Our 100th Post! Reflection – 27 September 2020


Here’s my reflection for Sunday 27 September.

The online worship session will start at 11.00. I will be leading worship this week. It’s Café Church so there will be a quiz. And maybe some audience participation. You’ve still got to provide your own breakfast though I’m afraid.

If you want to join in just email me – newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com – for details. We’d love to see you.

Mark Taylor

Sunday 27 September 2020 – A Reflection

Our call to worship

God sends light to us this day

and invites us to meet one another in this light.

Light breaks forth like the dawn,

drawing us into relationship with one another.

Humble yourselves for the worship of God,

that you may be empowered to serve.

God calls us to trust with steady hearts

and to serve with righteous compassion.

Seek not for lofty words of wisdom,

but for powerful demonstrations of God’s way.

God makes us to be the salt of the earth

and lights to show God’s works to the world.

Let us pray

God of mystery and of judgment,

who has made us to be salt and light

in a tasteless, shadowed world, 

guide us in this time of worship.

Grant us understanding and spiritual discernment

so that others may see your good works through us, 

give you the glory,

and be moved to serve you. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Before we do anything else today can we think about Joan Anderson who died this week. Not everyone here knew Joan but for many of us she was a constant factor in worship at London Road for many years. At one point her and Stan had to move away from their home in Bingham to live in Tamworth. And even then they never missed a week – they were always there on Sunday morning. Latterly she was Church Secretary for a number of years, only formally giving up the role last month. She did so much for her church and for her Lord.

She will be sadly missed by all those who knew her. Let’s sit quietly and think about our memories of Joan, and pray for the family that she has left behind.

<SILENCE>

As it’s café service here’s the traditional quiz. Answers are at the end.

This month all the answers share one of two words.

1First words spoken by God in Genesis_ _ _ /_ _ _ _ _ /_ _ / _ _ _ _ _
2Capital of Utah_ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _
35.88 trillion miles_ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _
4View something with scepticism_ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ / _ / _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ / _ _ _ _
5Preferred weapon of a Jedi_ _ _ _ _  / _ _ _ _ _   
61990s Rap Duo_ _ _ _ / _  / _ _ _ _   
7Area of a city where you would find sexual services for sale_ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _  / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
8An Italian dish of veal wrapped with prosciutto and sage._ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
9Band who had a hit with Mr Blue Sky_ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
10GBH?_ _ _ _ _ _ _

We’re continuing our look at the Sermon on the Mount. Over the last 2 weeks Martin and I have looked at the Beatitudes, but now we’re moving on. Today I’m just going to look at 4 verses. Let’s have our first reading now.

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again. It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it.

“You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.

Let’s read it again – but from a different version – from The Message translation this time.

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

Here’s a song about letting your light shine out.

This Little Light of Mine by LZ7

We’ll have two more Bible readings here: the image of light is used widely in the Bible and here are two examples one from Isaiah in the Old Testament and one from the Gospel of John

Isaiah 60:1-3

Arise, Jerusalem, and shine like the sun;

The glory of the Lord is shining on you!

Other nations will be covered by darkness,

But on you the light of the Lord will shine;

The brightness of his presence will be with you.

Nations will be drawn to your light,

And kings to the dawning of your new day.

John 9:1-7

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?”

Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.”

After he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes and told him, “Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means “Sent.”) So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.

Talk

I think that you can consider today’s text, a few verses from Matthew 5, as 2 mini-parables.

Jesus is addressing his audience and saying what they are like, or perhaps what they should be like.

He says – you’re like salt; and – you’re like light for the world.

As happens many times Jesus is using symbolic language. The people he’s speaking to aren’t really like little piles of white crystals. They haven’t really got light beams shining out of their foreheads. Of course not. He saying – you’re like these things. And through the centuries his words are telling us the same today. We’re like salt, we’re like light.

What I want us to consider today is – in what ways are we like salt, like light? I want us to think about what salt and light are in fact like. What properties and characteristics have salt and light got that might be illustrative of what followers of Jesus should be like?

And in typical Mark fashion I want you to do all the work while I sit back and have another cuppa.

You’ve got two tasks. For the first few minutes just come up with all the things that salt and light are like. Use your imaginations. At this stage don’t think too much about the consequences of what you’re saying – let your imaginations run riot.

Then the second task is – looking at the list you’ve come up with which of them seem to you to be what Jesus might have meant when he said – You are like salt, You are like light. As always – there are no right or wrong answers. But I would expect there to be more than one answer for each.

Take some time to do the exercise before moving on

Now it’s time for me to go on for a bit.

Let’s start with salt.

Now when I have fish and chips (which is rare – I’m much more likely to go for a green salad) but on these rare occasions when I do I put the fish and chips (and always mushy peas) on my plate and then I sprinkle them quite liberally with salt. And I have to have vinegar too.

Deborah always tells me that I should taste the food first, and only add salt if I think it needs it. My counter argument is that I’ve been eating fish and chips for 60+ years now and I’ve never known them not improved by a bit of salt. So, most unusually for me – I ignore her.

So – in my experience – salt on food makes it taste better. It brings out the flavours.

The flavours are already there – the fish flavours, the fried potato flavours, the mushy pea flavours – they’re already there, but adding a little salt enhances them.

So -as we’ve identified I’m sure this is one of the things Jesus meant when he said we are like salt. We can enhance what’s already here – all the God-given things in the world can be made more noticeable and better with a judicious sprinkling of Christianity.

But something else occurs to me. What if the top of the salt pot comes off and the whole lot goes over your food? What happens then? Well your food is ruined isn’t it? All you can taste is salt. You’ll try to scrape it off but the chance are that the damage is done. Too much salt ruins things. What might that tell us?

Can I suggest two things?

The first one is that you don’t need a lot of salt. What is it – a gram of salt on a sprinkling on a meal that might weigh 500 grams – at least if the portions of chips on your plate are as big as the ones from the Appleton Gate Fish Bar. A thin sprinkling of Christianity can do the job quite well enough. There may not be that many of us any more – but there are enough to make that important difference.

Secondly and this is a bit more controversial perhaps – too much could be a bad thing. What might this mean? Well I think that if all you do is bang on about God and Jesus all the time to the exclusion of everything else perhaps the effect isn’t what you would want. We don’t want to be like the preachers in the high street who everyone ignores and moves away from.

The good things of life are many and varied. A good book, music, a glass of wine, a beautiful view of the countryside. You don’t have to read only Christian books, only listen to Christian music. You can only experience ‘life in all its abundance’ by having a much wider outlook. Having that God-flavour enhancer of being a follower of Jesus though will surely mean that everything in your life is better and making other people aware of that will enhance their experiences too.

Moving on to light.

I think there’s something interesting in the other readings we had, from Isaiah and John. Let’s look back at them.

Isaiah said ‘on you the light of the Lord will shine’

In John Jesus said ‘I am the light for this world.’

What struck me is that in both cases the writers of the Bible are equating light with God. It’s God that they are saying is the light of the world. In John’s case God in the form of Jesus of course.

But what Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the mount is ‘You are the light of the world.’ He actually says for the whole world – clearly no longer just the Jews.

So what’s changed – why is it now us that’s the light of the world rather than God/Jesus?

Well – nothing at all. All that Jesus is saying is that we are how people will come to know God. If we know God what we do and how we behave will be how others come to know God.

In what way are we like light then?

Here’s a few thoughts:

  • Light shows the way. A torch in the dark helps us not to trip up over obstacles that might otherwise harm us. If there’s even a little light then it’s not truly dark any more.
  • Light acts as a warning. A lighthouse on a rock says – watch out there’s danger here. Best avoid this.
  • Light casts shadows. A single light in a room won’t light up everything if there’s an obstacle in the way. But it will show up where the areas of darkness remain.
  • Lights can be extinguished. In Jesus’ day of course lights relied on something burning – a candle, a flaming torch. How easily a candle can blow out in a gust of wind. It needs to be nurtured if it is to continue to burn brightly. It might even be extinguished sometimes – and then someone else might have to re-light it.

I’ll leave it to you to think about how these examples might relate to our lives lived out in faith.

Time for Prayer

Closing prayer

If the human body, body of blood and muscle,

is to live, it needs salt.

If the body of Christ, body of peace and justice,

is to live, it needs us!

If the earthly creation, bustling and blooming,

is to flourish, it needs the sun’s light.

If the new creation we are in Christ is to flourish,

it needs the Spirit’s light!

Jesus says we are salt of the earth, light of the world.

Our faith, our love, our hope —

essential as salt and light.

But if salt isn’t salty?

It isn’t what it’s meant to be.

And if a light doesn’t shine?

It isn’t what it’s meant to be.

Jesus says we are salt of the earth, light of the world.

Briny and bright, we are God’s faithful people.

We shall be who we are meant to be in Christ:

a welcoming oasis, a compassionate community,

a justice-making people, giving glory to God!

Amen!

Our closing hymn today is by Graham Kendrick – The Candle Song

I think it’s supposed to be an Advent hymn but it fits with our theme for today. I hadn’t heard it before researching this service. I think it’s beautiful.

Like a candle flame
Flickering small in our darkness
Uncreated light
Shines through infant eyes

God is with us, alleluia
God is with us, alleluia
Come to save us, alleluia
Come to save us
Alleluia!

Stars and angels sing
Yet the earth sleeps in shadows
Can this tiny spark
Set a world on fire?

God is with us, alleluia
God is with us, alleluia
Come to save us, alleluia
Come to save us
Alleluia!

Yet his light shall shine
From our lives, Spirit blazing
As we touch the flame
Of his holy fire

God is with us, alleluia
God is with us, alleluia
Come to save us, alleluia
Come to save us
Alleluia!

Finally we will close by saying the grace:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

and the love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all

evermore.

Amen

If anyone has any questions or comments about the above, or would like to talk to me about it don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Mark Taylor

07954 172823

newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com

Quiz answers

1First words spoken by God in GenesisLet there be light
2Capital of UtahSalt Lake City
35.88 trillion milesLight Year
4View something with scepticismTake with a pinch of salt
5Preferred weapon of a JediLight sabre  
61990s Rap DuoSalt N’ Pepa  
7Area of a city where you would find sexual services for saleRed Light District
8An Italian dish of veal wrapped with prosciutto and sage.Saltimbocco
9Band who had a hit with Mr Blue SkyThe Electric Light Orchestra
10GBH?Assault (Sorry)

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