Tag Archives: theology thoughts

Salty and bright

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I was reading the Gospel of Matthew a couple of days ago, and read the passage where Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” (Matt 5:13, 14)

Somehow I had always associated those words with the end of Jesus’ ministry, and assumed he was talking to his closest friends, the disciples who were about to start the Church.

But, according to the chronology of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus speaks these words to a large crowd of folks during his Sermon on the Mount, right at the beginning of his ministry. Matthew, the author of the gospel, hadn’t even been called by Jesus yet!

Jesus had just finished healing a large number of people who had been afflicted with all sorts of diseases and struggles that would have left them on the margins of society. Matthew writes that these folks followed Jesus, and we can assume that they made up a large portion of the crowd to which Jesus was speaking. He started his sermon with the Beatitudes, proclaiming that the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the peacemakers, the persecuted were the most blessed in the Kingdom.

And then, immediately after healing people who had experienced deep pain and marginalization, and telling them that they were The Blessed Ones, he tells them that they are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. He tells them not to lose their saltiness, or hide their light.

In my experience in communities like The Dale and Sanctuary, it is absolutely true that folks who have suffered the most are the saltiest and brightest.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend who is wonderfully wise, and struggles mightily with an addiction to alcohol. She said to me, “I’m so weak…but His strength is made perfect in my weakness. He’s blessed me with nice people like you and Erinn, and I turn my back. But He never turns his back on me… I think about you a lot, you know. How is your family doing?”

A week or so later, I was speaking with another friend who is in chronic pain and struggles to make ends meet. At first he was focused on his pain, but then transitioned into an amazing mini-sermon about how it all comes down to love, how we need to listen to God even when it hurts, how it’s important to be a giver not just a taker, and how we need to learn to see the good in other people even when it’s not readily visible.

Another friend adopted a cat many years ago who wasn’t expected to live for very long, due to a variety of ailments. My friend has cared tenderly for this cat that would likely have otherwise been put down. He sat cuddling his beloved pet the other day, and the image was too beautiful not to capture. He told me I could share it with you.

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While Jesus is the ultimate Salt and Light, he makes it pretty clear (all throughout the gospels) that people on the margins are uniquely blessed with the ability to display his saltiness and brightness. I am so grateful for my friends who are constantly reminding me of this deep theological truth.

Turning the other Cheek

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We, The Dale’s Tuesday night Bible study, are currently reading through the Sermon on the Mount. This week we grappled with the passage where Jesus tells us not to repay evil for evil, but to turn the other cheek. In this same passage Jesus tells us to give more than is asked when someone sues us, do more than is required of us by an authority figure (go an extra mile with a Roman soldier, in Jesus’ context), and to give freely to those who ask to borrow from us.

We talked about how these things do not constitute a new set of laws that Jesus asks us to follow legalistically, but are examples of the kind of people that we will be when we are transformed by his love. We are to choose the Kingdom alternative to the usual “fight or flight” options; we are to show genuine concern for the person in front of us, despite the fact that they are not showing concern for us. By choosing love over anger, we turn the situation upside down.

We also talked about how this is much easier to talk about than to do! We asked the tough questions, like “what about genocide? What about abusive relationships? Should the other cheek always be turned?!” We talked about how the Bible makes it clear that oppression and injustice are not God’s will, and that we are called to act on behalf of those who are treated unfairly.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been noticing that when conflicts arise at The Dale, it often has to do with the perceived need to defend one’s honour, to make it known that one is not vulnerable, etc. I totally understand that impulse. And yet we are called to be a people who turn the other cheek, in an act of counter cultural love…

We also frequently encounter situations where a member of our community is experiencing abuse, coercion or marginalization, and we are called to be a people who name, challenge and oppose oppression and injustice…

Lord, may we learn to read and apply your word faithfully, in a world that is anything but straightforward. May we learn to love others in the self sacrificial and counter cultural way that you love us, and also take seriously your call to seek justice for the oppressed.

Lord have mercy

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The idea of mercy has been cropping up all over the place this past week. I’m not totally sure what to make of it all, so once again this blog is acting as a means of processing some of my thoughts.

I’m reading a novel by Madeleine L’Engle, called A Live Coal in the Sea. There are many passages about mercy, and one of them contains a quote from William Langland, who lived in the 1300s. “But all the wickedness in the world which man may do or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal dropped in the sea.”

A dear friend from the Dale was assaulted last weekend, for making a good decision (to not buy drugs for someone else). She suffered a concussion and some bruises, along with the trauma of being attacked in her own apartment. I went with her to the police station a few days after the incident, where she gave her statement and had her injuries photographed.

What in the world does mercy look like in this situation? Surely not that the actions of the men who attacked her should be overlooked. That would be total injustice. I’m sure that these actions stem from deep pain and brokenness within these men, but to simply allow violence to occur is not merciful to anyone. But what DOES mercy look like? I desire mercy and justice for my friend, and I also desire that these men experience some sort of restorative justice, and the deep, deep mercy of God, which is also just. Micah 6:8 rolls so easily off the tongue, but sometimes seems so complicated- what is it to act justly and love mercy? I guess that’s why walking humbly with God is the conclusion of that verse.

Another friend from the Dale has been having very vivid and disturbing dreams, which are affecting him mentally, physically and spiritually. He is already struggling with a great many things, and this feels like just too much. As I parted ways with him a couple of  nights ago, I told him that I would pray for rest for him. His response was, “Rest?! Don’t get fancy, dear; just pray for mercy.”

What does mercy look like in this context? I think he meant mercy as relief from this mental and spiritual affliction, which isn’t even a result of anything he had done. Mercy as relief from an terribly overwhelming situation.

Yesterday’s reading from Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals contains Psalm 69:15, “In your great mercy, O God, answer me with your unfailing help,” and prayer that reads “Merciful Lord, you revealed your glory by humbly serving the one who would betray you. Shower us with your mercy, Lord, and grow us up to be merciful. Amen.”

In this week leading up to Easter we remember that God’s mercy, displayed in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, is to human wickedness, brokenness and pain, as the sea is to a live coal. This doesn’t deny that the coal burns hot. The consequences of its heat are painful and widespread. Lord, show us what it means to be submerged in you, and to invite others to jump in too.