Righteousness – ‘Being right with God’ occupies the thoughts and actions of many people today just as it occupied the thoughts and actions of many people when Jesus walked the earth. To be more righteous than the Pharisees would have seemed incredible to those listening to Jesus as they were supposed to know everything about God – yet in reality, they knew little as they were missing the essential truth. Being right with God has got nothing to do with what we know, what we do or what religious activities we engage in – it’s all about Jesus; knowing Him and trusting in Him is what matters. Jesus said that he was the only way to us being ‘right’ with God.
When we do place our trust in Him and discover all the life and promise and hope that there is in Him, our lives change forever. Our relationship with God changes and when He enters our lives our relationships with others and ourselves changes as well. We have a new identity.
In the church calendar, the past week has remembered the ritual presentation of Jesus in the temple – ‘Candlemas’. Here, Simeon held the baby Jesus in his arms and declared him to be a light to the world. In our reading from Matthew, we hear a great truth from Jesus himself about our identity in him. We are called ‘Salt’ and ‘Light’.
One of the essential features of salt is its ability to enhance flavour. On your Fish and Chips or in a bowl of soup it can turn the ordinary into something else much more interesting. It is also a purifier. Salt can be used to clean things such as wounds as it prevents bacteria from multiplying. It can be used to clean metals and fabrics and today it’s often used in the final stages of purifying aviation fuel. It can also be used as a preservative as the salt absorbs moisture in the food making the environment too dry for harmful bacteria or mould to grow. Ancient Egypt used large quantities of salt in the mummification process.
Salt has been and remains, a very important commodity; indeed, we cannot live without it as it exists in every cell of our body and is essential in transmitting signals to the brain.
Jesus says we are the ‘salt of the earth’. However, possessing the qualities of salt and being used as salt are very different things just as a car is a car but if it remains motionless it’s not being a car. As followers of Jesus we are to be enhancers, purifiers and preservers of all that is good and if we are not engaged in doing this then we are failing our identity in him.
Jesus takes the analogy further when he states that we ‘are the light of the world’ and what use is a light if it’s hidden underneath a bowl or a bucket?
As followers of Jesus we are holders of a truth and this truth was not given to us that we might then keep it to ourselves. In Jesus, we gain a new identity and this new identity is intended to shine out for all the world to see, that we might help them experience the joy and the freedom there is in knowing him and in being ‘right’ with God.
If you’re reading this and you’re not sure of your identity or place with God and you’d like that to change … why not get in touch with me for a chat and come and join us at one of our services in the Benefice.
Rev Dave Clark
Vicar of the Benefice of Upper Wensleydale