Thursday, 29 December 2016

Year A - The naming of Jesus Sunday

Text: Luke 2:15-21

What will 2016 be remembered for?
For many it will be one of the worst years of terrorist attacks.
It’s estimated around 1500 have been killed and 3500 injured in terrorist attacks around the world.
Or perhaps it will be remembered for the celebrity deaths such as Carrie Fischer and her mother Debbie Reynolds, singers David Bowie, Prince and George Michael in recent times.
But on a more positive note 2016 has, for many, been known as the year of the “underdog”.
For sporting fans this year saw the Cronulla Sharks break a 49 year streak without winning a grand final.
It was rugby league's longest title drought.
In the AFL the Western Bulldogs broke the longest Grand Final drought of 62 years.
In America the Chicago Cubs baseball club broke the “curse of the billy goat” when they broke the 71 year curse by winning the World Series.
In premier league soccer Leicester City won the English Premier League even though they were 5000 to 1 with the bookmakers.
The world of politics didn’t escape the underdog making good either.
In a vote that shocked the world the United Kingdom voted in favour of leaving the European Union known as Brexit.
But the one that trumps the underdog victory, if you’ll pardon the pun, was Donald Trump taking victory to become the next President of the United States leaving all the polls scratching their heads wondering how.
What will you remember 2016 for?
Will it be a year where you have grieved?
Will it be a year where you have rejoiced?
Will it be a year you’d rather not remember?
Will it be a year that, like Peter on the mount of Transfiguration, you wished you could build a shelter for yourself and stay there?
Going into a New Year can be quite daunting.
Will the economy hold up or will it cause my employment to come under threat?
Will my reduced pension affect my standard of living?
Will this be the year that interest rates rise and will I be able to make the repayments on my mortgage.
It can be quite frightening except for the promise that we heard last week as we celebrated Christmas:
"The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). (Matthew :23)
Whatever the year ahead has for us we go with the promise of God that we do not go alone – God is with us.
Sometimes it can feel as if we are all alone in our walk; that God is not with us.
But that is where faith comes in for us.
Believing in God’s promises and holding firm to his presence with us.
We need to believe that despite the circumstances that are presented that God is and always will be with us.
In our baptism God reaffirmed that promised when Jesus said:
Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, … and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The same “Emmanuel” promise – I am with you always.
When Jesus received his name today, it too was an act of faith and a reminder of God’s special presence with us.
Luke tells us: “After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb”.
We are reminded that God has our life in his hands.
Jesus was named before he was conceived in the womb.
Psalm 139 says similar things about us:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. (v13).
When Jeremiah felt daunted about what lay ahead for him God reminded him:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; "
Whatever life has in store for us in 2017 we know that God, as our Good Shepherd, has led the way.
We don’t always know what that path is;
Sometimes we don’t make the right decisions;
But even when we stray from God we can be confident that God’s promise remains true – I am with you always.
Sometimes we’re not sure what God wants us to do.
Sometimes we angst wondering whether we’ve done the right thing according to God’s will.
I believe that if we live by faith then we can live without the fear of wondering whether it’s God’s will or not.
St Paul when writing to the Ephesians says:
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10).
Not only has God has prepared the way for us - God has prepared the good works for us to do in advance.
And if we aren’t sure and we make a mistake we have the grace of God to forgive us and set us on the right path or maybe even a new path.
And that’s why the name of Jesus’ is all important as the angel informed Joseph when told “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21).
As human beings we want to be in control of our future.
We work hard, we build up our careers – we build up our superannuation – we invest in shares and property that will give us a good return and comfort for the future.
But our future is written by God.
And we are called to have the same mindset as Jesus Christ who humbled himself even though he was God.
And because of his humility and trust in his Father’s will he was given the name that is above all names.
We are called to exhibit that same humility and trust -  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5)
That doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for the future but it’s the fear of the future that Satan uses to break our relationship with God.
He did it with Adam and Eve who could eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden except one.
He did it to Peter who while walking on the water took his eyes off Jesus and onto the wind and waves.
As we say farewell to 2016 and welcome in 2017 it is an opportunity to look at ways of increasing our faith in God.
Usually people make New Year’s resolutions.
As Christians we can also use a New Year to spend more time with God.
In the bible there are 1189 chapters.
If we read 3 chapters a day – one in the morning, one at lunch, one before we go to bed, we would read the entire bible in a year.
Imagine if we spent just 3 minutes each day praying for the members of our congregation.
3 minutes doesn’t sound like a long time but if we stopped now for 3 minutes it would seem like an eternity.
Imagine how many people you could pray for and what a difference it could make.
And 3 minutes is one ad break on TV.
Let us remember that as Christians, as baptised Children of God we now bear Jesus’ name as in the Robin Mann and John Kleinig song – because we bear your name.
It’s an important name that we bear.
It’s a powerful name that we bear as St Paul says:
God highly exalted Jesus and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We have the power of Jesus’ name to forgive and restore in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
We have the power to bless and be blessed by the name of God:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Knowing this amazing power and gift that we have 2017 and beyond should never be daunting but a blessing to have the opportunity to be the presence of God in the world.
To bear the name of Jesus and Emmanuel – God with us and each other.

So may you go into this New Year confident that whatever the year presents that Jesus, our Emmanuel is with us.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Year A The Transfiguration

Text: Matthew 17:1-9 – Experiencing God

In my time as a pastor I have heard many people’s experiences with God.
I have heard of miraculous encounters where a person has physically seen the presence of Jesus during a traumatic time to give them strength.
I have heard the opposite also – a time of wilderness experience where God has seemed absent during times of struggle.
I have heard of miraculous healings that can’t be explained by medical staff.
But I’ve also heard of people who have prayed for healing only to see death being the result.
What I have learnt as I’ve sat and listened is that God works in many and varied ways.
And I’ve also learnt that experience most often can’t be repeated in the same way.
Just because one person had a particular experience with God doesn’t mean if another person follows the same pattern that the same experience will be met.
Experiences with God are up to God, not us.
As St Paul says when the gift of the Holy Spirit is given by God - To each one the gift of the Spirit is given for the common good … and God distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
We can’t control how God makes his presence experienced.
That’s what Peter wanted to do.
Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." (Matthew 17:4)
Why was this not a good suggestion by Peter?
Wouldn’t you want to capture that moment and stay there?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could control our experiences with God?
That if we asked for healing it happened.
That if we asked to speak in tongues it would happen.
That if we asked to see him it would happen.
As much as that would seem a great experience to have it would mean that we are controlling God rather than allowing God to be God.
God allows us to experience his presence in many ways.
And sometimes that experience is not fully known or understood at the time but in retrospect as we look back at our journey we see the amazing hand of God that has guided us through a situation.
For me that is a much deeper and meaningful experience of God where we contemplate on the vast richness of God’s presence rather than controlling God like a genie in a bottle that we rub every time we want something.
The deep and vast experience with God doesn’t come from getting our desires whenever we want them, as Peter wanted.
The experience for Moses was entering into the presence of God as a thick cloud covered the mountain where he was.
As we look at the Transfiguration account of Jesus with Peter, James and John, it is important to look at the context of where that is happening.
The Transfiguration is nestled in between 2 predictions of his death (Matthew 16:21 and 17:22,23).
It is also nestled between 2 rebukes – first of Peter (Matthew 16:22,23) – “Get behind me Satan, and then of the disciples for their lack of faith.
So what Matthew is trying to teach us with the Transfiguration account is that God’s glory is experienced in times of suffering.
Too often we associate God’s glory with positive physical experiences.
But here, in the Transfiguration, God’s glory is firmly set in the context of suffering.
And that’s where we need it.
When we are struggling – when we are going through those difficult times – when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we want to know that “you are with me” (Psalm 23).
I don’t need the highs of euphoria whipping me up in a frenzy – I need to know “I am with you to the end of the age”.
And so the voice comes to Peter and the others, but I’m wondering if it was meant for Peter who had been caught up in the moment – “this is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!
Listen only to him, for only he has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).
As we begin our Lenten journey this year, it is a reminder to us that the journey to the cross is one that goes through the darkness of Good Friday.
And the closer we get to the Resurrection the closer we journey to the cross.
There are times of glory, there are times when God feels extremely close, there are times when I have experienced something that can only be considered a miracle.
But these can’t be relied on because we don’t know how or when these arrive; they are what some people might call “serendipitous”.
They come unexpectedly.
But what does come with certainty is the presence of God where he has promised to be:
In his Word as we read again and again the love and promises that God has for us.
Listen to him.
In Holy Communion we hear those comforting words – given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins – listen to him.
In our baptism where water and word combine to wash away our sin and regenerate us for life in God’s family – listen to him.
The context of the Transfiguration and God’s continuing glory in our lives is in the midst of suffering.
As Jesus himself said: "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
And so too St Paul: I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Listen again to Peter’s testimony of that great day – now that he has removed himself from the euphoria of that account:
We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
Jesus received his honour and glory from the voice of God – not from the dazzling appearance.
So too, our honour and glory is received not from dazzling experiences but from the voice of God that speaks to us in his Word and Sacraments.
Life may not be all glory for you.
Maybe you have been dismayed and disillusioned as you have heard of other people’s experiences of God.
But there is only one glory to be truly embraced by – when God says to you – you are my son – you are my daughter – my beloved with whom I am pleased.
That voice came to you in your baptism, it continues in receiving the body and blood of Christ – it is with you as you immerse yourself in God’s Word.
As the disciples fell to the ground in fear it wasn’t the dazzling light show experience that removed their fear, it was the gentle touch and voice of Jesus:
"Get up and do not be afraid”.
And then he journeyed with them down the mountain, down into the less than glamorous valley.
No dazzling light – no Moses and Elijah – no cloud with a thundering voice – but there was Jesus with them.
And he is with you too as he has promised – I am with you always until the end of the age.
May God bless your Lenten journey this Eastertide as you journey with your Saviour by your side.

Year A 7th Sunday after the Epiphany

Text: Matthew 5:38-48 – Love my enemy – is Jesus serious?

The story of a mother who witnessed her son being killed by his father has touched the hearts of our nation and beyond.
But what has been amazingly heart wrenching about this story has been the courage and composure of the mother – Rosie.
She hasn’t lashed out at the police who had 5 warrants for his arrest.
She hasn’t criticised the magistrate who granted bail against recommendations by the police who said that he would harm his wife and son.
Instead she has been an example of healing for herself and for the community around her.
Compare that to another story that made the front pages of the news this past week.
A new law introduced for one person – Julian Knight – mass murderer in the Hoddle Street Massacre, 27 years ago.
There is still anger – and hate – and a desire for revenge.
Julian Knight is eligible for parole this year and overwhelmingly the public don’t want him released.
I’m not arguing one way or the other but what has been noticeable is the anger and hatred that is still levelled at him.
The question is not whether he should or shouldn’t be released but the question is where will healing come from.
It obviously hasn’t come from having had him incarcerated for 27 years.
It is doubtful that it will come if he is never released or even at his death.
When there is this much hurt, healing only comes through forgiveness.
This is a new ethic that Jesus proposes:
To love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to forgive and love no matter what — no exclusions.
It is what Jesus asks, but is it truly possible?
I have no doubt that if we publicly taught what Jesus proclaimed that it would be an offense to many people.
Is it realistic to expect the families of Julian Knight’s victims to forgive him and to love him?
Is it appropriate to ask an abused person to pray for the one who abuses them, to offer the other cheek to the one who has struck them?
God sends sun and rain on the righteous and the unrighteous — but this is hard: (v45)
We are called to love and be merciful to people who have really hurt us.
These ideals may be fine for God, but for those of us who are victims, can God really expect, even demand this from us?
Can God really expect us to be perfect as he is perfect?
We need to look at what Jesus says in a new way.
To love our enemy is to bring us healing.
To love our enemy is to change the situation that stops the continuing pain when the physical hurt has actually stopped.
To take the initiative and relate to our enemies in a new way.
To take the power out of their hands and to put it into God’s hands.
To love the enemy does not mean to like the enemy.
Instead it means to understand them as human beings — troubled and sinful human beings whom God has created and for whose sins Jesus Christ has died – on whom God makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall.
If we don’t understand that, then the pain will continue even though the physical abuse has stopped.
To many, this teaching is scandalous and offensive.
But that is the power of the cross.
Remember what Paul says –
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who don’t understand it.
It is a stumbling block for those who do not believe.
This is not to suggest that we passively sit back and ask for more hurt by turning the other cheek.
It does not mean that the abused person continues to live with the one who hurts them.
But what Jesus deals with is how we recover from the hurt.
Once we remove ourselves from the source of the hurt, how do we stop the pain.
How do we heal?
Anger and vengeance continue the hurt.
Angry people take out their anger on others around them.
Have you ever worked with someone who is hurting and angry at someone else?
Their anger and hurt affects all of their relationships.
Forgiveness is an invitation to allow God’s healing into your life.
Jesus is not asking the impossible as impossible as it may seem.
Jesus shows us examples in his own life.
As his accusers nailed his hands to the cross he begged his father to forgive them. (Luke 23:34)
He didn’t seek vengeance or harm because that would be simply doing what they are doing to him.
He showed compassion and forgiveness to Peter who had earlier abandoned and denied him. (John 21:15-17)
How would the church look today if Jesus had rejected Peter and not forgiven him.
Hurt can bring out the best and the worst in us.
When we are hurt we can say and do things that are worse than the original hurt done to us.
When we are hurt we have to resist our urges and emotions because it can unleash great power in us to hurt the one who has hurt us and that will then affect others.
Jesus teaches us to resist our anger.
Does it mean a person who hurts someone gets away with it?
Far from it!
Listen to what Paul said:
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Cor 3:16,17).
They are answerable to God just as we teach our children not to take matters into their own hands but to let the proper authorities deal with justice.
Justice in our hands is a dangerous thing.
Vigilantes deliver unjust justice.
Those who take justice into their own hands often end up in front of authorities themselves, punished for taking matters into their own hands.
This is not about justice against the one who has hurt you.
This is about YOU receiving healing.
Praying for our enemies may bring about change in their lives, but it is firstly about bringing change in YOUR life through healing.
Forgiveness is not about the hurter getting away with it;
It is about the hurting being healed.
It is about fully experiencing the grace of God as we discover that God’s grace extends to all people.
God makes the sun to shine on the righteous and unrighteous.
God offering grace to those who hurt us does not mean God doesn’t care about us.
God wants us to heal but while we are angry and hurt we don’t allow room for that.
That’s what Paul teaches when he says:
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Do not take revenge but leave room for God’s anger, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 9:12-20)
Sadly many people know only negative things about the Christian church.
How often don’t we hear “religion is the blame for wars”.
Or the only thing that many people know about the church is that it judges people.
Christ sets us a higher standard because we are living in a world where news of violence comes to us each day. 
We have an opportunity to show the world the true face of God.
Jesus is not advising us to do nothing, but to be the ones who bring about healing.
From the beginning of the church, Christians have experienced their values conflicting with the world’s.
We are in the world but not of the world (John 17:14)
This is a difficult teach and one that goes against our human instincts – to turn the other cheek.
But let us remember the angel’s promise to Mary and Joseph – he will be called Immanuel – God with us.
That’s how Matthew’s Gospel began, and that is how it ends as Jesus sends us out into the world to make disciples of all nations – I am with you always until the end of the age.

So when you find it difficult to turn the other cheek or to love your enemy or to pray for those who persecute you, remember that the one who died for your sins is with you to give you strength to forgive others.

Year A 6th Sunday after the Epiphany

Text Matthew 5:21-37 – Being Heart Smart

Heart care has been one of the biggest concerns in recent times.
It is a combination of the food we eat and the lifestyles that we live that has caused great concern for how we are living our lives.
Foods are cooked with lots of fats and sugars and salts all of which place strains on our hearts.
Smoking, drinking and technology has caused concern for people’s health particularly with obesity and the strain it puts on our hearts.
The problem is that we find it is so hard to break out of that lifestyle.
People look for quick ways to resolve their health issues.
A tablet that blasts away fat.
A fad diet that allows you to eat and still lose weight.
We think that if it says – fat free – or 99% fat free – low salt or diet coke – we think we’re eating healthily but it’s just not true.
We look for products that are “heart smart” or carry the heart foundation Tick of Approval.
But in the end there are no short cuts or easy way out.
It takes hard work – sacrifice and dedication to turn one’s life around.
Jesus is also concerned about the condition of our hearts in today’s Gospel reading.
And likewise there is no easy fix to the problem.
It takes hard work and there are no shortcuts.
There seemed like there were shortcuts before Jesus came onto the scene.
The commandments seem cut and dry.
How many times haven’t we used the line -
I’m not a bad person – at least I haven’t murdered anyone!
But Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, `You shall not murder'; But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment;
Why does Jesus take this approach?
How is anger the same as murder?
Don’t we all get angry?
Didn’t Jesus get angry? (Mark 3:1-6)
Jesus sees sin as a progression.
It begins in the heart and continues into actions.
As Jesus once said:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)
And so Jesus is attempting to get back to the source of the problem.
To fix the heart of the issue – if you’ll pardon the pun.
Just as there is no short cut or easy way in changing one’s health situation, likewise when it comes to our spiritual health there can be great pains at time.
And just as there is a great feeling when one’s health returns so too there are great blessings from a restored spiritual life.
Jesus is not introducing a new list of rules, but the intentions of the law.
Last week Jesus said I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfil them. Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law.
The intention of the law is to love God with all our heart and our neighbour as ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-40)
What is intriguing in this situation is that it appears Jesus is speaking not to unbelievers but to believers.
He talks about anger against a brother or sister.
He talks about resolving that anger before you bring your offering to the altar.
He’s talking to you and me!
We are to be the benchmark and living examples of love and forgiveness.
If we can’t show love and forgiveness to one another, how can we expect the world who doesn’t know God to show that love and forgiveness.
We can bring our offerings here today and give thanks to God for all he’s given us.
But the greatest harvest thanksgiving we can give is by presenting the true harvest we have reaped – the love and mercy of God.
It is often in the church where anger can fester like an infected wound, which is why Jesus is so concerned about the state of our hearts.
It is so easy to be hurt or offended in the church.
We say the wrong thing – we say something the wrong way – we hear things the wrong way – we let our frustrations out on people who had nothing to do with the situation.
We can bring all the gifts to feed all the poor and hungry but it fades into insignificance if we have something against a brother or sister.
All the years of good work in congregations can be undone in the blink of an eye by hurting a brother or sister and refusing to seek forgiveness or refusing to forgive.
Remember what St Paul says in 1 Corinthians – the love chapter:
If I give all I possess to the poor but do not have love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3).
What Jesus asks of us is not easy.
When we are hurt it cuts deep into our hearts.
And sometimes the cure can hurt more than the affliction.
To forgive someone can hurt more than the hurt they caused you.
To forgo vengeance can hurt more than the original injustice to you.
To admit you were wrong and seek forgiveness can hurt.
As Christians we are challenged to lead by example.
Listen again to what Jesus says:
When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against YOU, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
Jesus is challenging the one who is hurt to make the first move, just as God did:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
He also says to ‘do it quickly’ because the longer we allow the hurt to fester, the more anger it builds up, and the more harm it does.
And the greatest harm is to our spiritual lives and our relationship with God.
St Paul says:
As long as there is quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?
It’s difficult, but not impossible – as Paul says:
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
We have a choice on whether to extend love and forgive or to continue to show anger.
Moses gave that same choice to his people in today’s Old Testament reading:
I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways then you shall live and the LORD your God will bless you. But if your heart turns away you shall perish; I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
Since creation God has put choices before us which we are free to choose.
Adam and Eve chose to set their hearts against God.
Cain set his heart against his brother and his anger turned to murder.
We too have that choice – to forgive and be forgiven.
Or to harbour anger.
Sadly we often take the latter – it’s easier.
But it just causes more hurt to ourselves and the ones we love when we make that choice.
A wise proverb says – "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."
Jesus is not watering down the 5th Commanding but intensifying it.
He does the same to the 6th Commandment regarding adultery bringing it back to the heart and what it does.
Christians are called to go that extra mile in setting up an example of right living.
Sin creeps in wherever it can find room and that begins in the heart.
Lust turns to adultery.
Anger turns to murder.
Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfil it.
Jesus came to call and form disciples as examples of righteousness by fulfilling the intention of the law.
It’s easy to follow the letter of the law, not always easy to follow the intention of the law.
We follow the commandments not because they are rules;
We follow the commandments so that we can be people formed for life in the kingdom of God.
That’s what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer – “your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven”.
The greatest Harvest Thanksgiving we can present is to become people who are pure in heart, so that we might love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind, and that we might love our neighbour as ourselves.

The peace of God that surpasses our understanding keep your hearts and minds forever in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Year A 5th Sunday After the Epiphany

Text Matthew 5:13-20 – Pass the Salt.

It doesn’t matter if you go to the local take away or to the finest restaurant, they have something in common.
They will have salt there for your food.
It doesn’t matter if you buy the minimum chips from the fish and chip shop - $3.00 or so, or if you’ve spent around $60 on a juicy tender steak, you’ll have salt there for your tasting.
It might come in one of those cheap paper satchels, or a crystal salt shaker, if it’s not there you’ll ask for it.
It doesn’t matter how much of a celebrity chef you are or if you’re an assistant in the local takeaway, salt will be a vital ingredient.
I love walking into the local fish n chip shop and smelling the salt being shaken onto the freshly cook chips.
You get that tingling feeling on your tongue which is an unbelievable sensation.
Without salt food will taste bland.
Food manufacturers load our food with salt, especially junk food, because they know that our body craves it.
And it doesn’t matter how much salt the food has in it already, we’ll reach for the salt and just give it a little sprinkle.
It’s no wonder that Jesus uses salt as an image for Christians in today’s Gospel reading.
“You are the salt of the earth” (V13).
As Christians we make a difference in the world.
It might not seem that way as much of the world either rejects or ridicules us.
But we are like that salt that sits on the table –insignificant until needed.
We’re not the focal point, but if it’s not there something is missing.
Diners haven’t come into the restaurant because they’ve heard they’ve got great salt in there – but they will reach for us at some point.
We often misread what Jesus says believing this is a command.
Jesus is not telling us to be salt in the world.
No, he’s telling us that we are salt in the world.
It can be very discouraging trying to live out our faith in our daily lives.
It seems that morals are a thing of the past.
When we try to express any sort of decency we are ridiculed and reminded that this is the 21st Century, not the 18th Century.
The challenge for us is to not be discouraged in our faith and to not stop being examples of good and right living.
Paul encourages us:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9).
Salt has many qualities that it brings:
Salt brings out the flavour of food.
As Christians, we too can bring out the flavour of life.
We have the greatest news of life – that we are loved unconditionally by God.
So many people search for meaning in life and we have it.
That God, in his unconditional love for us has assured us of our eternal life in heaven.
Being salt in the world is not about correcting people’s behaviour.
That’s not what salt does to food.
Salt doesn’t correct food – it enhances it and adds flavour.
But, if you put too much salt on food it will ruin it.
And if you consume too much salt, you will cause harm to your health.
So we should be careful – we can be moral but we shouldn’t moralise.
Being salt is about bringing out the flavour of life not altering it.
Salt is also a preservative.
Salt will enable the preservation of the good that might otherwise be lost.
So too we are called to live moral and ethical lives.
To preserve decency and morality in a world that believes we can do whatever we like.
It doesn’t matter if people think our views are irrelevant or outdated.
It doesn’t matter if everyone else is acting in a certain way – we don’t need to.
We can be an example of righteous living.
But sometimes salt will sting.
If you’ve got a cold sore or a cut in your mouth, the salt will sting as it touches the open wound.
So too, sometimes by our standing up for Christian principles it will sting the world.
It may even sting us.
But that sting is good, because salt also has healing properties.
Salt water at the beach will heal sores on your body.
So too, we can bring healing to the world – but it won’t like it because it stings.
We can lobby, we can complain, we can write petitions if a situation needs it.
We can point out injustices and demand justice for others.
We can live our lives and refuse to participate in the ways of the world being examples of right living.
Jesus also said we are the light of the world.
It’s a similar image if we think of the role that light plays in the Bible.
It was the very first word spoken by God – Let there be light – a word of light that became flesh and lived among us – the light that broke the darkness of sin.
A light that was rejected by the world –
As John says: The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:9,10).
As we are the light of the world it helps us to understand why the world does not receive us also.
If we don’t understand that then we will continue to think that the church is failing – that’s what the world keeps telling us.
But could you imagine a world without the church?
The church isn’t a human made community.
Our Mission Statements confirm that:
Ringwood: Living the Word – a people formed by God to be his presence to those around us.
Knox: Called to worship – Chosen to Serve.
The church is the body of Christ and the assurance that God is still concerned for the world.
There is enough wickedness and evil in society for God to bring about the judgment today.
But he’s not going to do that because his church is in the world.
What would neighbourhoods be like if there were no local church?
Where would people turn to in time of need?
Who would bring a word of comfort and hope in suffering and death?
If there were no church and no Christians, what would be the conscience of the world?
What would be the point of living if this is all there is?
God’s light broke the chaos that formed at the beginning of creation.
We read: The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
So too, you are separated from the darkness – but in the world.
And remember, this is the first day – the sun was only created on day 3 – this light is the glory of God that breaks into the world and you are that light and glory.
You are the light, and irrespective of whether the world accepts you and receives you – you are God’s light.
We heard in last week’s Gospel:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.
Many of us feel tired and wonder whether it is worth continuing to fight the good fight.
In the mess of the world, even though there is much good, our call and challenge is to be the people who give the world the right flavour and provide vision through the gloomy times that are inevitable.
Salt isn’t the food: it doesn’t bring flavour to food. 
It enhances flavours already in food. 
If we are the salt of the earth, then we, the children of God, add flavour to creation. 
We enhance the beauty and meaning of life. 
Being a Christian means more than following a moral code. 
It calls us to make the world more flavour filled. 
Jesus calls us let our light shine in our communities so others will see and praise God. 
As Christians we add to our communities as we live out our Mission Statements:
Ringwood: Living the Word – a people formed by God to be his presence to those around us.
Knox: Called to worship – Chosen to Serve.
The peace of God that surpasses our understanding, keep your hearts and minds forever in Christ Jesus.