by Charles LaFond
In my experience of life over this past half century, I have found that there are two kinds of people on this planet. There are givers and there are takers. In my life in the church, I have found that there are also two types of people. There is an audience and there is an army. The audience attaches their Sunday morning church attendance to their week’s schedule the way a diva hangs her ear rings, taking a second glance to be sure they go with her gown. The army gathers around Jesus and begins to act up. And as we know, most of the early Christians were tortured or burned alive long before there were pipe organs and stained glass to cage our song.
We need to decide if we are the audience or the army.
In the Gospel this past week Jesus says “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. … let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
In the breathtakingly beautiful poem Arrivals, by David Whyte, we see two immigrant Ethiopian women frightened of an escalator in Dulles Airport. It is new. It is moving. It goes up into a new land of glass and chrome. Log-jammed behind these women are rich travellers trying to get through customs but these women are stopping the river of arrivals up the escalator to the immigration examination hall. One of the women finally steps on the moving steel and pulls back, afraid leaving her sandal to rise up without her into this new land. And they sing. And they dance. And they go up and up. And up.
There are times in our lives when a part of us has already left for the next thing and so we are pulled forward to follow it – to rejoin a part of ourselves that has already left while we did not yet notice. What has left us in these weeks since late January? Our hearts? Have our hearts gone ahead of us. Our hearts are with God, who holds them, says the Sufi Christians like a brightly-colored marble between God’s two fingers. Light passes through our hearts like light through a glass marble – shining light from earth to God – shining light from God to earth. Sometimes God turns our hearts to himself and our soul sighs. Sometimes God turns our hearts to the world and our soul cries out for justice, mercy, kindness.
Salt is not an element useful to itself. Its value comes in its application on other things: flavoring, cleansing, preserving from decay. Jesus warns that salt may become useless – the word Jesus uses the very specific word in Hebrew “Moraine” which means “shallow, foolish, silly, stupid, reckless” and is how we develop the word “moron.” In the same way salt opens us to flavors, light opens us to sight. What do you see these days? When you read headlines what do you see? When you listen to CPR or NPR what do you see? When you read tweets, what do you see?
We church-goers need to decide if we are attendees or if we are disciples – and if we are disciples then we are called to live out our identity as salt and light.
Salt and light happen. They have real ramifications. They are things not just ideas like some obscure formula. We must have faith and belief, but we must also move out of our cerebral ivory towers and actually do something. We must pair faith with action. Not statements- action. Not lobbying others to act but OUR action. Not grants but action. Not letters to the Mayor but action – dirty hands. Broken nails, scarred flesh. A bruise or two.
Discipleship is to be the salt and the light—salt that just will occasionally sting and light that may expose what we do not want to see. The great cathedral church from which I write, with its gorgeous, gentle, kind congregation, sits on a hill in this great city of Denver. But the walls and glass shards of our nave can easily be a bushel over our light.
As with David’s poem, the sandal of our soul is ascending to God. Do not be afraid. Jump on. Ride up. Ascend with your arms straight out, wide eyed and singing into holy fury – and do something!