A Sermon for Series A 5th Sunday after the Epiphany 2017 “Extraordinarily Ordinary”

 

Old Testament Lesson Isaiah 58:3-9

Second Lesson  1 Corinthians 2:1-12

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 5:13-20 

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [Matthew 5:13-20]

When you’re a professional athlete, and you want to be noticed, you do whatever you can to stand out among your peers.  You don’t want to be seen as ordinary; and you definitely don’t want to be seen as extraordinarily ordinary.  That would be the death knell.  That would be the sign that the end is near.

And if you’re playing a team sport, with first string, second string, and so forth, you’ve got to have playing time to be seen.  So, we find out time and again that players do whatever it takes, even playing injured.  Like Russell Wilson, Thomas Rawls, or Richard Sherman of the Seahawks.  You’ve got to play, you’ve got to be seen, and you’ve got to stand out.

It’s like that in professional sports, and it’s like that in most occupations.  If you want to be noticed, you’ve got to be visible, you’ve got to perform, and you’ve got to stand out among your peers.  There’re a number of ways to do that, but, how you do that, says a whole lot about who you are; or should I say whose you are.

You can do that by climbing on the backs of others, stepping on the backs of others, leaving them behind to fend for themselves; or … you can be seen lifting up others, caring for others, showing them the love of Christ that’s yours to give.

Doing it that way, leading others by serving them, by being a servant leader, will almost always assure long term success.  But it takes the spotlight off of you and puts it on those you helped.  This way is not so visible; it doesn’t tend to make you stand out; and unless someone has great insight as they observe how things are being done, you might just be labeled extraordinarily ordinary.

Of course, in the case of Jesus, you don’t need great insight to see him in action.  We know Jesus was a servant leader; but he often stood out; and I think we’d be hard pressed to classify him as extraordinarily ordinary.  And look at the Gospel lesson today; do these words sound like a call to be extraordinarily ordinary?   “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.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  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.  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.  

Jesus was instructing the people to stand out, to live extraordinary lives, not extraordinarily ordinary lives.  Maybe over the years I’ve led you astray.  I mean, how many times have I told you to live out your life in Christian love ‘wherever God places you’; serving others, loving others, showing them the grace that was first shown you by your heavenly Father?  It almost sounds like a recipe for being extraordinarily ordinary.

Living your life where God plants you, being satisfied with the vocation he’s given you does sound pretty ordinary.  We Lutherans in particular don’t associate much fanfare with our lives.  We live quietly, humbly, maybe even meekly …in a good way…  We even joke about living boldly …but not too boldly.  We might even be inclined to say there’s nothing extraordinary about Lutheran vocations.

There’s never been a Lutheran in the White House.  It’s rare to find a Fortune 500 Company with a CEO who’s Lutheran.  The Supreme Court doesn’t include any Lutherans either.

We don’t tend to get involved in a front page, major sound byte, kind of way.  We’re in the background.  We’re the Chief of Staff behind the CEO.  We’re the head of the committee to re-elect … not the one running for office.  Our lives sound pretty ordinary, pretty tame, pretty calm; but Jesus calls us the salt of the earth; the light of the world!  What’s with that?

Salt preserves.  Salt’s been a preservative for food since the ancient times.  It’s used in curing meat; sealing it off from the bacteria that would rot the meat if it got the chance.  It’s used to season and flavor foods; doing more than merely preserving, but making the food come alive, making the food burst with flavor, making those who encounter it eager to get the recipe that makes it taste so good.

Like salt, faith preserves.  Faith has been the preservative of our eternal lives since the beginning of time.  Through faith our flesh is cured of the bacteria we call sin, the sin that threatens to destroy us, to rot us from the inside out.  Faith seasons and flavors our lives, doing more than merely preserving; making us come alive, as the Holy Spirit recreates us and we die to sin and become alive again; truly alive this time, alive through faith in Christ Jesus our Savior.

Faith, this gift of God, makes life in Christ burst with flavor, making those who encounter it eager to get hold of the recipe; making those who encounter it want to know how we do it!  And although it’s the Holy Spirit who does it; creating, renewing, making it all happen through God’s holy Word; we get the joy of being there and maybe even seeing it happen.  We get to see as our neighbor’s curiosity turns to revelation, to see as God transforms an ordinary unbelieving life into an extraordinary believing life.  There’s nothing ordinary about that.

And as common as the light seems to be, as it shows up so dependably each day as the sun rises in the east; light is not ordinary.  Light reveals.  Light casts out darkness.  When light comes; the evil, the danger, the temptations surrounding us are exposed.  They can’t hide in the light, and we see them for what they truly are.  Light points the way and leads us out of the darkness; the darkness we were living in, lost and without hope of being found.  And, the true light’s come into our lives, it’s revealed the path of righteousness to us, the pathway to our heavenly home.

Jesus says we are the light of the world; and a life lived to the glory of God does shine like light.  It casts out darkness.  It stands clear of the evil, the danger, and the temptations of the darkness.  It helps our neighbors avoid the same evils and dangers and temptations, as we care for them; feeding the hungry, comforting the lonely, lifting up the poor in spirit, and giving our neighbors a portion of the daily bread with which God so richly blesses us, so that it’s received by all those in our community.  There’s nothing ordinary about that.

And yet it’s in the midst of our ordinary vocations that these good works happen; helping our neighbors and giving glory to God.  That’s because our ordinary vocations are lived out in an extraordinary way.  Jesus calls us to live extraordinary lives; living lives of purity, faithfulness, piety, love and generosity.

We belong to Christ Jesus; the Savior of the world; the preserver of souls, the source of the true salt of the earth.  We belong to the One who is called the Light of the World, the One who brought light into the world, into the chaos of darkness and defeated it; and because we belong to him, because he gives himself to us, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world too.

We may be placed in vocations that the world sees as ordinary, but by the working of the Holy Spirit, there’s   nothing ordinary in our lives; not one of us!  All callings, even ordinary callings, are ordained by God, and all these callings are pleasing to him.  And so, don’t live your vocation in an ordinary way.

You’re a forgiven child of God.  You’re called by him to live your life in him! And that means we’re called to be extraordinary husbands and wives, remarkable neighbors and employees, powerful friends and citizens.  Our deeds and words, in the power of faith and the Spirit, are like salt; like light in the darkness.  Each of us has received Jesus’ calling to be salt and light.  So, stand out …it’s OK to be extraordinary, and remember; there’s nothing ordinary in anything our God does.  Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle