Do you love what you think you love? James K.A. Smith in his book You Are What You Love, The Spiritual Power of Habit, contends that we are what we love, what we desire, and we may not actually love what we think we love.
He writes that “discipleship, is a way we curate our heart, to be intentional about what we love.” He goes on to argue that “to be human, we could say, is to desire the kingdom – some kingdom (or realm or sovereignty.)
To call it a ‘kingdom’ is to signal that we’re not only talking about some personal, private Eden _ some individual nirvana – but that we all live and long for a social vision of what we think society should look like.” Smith believes we seek this realm consciously or not, and it would behoove the disciples of Jesus Christ, to become aware of what social vision we are indeed working toward — to do a liturgical audit of our lives, as he puts it, to see what we love, and is what we love, actually what we think we love.
I’ve been ponding this in light of our gospel reading. Which kingdom or realm do I /we seek or desire, honestly? The one where all people are housed, fed and free, or one where a very few consume and control most of the world’s resources? The realm where light exposes evil deeds, or the one where people despise and deride anyone or anything that reveals their corruption or goes against their self-interests?
Do we love what we think we love? Who we profess to love? Who Jesus tells us we ought to love?
This has been a hard week as we’ve witnessed more cracks in our democracy. It doesn’t matter where you like or dislike the person in the White House. It doesn’t matter whether you believe he is innocent or guilty … what matters is that what is bedrock to our rules of law … allowing people to tell their truth, their side of the story … this was simply denied: a basic right of our republic was refused … regardless of the outcome.
What kind of realm are we building on earth as we pray each Sunday as it is in heaven?
The gospel this morning comes right on the heels of the beatitudes …” the blessed bes …”
Blessed be the poor in spirit,
Blessed be those who mourn,
Blessed be the meek,
Blessed be those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
Blessed be the merciful,
Blessed be the pure in heart,
Blessed be the peacemakers,
Blessed be those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
Blessed be you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Do we believe these words? If we say we are Christians … we have struggle with them; we have to contend with them: we can’t ignore them. What Jesus is doing is giving us a lesson plan on how to be with one another … basically, to really look at what we say we love and is what we say we love … really what we love.
Saint Matthew continues: “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after
its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Abba in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to ful-fill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the society of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the realm of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the sovereignty of heaven (Matthew 5.13-20.)
In so few words — Jesus was able to say so much and we struggle, at times, to say anything at all with way too many words. You are the Salt of the Earth; You are the light of the world. Direct. Clear. Unambiguous!
We are light. We are salt. These are considered ‘germ par-ables’ (because there are so small) and yet so powerful; they can bring about transformation and change. Jesus is telling his disciples, his followers, that’s us, that we are the Light of the World; we are the salt of the earth. Not some-body else, but you and me.
Jesus doesn’t call us to be salt and light, he doesn’t chal-lenge us to become light and salt, he doesn’t invite us to ponder the virtues or the qualities of salt and light. NO, he simply says: you are salt; you are light. Now get on with it … he couldn’t have been more clear.
Have you ever thought much about salt? We take it so for granted. Salt has more than 14K uses. There was a time, however, when it was so scarce and so valuable, it was used as money. In fact, Caesar’s men, his soldiers, received part of their pay in common salt. “Salarius,” comes from the root word for salt and it where we get our word – salary.
~ “Not worth your salt,” meant you hadn’t earned your wages.
~ Salt in an open sore or soaking in salt water — quickens the healing process.
The Christian life is about expanding the circle, making it wider and wider so that everyone can feel at home at ta-ble. Granted, we mess up. Granted, we have our fears. Granted, we have our biases, but to say that we follow Jesus means that we have to go beyond our fears, and our biases, and our preferences, and offer a different way to be with one another. This is something our society is hav-ing a really difficult time with… so, my friends, it is up to us … and, I believe we have to start with the question: do we really love what we think we love or do we just love our own opinion or love those who agree with us or look like us? Salt and Light … asks us, no demands of us, that we curate our heart differently.
On a small island, off the east coast of the North American there is the Canadian town of Gander, population 9K. On September 11, at 9.26 am, Eastern Time, the FAA (the US Federal Aviation Administration), made an unprece-dented a decision to shut down the airspace of the con-tinental united states forcing over 4k planes to land at the nearest airport they could find. Thirty-eight planes landed at Gander swelling the population by almost 7K in just a few hours. For 5 days, with very little sleep, the peoples of Gander were salt and light offering food, lodging, sup-port, counseling, medical assistance and spiritual care, but most important of all … they offered welcome.
Being salt and light — that’s what the folks in Gander were for those 5 days. They didn’t know the “plane peo-ple,” as they came to be called, not everyone spoke their language, nor looked like them, nor worshipped like them, nor believed what they believed. All this didn’t matter. What mattered, is that they were human beings in need and the people of Gander opened their homes and hearts and lives … and, it forever changed them. (If you ever have a chance to see the play: “Come From Away …” do so it is based on the events in Gander on 9/11).
I mention this, because during those 5 days, the people of Gander, Newfoundland were light and salt…. they worked to bring about a new kingdom on earth as in heav-en. And, this is our call as well. Being salt and light … this is our call as human beings, but more importantly, this is our call as Christians.
Which returns me to my original question: do we love what we think we love? This is a really important question for us to consider, for our answer has to do with our in-tegrity and what we believe about ourselves and God.
As heard from Psalm 112: Blessed are those who revere the Holy One. For they dwell in Love and their children will learn of peace and justice. Abundance and wholeness will be there heritage, and truth will be their banner. Light penetrates the darkness for those who face their fears; Love stands by them with mercy and forgiveness. It goes well for those who are loving and kind, who live their days with justice and integrity. They become co-creators with the Divine; they bless the world with their presence. In times of trouble, they know not fear; their hearts are firm, trusting in God’s Loving and Compassion-ate Presence. (Psalms for Praying, Nan Merrill)
May this be true for each us as we strive to live Jesus’s words of being light and salt.
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