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.