1 Corinthians 2.1-12, Matthew 5.13-20
The worlds a strange place right now. Nothing new in that you may say but these past few weeks, perhaps even month have made the world, our society, even stranger and worrying than usual. We have the debates over what is going to happen with Brexit, a new President of the US who making executive orders which are apparently unconstitutional and the disquieting reaction of middle Eastern countries to them. Although Boris Johnson said Trump’s bark is worse than his bite, we all know he who barks loudest is the most influential in his society. The resulting international protest marches reflect that quieter voices will be heard as disaffection with eventsdeepen.
So, here we are, in church as followers of Christ praying for peace, reconciliation and love. Where do we stand in this face of civil unease and disturbing events? What does the scripture have to say to us?
As I read through the readings I saw how easy it would be to pull out the linethe rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish and create a sermon based upon trusting in God so don’worry, He’s in control. Yet this would be a hollow message because, although in essence this is true, the message of Christ is effectively cheapened.
Looking deeper into the passage, we see Paul is speaking to the church of Corinthian about the divisions among them because they relied too much upon following the wisdom of men rather than the wisdom of God. They thought all theirs shows of spirituality, of following the right rules and attending the right meetings made them safe, indeed, saved them from God’s judgement. They had, in effect, perfected the spiritual law by following the loudest leader with the most convincing wisdom. Paul says no, this isn’t the way of Christ because true wisdom is Gods, and can only be taught by the Spirit. As Paul speaks he is demonstrating the power of the spirit to work through him by stating his fear of speaking to them for he knows the wisdom of God is counter intuitive to the wisdom of men and their observance of religious rituals is hollow rhetoric. Their good news had become misleading fake news.
In Matthew, Jesus says ǲunless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. In other words, it is not enough to know the law but to act in love. Love is the ultimate measure of following Christ, not the outward signs of spirituality.
Going to church is good, yes, but only if the desire to go is born out an authentic, holy reverence, for the spirit of God to work within us and moves us as God’s people to advocate for those being treated unfairly, to speak for those whose voices are being silenced, and to help those caught in poverty. That’s the true power and Spirit of God’s wisdom. To be in God and love unconditionally like God, giving selflessly through serving others.
We do this by being salt and light in the world as our reading from Matthew tells us. Salt flavours, light illuminates. The good news of Christ brings a new flavour, a new light of hope into a world soured by darkness. This is our calling to bring God’s justice and liberation to our communities, whom like Pavlov’s dog, salivate on hearing another bell tolling the demise of life and liberty.
The worship God calls for is for us to serve our communities in love. We are called to no longer just defend the faith, for being defensive builds barriers, walls around us and them. Defending seeks to maintain previous gains which is ultimately a losing battle. Playing the offensive through nonviolent direct action campaigns continually escalates demands for liberty and justice to the point where small voices can no longer be denied to be heard.
When we are in God’s light, what will we do, how will we share the love of Jesus, the light of the world in concrete, material ways? Can we become so dissatisfied with selfish, status quo Christian spirituality that has no impact on society that we feel moved to do something? True worship of God deepens our relationship with God but also includes social witness and
justice as we are empowered by God, through the power of the Holy Spirit to act in love. God’s love is a driving force that inspires us to take action and risks to build communities and speak out. God’s love sustains us through difficult decisions and painful moments. But most of all God’s love unites all who are broken, disillusioned and betrayed by the world’s consumerism and politics. God’s rule brings a kingdom of hope, peace and wisdom that can never be destroyed or corrupted. When we open ourselves to live under God’s rule, when our hearts are full of his love, how can we not share with
others the good news of Jesus?