A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Prayers of the People: Salt-y and Light-ed ~ 5th Sunday after the Epiphany ’23 Yr A

For Sunday, February 5, 2023, Readings: Isaiah 58:1-12, Ps 112:1-10, 1 Cor 2:1-16, Mt 5:13-20

    Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!...Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free...to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house...Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer... [Isaiah 58:1a, 6-7, 9a]

  Light shines in the darkness for the upright; the righteous are merciful and full of compassion... They have freely given to the poor...they will hold up their heads with honor. The wicked will see it and be angry, they will gnash their teeth and pine away; the desires of the wicked will perish. [Psalm 112:4, 9-10]

    I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God. [1 Corinthians 2:2-5]

  Jesus said, "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...You are the light of the world...No one lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on the lampstand and it gives light to all in the house. [Matthew 5:13a, 14-15]

          This week we pick up on the second installment of The Sermon on the Mount. Last week, the first part of the Sermon, in Matthew 5:1-12, was a recitation of the Beatitudes. It is always worth re-reading and re-examining what they mean to us individually. One way to approach them is as “Be Attitudes” as there are blessings for each stage along our faith journey. With an attitude of being Christ’s disciples, we aren’t seeking fame and fortune or success by some earthly measure, but rather we change our thinking, adjust our expectations of “life” for our brief sojourn on this earthly plain. The readings appointed for this Sunday are a good primer on ways to start to think again about how to live this human time as Jesus wants.
         Isaiah tells us that just showing up to do a few good acts and a bit of fasting without the right intention isn’t enough, especially if we’re still pointing fingers and judging others. God sees through our waving of hands and cries of “Look at Me” when self-interest is our prime motivator in helping another. Paul carries us along by saying that those who are not spiritually inclined don’t care about what is or isn’t of God and are more likely to get caught up in following the "wisdom" that is merely human. But, he says, that if we truly seek the wisdom and spirit of God, we will be given more ways to understand. 
         Jesus takes us further by giving us a few particulars on the  responsibilities of discipleship. He starts by telling us we are the “salt of the earth.” Salt in his time was a commodity of great importance far beyond a condiment, it was currency. Soldiers’ wages were paid in salt ~ salarium  in Latin, from where we get the word salary. Everyone used salt as we use money in our own time. If salt loses its taste, its value as currency drops; it becomes worthless, good only to throw on the street. A serious financial problem arises with tasteless salt ~ imagine your paycheck bouncing. 
       Today good salt enhances the flavors of our food, and the yeast in bread will not rise without it. An appropriate amount of salt is vital to our physical health in digestive and other body processes. In being so identified as the salt of the earth, we are called to realize our own worth and potential in God's sight and to let our good works reflect the Glory of God as a pathway to eternal life.
      Jesus also tells us we are the light of the world, a light on the lampstand of life, filling God’s House with spirit-filled light for everyone, unhidden as a city built on a hill, reflecting and refracting God's glory through us as a prism.
     These rich images, along with the blessings from the Beatitudes, are a guide for how we choose to live in discipleship. Jesus is clear that he has come to fulfill, not abolish, the Law of God ~ the Commandments ~ and that we are to follow even the least of these to the letter and to teach others to do the same. He doesn't think well of the scribes and Pharisees and while we are challenged to go much farther, the bar is set rather low with them as examples. 
      It is important to remember that Jesus gave us this summary of the Law: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself [Matthew 22:37-39b]. If you live into this you will have well fulfilled all the Commandments as God gave them to Moses. Love God; Love your neighbor as yourself. After all, if you truly love God and love your neighbor-as-yourself you won’t steal, kill, covet, commit, etc. The as yourself part is a very specific clarification that often goes unheard or dismissed. It is to love your neighbor as if your neighbor is yourself; you are your neighbor/your neighbor is you. Not so easy to dismiss one neighbor for another if it is dismissing yourself! Similarly with the Lord’s Prayer, forgive us our sins/trespasses AS [in the same exact way that] we forgive those who sin/trespass against us. There’s something to ponder in lieu of merely rattling off those familiar syllables unconsciously without consciously understanding what it is we are saying/praying.
     When we follow these instructions, we will receive the blessings outlined in the Beatitudes and our light shall rise in the darkness to shine God’s glory to others. Stay tuned, this week was a mere introduction to the rest of the Sermon. 
     Let us go forth salt-y and light-ed by, in, and with God's everlasting remembrance.

       In the meantime, let us look at another Summary of God’s wishes, this from John Wesley:


Leader:  ~ O God of Power and Wisdom, infuse our souls with the deep desire to move from the self-indulgence of limitless earthly distractions, to being the upright salt of the earth, preserving and enhancing the freshness of Christ’s call to a life of trust in You.                 

                                                      O Lord, our Guide
RESPONSE:               Keep our hearts right and unafraid

~ O God of Power and Wisdom, free us from fear and trembling to be Your beacon as a city on a hill, shining Your Light in the darkness. Let us lift our voices to implore all who lead governments on this Planet, in this Country, and in our Community to be Just, Merciful, Compassionate, and Honorable in their lives and work. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord, our Guide
                                                       Keep our hearts right and unafraid

~ O God of Power and Wisdom, comfort the spirits of all who are stricken with chronic illness, addiction, or desperation, and grant strength to those who give them care. We now join our hearts to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord, our Guide
                                                       Keep our hearts right and unafraid         

~ O God of Power and Wisdom, console those who grieve with new or freshly remembered loss. May they know that those we love, now live again where joy and peace abound forever with You. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord, our Guide
                                                       Keep our hearts right and unafraid

~ O God of Power and Wisdom, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials, aloud or silently… add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord, our Guide
                                                       Keep our hearts right and unafraid                   

~ O God of Power and Wisdom, grant delight in Your ways to those who lead Your Church and minister in the name of Christ. Gift them with the ability to teach us by word and example, and, shepherd our path to spiritual discernment. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O Lord, our Guide
                                                       Keep our hearts right and unafraid                                                                                                     

The Celebrant adds: God of Abundant Love, we ask You to satisfy our needs and strengthen us in parched places, that we may make each day of our lives acceptable in Your sight, by radiating Your glory to others through our good works. We ask through Jesus the Christ, our Lord of Glory; and the Holy Spirit, Fount of Divine Wisdom; who together with You are One God, forever and ever.  Amen.

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