February 9, 2014
Sunday Between February 4 and February 10 Inclusive
Not used if assigned date follows Ash Wednesday.
May be replaced by Transfiguration Sunday if the assigned date is the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday.
Click here for an easy to print or email Adobe PDF version.
Sermon by the Rev. Debra Bowman, "Just Right -- Not!."
Matthew 5:13-20 is part of Sermon on the Mount. See my post, Sermon on the Mount, Matthew, Chapters 5, 6, and 7, for an short overview of these chapters.
The first thing to notice about this passage is the directness of the language. Like the previous passage, Matthew 5:1-12, The Beatitudes, Jesus is speaking very directly to the people who are right there in front of him - YOU, you right here; you ARE, you are right now - you are now, already, with no extra qualifications or conditions to be met:
You are salt; you are light for the world.
Now stop and remember just who it is that Jesus is talking to. The movers and shakers? The people with power, money, education, good looks? No, no, no, and no.
Jesus is talking to the lowest and the least and telling them that THEY are the salt and light for the transformation of the world to reflect God's desires for the world. And since the poor made up about 80% of the population at the time of Jesus, and were the labour that produced all the wealth, seeing themselves as catalysts of production instead of pawns of the powerful would indeed change the world.
I wonder what the world would be like if the people with power, money, education, and good looks also would hear these as words addressed to them? To see themselves as blessed in order to be a blessing?
Matthew 5:13. You are the salt of the earth.
Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh (See footnote below.) provide this helpful background:
The "earth" is an outdoor earthen oven (see also Job 28:5 and Psalm 12:6) found near the home. ... The earthen oven used dung as fuel. The dung heap was salted, and salt plates were used as a catalyst to make the dung burn. Salt loses its saltiness when the exhausted plates no longer serve to facilitate burning.
Thus a good interpretation of this verse might be:
You are the catalyst to get things cooking ...
Matthew 5:14-16. Again, Malina and Rohrbaugh comment:
It is (a peasant's) one-room house that is envisioned in the parable here, since all who enter can see the light stand. The normal way to put out and oil lamp was to put it under a bushel basket so as not to fill the house with smoke and fumes before retiring.
Thus a good interpretation of these verses might be:
Set an example. Not to get fame and glory for yourself, but so that others will see God's goodness.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.