This week we have another feast day, or celebration day, in the life of the liturgical church – the Presentation of the Lord. It comes later this week; but I wanted to ground us in the ministry of Jesus and his teachings, as opposed to his presentation in the temple as an infant which is what the Presentation of the Lord day is. Consider, the words that the writer of the gospel of Matthew records came from the Jesus who was presented in the temple as an infant, and was nurtured in the faith of his parents and the Jewish people. Jesus is his teachings exemplified the best of the Jewish faith, but also reflected the wisdom that was the Lord God. It is important, then, to pay heed to what Jesus says.
“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 under foot.” (Matthew 5:13)
Jesus did not use theological rhetoric or philosophical illusions, but used common analogies and metaphors that were simple to understand – mostly. Salt is no good if it is no longer salty. If you have a purpose or are called to a task, do not set it aside or forget to attend to it. Hold tight to the call you have received and the good that is within you.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.” (Verse 14)
I am finding these truths to be so basic, and so woven into Christian understanding that it is hard to explain them any other way. We are believers in Christ have been called to a life that is noticed. And it will be noticed. Don’t try to hide that light that Christ and our Lord God has placed in you!
“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.” (Verses 15 – 16)
I like to think that these sort of principles were in Jewish life; that the Jews of Jesus’ time believed in the same things – letting the light of God shine through them and retaining the good that their God had called them to. But we know from what Jesus said about some of the Jewish officials and religious leaders that they did not “shine” according to Jesus’ estimation.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (Verses 17 – 18)
One may ask, does that apply to us too? Judaism has a lot of laws to it; laws that govern every day living and special occasions. But I think the law the Jesus was speaking of was the basic laws and understandings that God set down. Not the dietary laws, or the laws about clothing or even the laws about who can do what in the temple or synagogue. The laws that govern how we treat others, think about others, and relate to others – it is those laws that must and will be accomplished.
“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Verse 19)
Now, if the everyday commonplace laws were meant to insure the well-being and harmony of the community and humanity, then those laws – even the fiddly little laws – are important.
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Verse 20)
Does this mean that the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus called “vipers” are to be emulated? No. But their insistence on adhering to the laws, the laws that we would call the “laws of love”, those must be adhered to with all the diligence of any pompous Jewish temple officia1!
May you, beloved reader, take the laws that convey love, care, compassion, grace, mercy, and forgiveness into your heart and soul that you shine for the Lord! Selah!