1st Reading – Isaiah 58:7-10
This is from 2nd Isaiah, written after the Babylonian Exile. Jerusalem had been destroyed, so this is meant to be encouraging. Right before this section, Isaiah spoke of fasting and how it shouldn’t be done in a showy way. This is misdirected; use that energy to help the poor and those less fortunate. Spirituality that is other-centered shines like a beacon in the midst of the darkness (Birmingham, W&W, p. 380). Isn’t it true that when the chips are down, it helps to reach out to others who may be worse off than you? Are we a community that is like a beacon? How could we be better?
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 1-5
Don’t we sometimes think we are the ones that have it right, that there is only one way to solve a problem – and it’s yours? True human wisdom is pure gift from God (One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit!). Who could ever look for God’s wisdom and power within an instrument of capital punishment and torture? Yet that was exactly what Paul was demanding that followers of Christ do if they wished to know true, divine wisdom. Paul proclaimed the power of the cross (p. 381).
The Gospel – Matthew 5:13-16
When Jesus called his disciples the salt of the earth, it was the highest compliment. Salt was highly valued:
- It stood for purity (its whiteness).
- It was a common preservative. It kept things from going bad (preserves from corruption). Do you know someone who makes it easy for you to be good?
- It gives flavor. A Christian should be full of vigor and life! Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers, (Barclay on the Gospel of Matthew, Vol I, p. 119-121).
Jesus called himself a light to the world, so here he is complimenting the disciples again by referring to them as he would himself. We do not produce our own light but reflect the light of Christ. Lamps in those days were like a bowl filled with oil and the wick floating in it. It was hard to rekindle a lamp, so when it was not on the lampstand, it would be protected under a bushel basket, (p. 122-124). The light’s purpose is to shine. We are meant to shine too!