8 Dumb Things

This week’s sermon Scripture: Matthew 5: 13-16

Salt and Light

13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

   14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Erich Auerbach’s seminal works were intended to scan the lexicon of literature and present various methods that have been used to represent reality.  His initial example comes from classical literature and the story of Ulysses.  His argument is that Ulysses is the prototypical tragic tale.  Homer’s intent, Auerbach insists, shows Ulysses tragically but bravely sailing off at the end of his life in search of one last element of a ‘bucket list.’ This is nobility at its most virtuous.  To die being true to oneself.

Auerbach further points out that just as Greek stories present tragedy as the highest form, Jewish thought presents an alternative view.  That comedy is the highest, most virtuous form.  Comedy is not about some nobleman rising to the occasion but that life begs to show some ordinary bloke coming from rags to riches. Abraham has the audacity to believe that he has been called out by God, tapped on the shoulder to leave the comfort of Haran and make his way to prosperity in the deserts of Judea.

Dante is yet another character who fits this second mold. Drummed out of Florence on trumped up charges, Dante the character is banished forever from family, friends and his beloved city.  But it is in this tragic moment that he takes his improbable journey (is it metaphorical or did he actually go to hell, purgatory and heaven?) from destruction to redemption.

Dante’s improbable redemption tale is made possible by Abraham’s radical covenant with God. This covenant   is teased out even further by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek.”  Why? Because “they shall see God.”  It is an outlandish, incredible, DUMB way to think unless it’s true.

These next eight messages are pointing the way thru the Sermon on the Mount to the behavior that is provoked by such outlandish, dumb possibilities.  It is crazy to think that we can be the salt of the earth or the city on the hill.  But the good news is that we are just exactly that.

Grace in Creation

This week’s Scripture passage: Galatians 6: 11-18

11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to[b] the Israel of God.
17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

It happened today for only the second time.  A couple can’t use me to do their wedding ceremony because they couldn’t complete a dissolution of divorce before marrying each other.  The woman had been separated from her first husband for more than ten years but they hadn’t divorced. By law, I’m prevented from executing the new marriage ceremony.

This whole law and relationship business is a wild one these days.  Gay rights advocates are fighting tooth and nail over the right to marry.  Seniors are finding it necessary to live together rather than marry because their benefits from deceased spouses are keeping them financially solvent.  Many stand to lose hundreds of dollars each month if they re-marry.

Young couples are living with their partners without the benefit of marriage even though the statistics show an overwhelming projection that this choice will harm their chances of staying married or together for that matter. And now, it seems, there is a growing trend among Christians to forego the civil process of obtaining a marriage license and choosing instead to go through a ‘sacred union’ ceremony.  This union is intended to show that their vows are before God rather than a civil authority which they believe should not regulate family and relational issues.

Paul’s summary verses wrap up his epistle to the Galatians by reminding those of us who walk by faith that the life lived under the law is a lifestyle based upon governing consumption and utility.  Laws govern our boundaries and therefore, what we may use and not abuse. On the other hand, Grace and Love guide freedom and creation. Laws put limits, Love and Grace promote possibilities.  There is no shortage of constraint in Love and Grace but that constraint is intended to bring fruitfulness to bear.

Serving each other in love is the greatest freedom we can experience and that is a big “get” in a world desperately seeking the key to peace and harmony.