*Some* good

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany – February 9, 2020 – Matthew 5:13-20 – Trinity, Winchester

Listen to this sermon here

The Church is, in the ever so descriptive words of the famous preacher Tom Long, “a colony of the kingdom of heaven placed in the midst of an alien culture.” [1]

The kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, is not only a far-off eternal vision, but a salient, earthly reality of which you and I are blessed to be a part.

As members of the Church, Christ’s body on earth, we are called to be agents of God’s reign. Christians are, in a sense, heavenly emissaries, kingdom citizens instilled with God’s divine essence so that we may be bearers of that essence right here, right now.

Nowhere is our calling more apparent than in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God became flesh, revealing that flesh is not simply material made for simple pleasures and sinful desires, but for the real, honest-to-goodness purposes of the kingdom.

In a world that ignores the needs of many, we Church folk are the few who turn our attention to the lost, the lonely, the suffering, the weak. 

Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that we—the Church, members of the body of Christ—are salt. Like salt, Christians add a divine flavor to the world by witnessing to God’s unconditional love and mirroring that love in our own lives.

The fact of the matter is, the Church is not as large as it once was. In fact, sometimes it seems that the only thing that the Church increases in from year to year is cultural irrelevance.

What good is the body of Christ in a world where leaders still lie to distract us from their ineptitude? What good is the body of Christ in a world where children still die because prescriptions cost too much money? What good is the body of Christ in a world where practices like predatory payday lending still persist in lining the pockets of the already-wealthy and further impoverishing the poor?

What good, really, is the Church to a society that so consistently rejects its offer of grace and love and reconciliation in favor of those old standbys, fear and doubt and divisiveness? 

Well, the answer is: some. The church is some good.

That might sound worrying, but take heart. Some good accounts for a whole lot of lives altered, perspectives changed, and fences mended. Just like some salt flavors the entire stew, some good done in Jesus’ name flavors the entire world with the grace of God. It has always been this way—a wicked world flavored by flecks of God’s grace.

A couple of cans of shredded chicken in the food pantry for a single mother whose kids need protein. A few dollars to pay down her electric bill so she doesn’t have to give the baby a bath by candle light again tonight. A winter coat to protect the oldest from the spine-stiffening wind that awaits her at the bus stop each morning.

Some good really is worth it. I’m not saying that the most good wouldn’t be better. For a time, the Salvation Army used the slogan “Doing the most good.” I wasn’t aware that it was a competition, but I take the point.

The “most good” does seem like the best kind of good, and it is a great goal. But some good is important, too. It’s real. It’s here. It’s now.

Jesus calls—and empowers—each of us to bring the kingdom of heaven ever closer to earth, and to do so with all that we have, with all that we are, in all the ways that we can. I believe that.

However, from time to time, the good news of God’s kingdom may get lost in the bad news you read on Facebook just like the sugar overshadows the salt in the birthday cake. But the truth is that the salt, like the good, is still there doing the work it needs to do just as steadfastly as ever.

Just because you don’t taste the salt, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Any recipe worth its salt has a small amount of salt proportional to the rest of the ingredients. That small amount is all it takes to make a huge difference. For the result to be good, there must be salt.

We’ve got to remember that if God’s people on earth ever are discouraged or distracted from living the kingdom life, then, as Jesus says, the Church will no longer be good for anything. It might as well be trampled underfoot.

For instance, if our mission becomes reinforcing the cultural status quo, then the Church is doomed. Like salt that does not, that cannot enhance the taste even of itself—throw it out! Like a flashlight without batteries. It doesn’t matter whether you hide it under the bed or put it on the nightstand—it’s useless! (Like a Eucharist without a sermon—what’s the point, right?) Jesus is clear about this, not to trouble us, but to keep us mindful of why we are here. 

The point is simply this: do not be discouraged when what you have to offer doesn’t seem like enough. Holy Mother Church, the Body of Christ—you included—is doing good. 

The temptation will always be to second guess, to doubt, to trouble our minds needlessly with daunting questions about our worth. Is this enough? Is that enough? Am I enough?

When that time comes, remember, the answer is: yes. You are the salt. You are enough because God made you enough and the presence of God in you gives the world the flavor of grace.

[1] See Thomas G. Long, Matthew, Westminster Bible Companion (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press), 51-52.

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