On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Someone has to see to it that the dung burns

This is some writing we did not publish three years ago but, since we had it . . . 

For especially in these last times it is no less needful to admonish men to Christian discipline [to the way of living aright and godly] and good works, and remind them how necessary it is that they exercise themselves in good works as a declaration of their faith and gratitude to God, than that the works be not mingled in the article of justification; because men may be damned by an Epicurean delusion concerning faith, as well as by papistic and Pharisaic confidence in their own works and merits. - Chemnitz 

We can talk about salt if you like. There is a possibility that Jesus is making a reference to earth ovens that were fueled by dung mixed with salt and had a floor made of a salt slab. The salt seems to have been there because it was found that dung by itself does not burn well but dung in the presence of salt does. So, might one then paraphrase: You are the salt of the earth. If the salt no longer makes the excrement burn it gets tossed into the mud in the street to give surer footing during the rainy season where it will melt into the dust of the dry sea on and blow away. 
It is just so much more pleasant to talk about salt making food taste better. Light is good in a dark existence and who would not want to be a light like that for others? And, yes, being cities on the hill giving light of their presence is such a worthy image and goal. Yes, security at night knowing they are there to take refuge in. Yes, those are images that appeal. We all want to be hope and refuge for the weary. 
But, alas, Jesus words are of two natures: One noble and one ignoble. The Christian work of accomplishing their lives purpose, to increase the Glory given to God, is, maybe, of more than character as well. Sometimes, it is our privilege to be light and refuge. We, as churches, have paid attention to that for centuries. We are the safe places. Everyone is welcome here, we even have Marty Haugen write songs about that and we make videos about how our work of welcoming and charity are going. As long as we are still remembering that Glory is due only to God - remember even Jesus thought no one is “good” other than God alone - there is maybe no harm done there. 
But, somehow the excrement has to burn, otherwise there will be no fire in the earth ovens. It is hard to write songs or make videos about that. It is hard to go on lecture circuits or write a church ministry program based on being the inert ingredient in the excrement of the world that makes it into passable fuel and therefore good for something instead of being good for absolutely nothing. 
Somehow, this Christian life is serving a purpose. That purpose is defined and written by  the God of Abraham and Moses. The law will not pass away, says Jesus. The purpose of Christian life has been tied to the purpose which was originally served by the people Israel. Someone has to witness to the nature and presence of God in the world. Someone, by their submission to a God unseen to the uncaring eye must give account of their life to this world saying: This is God and this is what God is doing right now and what God will do. 
The Sermon on the Mount is seen often as Jesus doing what Moses once did. Jesus here brings from the Mountain a “law,” a way to live as his own in this world. Yet, most of what he teaches is humble. The sermon builds no new temples, decrees no new ephods for high priests, establishes no new order of prophets, commissions no new curtains for inner sanctums of great sanctuaries. Instead it reaches deeply into the common, that ordinary, the ignoble parts of life and stakes out a mounds for its new temples there. Blessed are indeed the meek and pure at heart. 

It is not good for us to forget that the fun part of being church, the comforting and happy pats, are only part of the work. Much more of it will literally consume her but it will consume her to the Glory of God. Will she be willing?

No comments: