As I made my meals this week, I thought a lot about this text. I love to cook. I am, what you might call, a “foodie.” I love watching Food Network. I love paging through cookbooks like they are actual books. I love food magazines; especially when recipes are featured along with pictures. I’m on Pinterest–don’t worry if you don’t know what that is. It’s an internet site. Most of the things on my site have to do with food. In case you can’t tell by my svelte physique, I love food! I think I love cooking so much because there’s a freedom in experimenting. There’s a joy in putting in a little bit of this added with a dash of that and voila! you have an instant saliva factory running in your mouth because the dish is so amazing. The downfall of my cooking is that when I experiment, I often don’t write down the recipes–my bits, pinches, and dashes, so I will fail to recreate this dish of amazing whatever. I think I also like cooking because it’s a form of hospitality and I love making people feel welcomed and loved.
Any good cook will tell you that in order for your dish to be fantastic, you must taste and season as you go. So mix, mix, mix, taste. Add this or that. Taste again. Mix, stir, blend, taste. And on and on until perfection is reached. Ah! So as I was cooking this week, I added my pepper (fresh ground) and salt (kosher) and thought about this text. You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth. I wondered and thought a lot this week about how my life would be different without light or salt.
I am grateful for texts like these that challenge the way I think about Jesus. I love texts like these that challenge the way I think about the world. I love texts like these that challenge the way I think about myself. In seminary, we used to call it “wrestling with the text” and I did that a lot this past week. I am going to invite you into this wrestling match this week, friends. I want this text to challenge you just as it challenged me. I want you to leave here today feeling frustrated and rejuvenated all at the same time.
I want to start by telling you some good news. Let’s take a look at verses 13 and 14 again. “You are the salt of the earth” and then in 14 “You are the light of the world.” You are already these things. Jesus doesn’t say here “you are like the salt of the earth” or “if you want to inherit the kingdom, you must be the light of the world.” He said “you are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world.” This is part of our baptismal identity. So, next time you’re getting your resume ready, make sure you put “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” as your identifying features.
But here’s where the wrestling starts. In verse 15, Jesus tells us “no one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” When we were baptized, we, or our parents, or our baptismal sponsors, were presented with a lit candle. And these words were said “let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Our light has already been lit. We don’t have to do anything–it’s already been done for us. But Jesus tells us, don’t hide that lit lamp under a bushel. Great! But what in the world does that mean?
What Jesus is asking us and telling us is that our light is already lit, but what is it that we do to make it dimmer? What are our “bushel baskets” in life? The light of Christ is in us–what do we do to dim this light? And yes, whether you know it or not, there are things that we do, words we say, actions we take, that dim the light of Christ in our lives. We will call these words and actions “bushel baskets.” Here’s where it’s going to get real–let’s name some of these baskets. The light of Christ is shining in me–but I speak negatively about God’s creation–that’s me. I’ve stood in front of the mirror too many times and said I hate the way this looks, or I wish this was smaller. Bushel basket.
I’ve tried to power through too many things by myself. I am hard headed (in case you didn’t know that) and too often like to think I can handle everything by myself and end up tired, sick, or worse. When I don’t take care of God’s creation–that’s me–well, there’s another bushel basket. There are times when I know I’m not living fully into who God created me to be. I often think “I wish I could do this” or “it would be nice if I could do _____ as good as that person or this person” and darn it, if I don’t keep trying to cover up that light of Christ. Because the thing is, God created me to be the best me possible. God didn’t create me to be the best Chris, or Ray, or Mili, or whomever I can be. God created me to be the best Jealaine I can be. What are your bushel baskets, brothers and sisters? What words do you say or what actions do you take that creates the bushel baskets in your lives?
Do you have unresolved anger that you’re holding onto? Bushel basket. Do you have an addiction that has a strong hold of you (and I don’t just mean drugs or alcohol, I mean mundane things too. Like that morning coffee, your weekly lotto ticket, that show you just can’t bear to miss, your favorite football or baseball team)? Bushel basket. I know what you’re thinking, “now Pastor, you’re getting a little too personal, perhaps you should mind your own business.” Alright, as long as I’m on a slippery slope, let’s look at the bushel baskets we have as a congregation.
Do we suffer from “WNDITWB?” You know, we’ve never done it that way before? That’s a bushel basket. I once heard the former Bishop of the ELCA, Mark Hanson, state that the biggest disease that we fight in the ELCA is nostalgia. Do we suffer from nostalgia? How often might we wish or might we even say “I wish church was the way it used to be. I wish all of the Sunday school rooms were used. I wish the pews were full. I wish we needed more than one service like we used to have.” Nostalgia is a bushel basket and I dare say, it’s a poisonous bushel basket. See nostalgia keeps us from moving forward in God’s mission. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we have bushel baskets all around us that stop Christ’s light from shining as brightly as it possibly could. I guess the question we need to ask ourselves is are we going to be people who dwell in the darkness, or are we going to be people who dance in the light? Are we going to be Good Friday people or are we going to be Easter Sunday, empty tomb people? I did promise a challenge this week, didn’t I?
Now this is the question: what can we do about these bushel baskets? What can we do so that the light of Christ shines brighter? Good news: by coming here every week (or so) you’ve already removed one bushel basket. See, God did not design us to be alone. We are created to be in community; so it’s good for us to be together. When we partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we are saying that we will not let those bushel baskets cover our light because God, through Christ on the cross, ultimately has all the power. We remember our baptismal identities: washed, loved, and forgiven. There is nothing, absolutely nothing we can do to ever erase those identities from us. Ever.
Look friends, there will be times in our lives when we put those bushel baskets over our light, but you know what–that light still shines. Christ never abandons us. Christ never gives up on us. We are salt. We are light. Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Don’t try to dim that which Christ has already lit. Let us pray for one another this week as we continue to wrestle with this, continue to recognize the bushel baskets in our lives, and pray that God help us remove them.