fled to the mountains for the weekend. I’m optimistic that it will return and find new lodging in our sanctuaries, communities of faith, and pilgrim journeys.

The good news can be seen again as good news for all…that God loves each and every one of us no matter whether we have requested it, denied it, avoided it, or…yes, it can happen…accepted it with tears of thanksgiving.

It’s funny! The older I get the more I seem to write about grace. I think there’s a key there, perhaps a revelation, that it marks the road between discouraged and encouraged.

The Resurrection Financial Bonanza

March 30, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                         March 30, 2012

There always seems to be an outcry at Christmas-time about the commercialism of the season. Blow-up nativity scenes, houses that are so lit up it requires sun glasses to be able to look at them, crowded mall parking lots…we know the seasonal routine!

Resurrection Sunday…also known as Easter Sunday…which follows closely on the heels of Good Friday…is becoming a financial bonanza as well! My wife went to purchase some new “resurrection eggs” ( a product that comes in an egg carton, and tells the story of the cross and resurrection) at a local Christian supply and gift store and she was started that the price to tell the story of Jesus with a visual aid had risen substantially. Evidently, “rising prices” goes hand-in-hand with Jesus rising from the dead.

I can just imagine Jesus “buying into” Passover; or being a walking example of the Mosaic Law. “Ten Commandments Chain Necklace!” A t-shirt that says “I Am the I Am that I Am Talked About!” That would have gotten some attention. Perhaps a “burning bush” inflatable on the Sea of Galilee beach!

Go into a Christian book store these days and you will be amazed at how many things you can buy that have the words “He has risen!” stamped on them. “He’s alive!” on a t-shirt is a hot seller. Pretty soon the open tomb will come in an inflatable as well; or maybe with a blow-up boulder that can be anchored in the grass of the front lawn.

Why the commercialism of Easter? Could it be that the gap in the midst of our culture between the religious and not-interested; or the “determined” and the “embittered”, is so wide that Christians are going to the next level in terms of displaying our identity?

Not necessarily inflatables for the front yard, but products that offer us a bit of assurance that we’re people of the Way! My cynical nature tells me it’s less about proclaiming the celebration of the Risen Savior, and more about our growing uncertainty as to how to verbally testify who he is, and why we follow him. It’s less threatening to us…me..to buy a picture for my living room of a pile of empty cloths in an open tomb than it is to talk to my neighbor about the hope that I’m experiencing in my life.

And do you know what will happen if enough Christians flock to Christian book stores and buy Easter products?

Walmart will get into the action! I cringe at the thought!