Sunday Notes

Matthew 5: 1-2, 13-16

The Sermon on the Mount

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:|

Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Talk 23rd January 2022
We continue with our series on looking at the Kingdom of God, through the lens of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. 2 weeks ago Charlie spoke about the Beatitudes, the Attitudes+Values that Jesus says we need to have, and Charlie concentrated on the first 4 , Poor in Spirit, those who Mourn, Meekness, and those who Hunger for Righteousness.
week Pete spoke about the next 4, being Merciful, Pure in Heart, Peace making and being willing to be persecuted for your Righteousness, for being a Christian.
This week we look at how we should live out these Be-attitudes, these values, in our lives, so that we are Blessed, and so that we can be a blessing to others.

Reading, from Matthew Chapter 5 (v1-2 and 13-16), with his account of the Sermon on the Mount, as we move on a little bit from last week, to listen to Jesus, explaining to his disciples what life is like in the Kingdom of God, and what is expected of us. After the Beatitudes, comes a long series of teaching by Jesus on how we should live our lives, salt + light, keeping the commandments, oaths, love of enemies, giving to the needy, prayer + fasting, not to worry, judging others and so on, of which only the first 2, Salt + Light that we will look at today.

Now there is some debate amongst theologians, as to whether Jesus said all of this in one go when He was on the Mountainside, or whether for the sake of convenience, and focus, Matthew has brought together several of Jesus’s talks to his disciples, given at different times and in different places, But I don’t think this really matters. As this is important teaching, you would expect Jesus to make the same point on several occasions, and in different places, as necessary. The important thing is that this is what Jesus told his early Disciples, and that is good enough for me.

So returning to the Sermon on the Mount, here we have Jesus, getting away from the crowds that have gathered around him by the shore of Galilee, and he has gone up onto the mountainside, so he can speak quietly with his Disciples. 2 weeks ago Charlie spoke about Disciples being like Apprentices, under training. In our morning devotions Selwyn Hughes talks of Disciples being those under the Discipline of God, and I also like to think of disciples as being Followers of Christ, similar to being a walker on the road, which I find helps enrich our understanding of discipleship and what being a disciple means.

Now we read in Matthew that Jesus sat down on the hillside, his disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them, and thankfully Matthew remembered what Jesus said and wrote it down, so that we can hear Jesus speaking to us today.  A few years ago, we were fortunate enough, to be able to visit the hillside, where it is believed Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount. The sea of Galilee was probably a bit higher then, and there is now a Church and a Christian Bible college on the hilltop surrounded by trees and lovely cool gardens. Whether it is the exact location, no one really knows, but it seems to be the most likely spot, and has been recognised as such for over 1700 years. To my mind It is very much like being in Mules Park where we met during Lockdown in the shade of the big Oak Tree, with the sea glistening below. So I want you to imagine that here we all are, as his disciples of today, sat under the trees at the feet of Jesus. We have seen Jesus perform various miracles, healed the sick, spoke with un-natural authority before the elders in the Synagogue, possibly seen him raise 1 or 2 people from the dead, and we have seen the crowds that have gathered around him. It is obvious to them all that Jesus is someone very special, but not everyone understands that he is the Son of God. Jesus has explained the attitudes, the values we need to have in the Kingdom of God, and he now begins to teach his Disciples about how we should live our lives, and the need to put these attitudes into action.

Now the First Point I would like to make, is that Jesus is speaking directly to us. It is us who are His disciples of today. In V13 He says   “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. In those days salt was very important, for both flavouring, and for preserving food, especially before they had fridges and freezers, it was the only way to keep food from going off, in the hot summer months, and during the humid winter season. Salt was usually stored in sacks in the Market Place, but if it got damp, it would easily use its saltiness, and become useless. It was then tipped out onto the street, along with all the other rubbish, to be trodden underfoot. So Jesus is telling us that it is important that we, as his disciples of today, maintain our saltiness, our effectiveness, our Christianity, especially as we are his hands and feet here on earth, So as to both establish God’s Kingdom here on earth, right here where we are, and to expand the Kingdom across the whole Earth. Because, once we are no longer salty, no longer effective then we risk being tipped out, cast aside and trampled under foot. I like to think of how salt is used, it can be mixed in during the cooking process to infuse everything in the pot, or sprinkled on the top of food on your plate to enhance its flavour. The way we live our lives, at home, at work, at play, we are like the salt mixed in during cooking, infusing all those around us for good or ill by our lifestyle; The way we live our lives makes a difference. And from time to time we will also be like the salt sprinkled on to a situation that arises, perhaps pouring oil on troubled water, or protecting the innocent, helping the vulnerable, taking a stand for justice to say I am not sure what the answer is, but this is not right. Perhaps I can encourage you, that whenever you put your hand on the salt, to stir into your cooking, or you sprinkle salt on the top of food on your plate, you just pause for a few moments to ask yourself am I being an effective and salty Disciple, or have I lost my saltiness. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasises the need to maintain our saltiness, and fortunately elsewhere in the Gospels and in the Letters of the Apostles, we are shown how, we can maintain or if necessary, regain our saltiness. We know that by His death on the cross we have been redeemed, we have been restored, and by God’s Grace, by prayer and by faith, and by reading his Word, we can both regain and maintain our saltiness. 

Next v14-16  Jesus says ‘ 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 men +women+children, that they may see your good deeds and  glorify your Father in heaven. So what is Jesus saying to us this morning: first he says ‘You are the light of the world’. Elsewhere in John 8v12 Jesus speaks to the crowd including some of his disciples, saying I am the light of the world but here in his Sermon on the Mount, in v14 Jesus first makes the point that You/We are the light of the world. That it is us who are now called on to be the light of the world. And just as ‘A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.’ You can see it from miles away, it glistens in the sun, the buildings stand out on the skyline, it is obvious that there is a town there. So it should be with us, it should be apparent that we are Christians, we are in this world, but not OF this world. And then in V15   Jesus says people do not 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. On another occasion in Mark Ch4 V21 Jesus is down by the Sea of Galilee, the crowd is so great that he goes out a little way in a boat to speak to the crowd stood on the shore, just as if we are on the Back Beach down by the Ship Inn, and Jesus is in a boat just a little way out on one of the moorings. His words carrying across the water,   Jesus said to them, v21 “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or under a bed? No you don’t, you put it on its stand?  22  For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. My Bible Study notes for this passage suggest that Jesus is saying that just as a lamp is placed up high so as to let its light shine out, to illuminate the darkness, so He, Jesus, is destined to be put on a stand, to be revealed to the world, to give light to the world, to illuminate the dark places. 

Taking these 2 teachings together, Jesus is now saying to us, as his Disciples, that We should be bringing light into the world, our lives should bring light into the world. We must guard against shedding darkness, and we should ‘let our little light shine’, to illuminate the darkness; someone once said to me, that all the darkness of the world, no matter how oppressive it may seem, can not extinguish the light of even the smallest candle or T light. We can be encouraged by this, we should be a force for good, and we should stand up and be visible as his disciples, that other people may not only be blessed by our lives, but that they may see Christ in us and so we and all mankind will bring Glory to God our Father. Now this is all easier said than done, and as Pete explained last week, we shouldn’t expect to do it ‘in our own strength’, but by God’s Grace and in His strength, we can do it. Starting in our own homes, then amongst our family, in our Church family, the wider Church family of Teignmouth, then amongst those we work with, those we meet in the workplace, in the supermarket, in the Drs surgery, in the book shop, or tea shop, the groups we participate in, the Football Club, the U3A, Book Reading group, Exercise group, Mothers+Toddlers, walking group, whatever it may be. They all present opportunities, every day, to show by our lives, our actions and our words, what we stand for as Christian people, and when the opportunity arises, as surely it will, explain what we believe and why we believe it to be true. We need to be willing to play our part for the care of the poor + lonely, the care of refugees, the vulnerable, the drug addicts, and the oppressed.  This does not mean that we have to do it all ourselves, especially as we get older, but we can care for, and support those that do. And finally, and what sometimes might be more difficult, we can speak up for truth and justice, to speak out against injustice, the dangers of gambling, and the continually advertising of gambling on the TV, we can speak out against matters we consider to be wrong. Writing to our MP is always a good start, and it can make a difference, supporting Amnesty International, writing to people in prison for their faith. Or perhaps even writing to the BBC about the continuing increase in the use of bad language on our television, long before 10pm, that seems to normalise such speech and poor behaviour, which cannot be good for our children or our Society as a whole, let alone what has been going on in Downing St over the last 2 years. We can pray for our Queen and the leaders of our nation, and all those in authority, as they need all the help they can get. So lets bring this talk to a close by reminding ourselves of what is required to establish the Kingdom of God, right here in Teignmouth, and then expand the Kingdom to cover the whole Country and the whole Earth. First, we are to have the right Attitude of Mind as described by Jesus in the Beatitudes, it might be worth writing these out, or printing them off and putting them on your fridge along with the children’s paintings so that you can more easily see them, and then we are to put these attitudes into action in our lives. Thinking today especially of being God’s Salt of the earth, and letting our Christian Light shine before men+women. Every time we put salt in the cooking or on our food, we can ask ourselves, am I being Salty today, and every time we turn on the light, we can ask ourselves is my light shining today, or have I left it under the bed. And finally we should be asking God for the grace and strength and wisdom to put these Be-attitudes into action in our lives.

In Jesus name I pray. Amen.