Tuesday, January 31, 2017
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
To be what we are
For nearly 20 years I was privileged to write for and edit a magazine that covered the church and its work around the world. My proudest and most fulfilling memories of those days involved reporting from places of acute human struggle and suffering.
I told stories of people our readers had no other way of knowing or caring about. And how they cared! Their generosity moved me again and again. I say with no sense of pride that there are people who lived, who received food and shelter from war, terror and starvation, because my colleagues and I told their stories and captured their struggles in photos that shook people from apathy into action.
The faces I met in those days have been appearing more often in my mind’s eye, as I fear our nation … and our churches … could become much less empathetic, generous and welcoming.
I see them: refugee mothers nursing children on cold mountainsides in Macedonia, war-orphaned children in make-shift orphanages in Africa, parents bearing everything they can carry on their backs fleeing those bent on killing and maiming them in the name of some deplorable political, racial or religious ideology.
And I see shallow graves where people hastily buried their beloved along the road … then hurried on to avoid the same fate.
The faces speak to me as did the photos I once took for magazine pages.
I also hear Jesus words: Be what you are. Be the soul I have made you to be. You are salt and light, so shine and season this world with the light of the love I have lit within you.
In this time when it is easy to let anxiety or anger rule our hearts, we can turn from the world, immersing ourselves in private concerns and personal comforts. Or we can be who we are. Salt and light.
Theologian Walter Brueggemann has often prodded the church to an alternative way marked by practices such as hospitality to those unlike us, generosity to those in need and forgiveness to break cycles of resentment and vengeance. Our world, our nation and our communities have seldom needed them more.
The choice is always ours. Today, the faces of the suffering, the hungry and the refugee … like Jesus … are calling us to be ourselves … and to know the joy of Christ’s love pouring through us.
Pr. David L. Miller