Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 9, 2009 Salt, Light, and Fulfilling the Law

READ: Matthew 5:13-20
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

17 “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.
18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

There's an important ground-rule for understanding the gospels. They aren't biographies of Jesus. Actually, the best word on what they are comes from one of the gospel writers himself. Luke says at the beginning of The Acts of the Apostles, "In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach..." That's really all a gospel is.

When we start to look at a passage like the Sermon on the Mount we need to understand that it most likely wasn't ONE sermon, but rather should be seen as a series of things Jesus said to the crowds. That's why it doesn't read like most sermons do. The writing seems to have several points where there's a disconnect as a new paragraph starts. Since no one would deliver a message this way, the general thinking is that the Sermon on the Mount is quotes from many of Jesus' messages.

So, verse 13 can now stand on its own, and we begin to ask whom Jesus is addressing. Is he speaking to the crowds or to his disciples or perhaps to the religious leaders? It doesn't make sense for this to be a word addressed to a group of disciples who are just starting out in a relationship with Jesus. They would be profoundly excited to share the message of the Kingdom with anyone they met! It also doesn't really make sense that he'd be addressing the crowds that had come to hear him. They aren't the salt of the earth. They aren't people who have separated themselves from the world system. In fact, they are nothing more than just that sort of person who gets caught up IN the world system. They were coming out because this was a new teaching, a media event, a big show. But if this saying is addressed to those who have considered themselves the guardians of the faith, leaders in the church, life-long believers, then it begins to make sense.

Have you been a Christian for a long time? Has your relationship with God gotten kind of routine? Or worse, have you become like so many creatures of the church -- a cynic standing by while Jesus preaches and saying, "Go ahead, excite me. I dare you." If so, then take the first phrase and meditate on what it means, "YOU are the salt of the earth," and take Jesus at his word when he says that's what he wants you to be. No matter how many of us there are, we can never hope to take the world by conquest. Don't even begin to plan how you're going to "change the world for Jesus." But we can be the seasoning the world is hungry for. Let's make them crave salt so much that they can't get enough of it.

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to you and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is you, your spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of your blood
-- Keith Green, 1978



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