5th Sunday Year A
February 9, 2014
NOT ON HUMAN WISDOM, BUT ON THE POWER OF GOD
Today is some kind of a repeat of Candlemas. All three readings speak of light, as against gloom; wisdom from above as distinct from earthly human power; and about shining brightly for the world to see. It is about having the courage to be seen and recognized as such, by a world that, even up until our times, has been “walking in darkness.” But the Gospel passage adds another metaphor for discipleship – that of being salt for the earth.
The readings, therefore, talk about being visible, and being flavorful; being seen and being tasty; being real and being effective.
You’ve seen the likes so often in life … fixtures that add beauty and form, but serve no real usable purpose; museum pieces that are good to look at, but which offer no real practical use to no one; artifacts that give a clue to something in the past, but which does not make life any better for anybody here and now. Ok, let us push it a little more … leaders who are mere figureheads; honorables who do nothing more than sign papers to manifest their attendance at a meeting or hearing, but who are only good for ribbon cutting ceremonies; legislators who do not work at legislation but at distributing public funds to ghost NGOs … honorary degree holders whose only claim to any degree is the largesse their donated money meant to the university conferring such degree.
And let me add some more … teachers who don’t teach but eke out a living selling items to students; preachers (like me) who waste people’s time telling people what they want to hear; priests (like me again) who show people anything and anyone but the real God in their lives.
I talk of not being true to what one is; of not being the light that one should be. I talk of people who prefer darkness rather than light; of those who claim to be disciples but who are neither visible nor palpable; believers who claim to believe, but never really belong.
Does this not sound familiar to you at all? Honorables whose deeds are very simply the opposite of what they love people to call them? Leaders who are really being led by the noose by oligarchs and interested parties who have the moolah to make things work according to their self-centered plans and agenda? Religious leaders who worry more about earthly things than they do about Godly and heavenly matters?
Does this not sound very real to you? That we all are in the same boat together, and that “there, but for the grace of God, go you and I?”
Light and salt. These two metaphors are what the Lord commands us to be. Light … We must show the world who and what we are, and show them with clarity and pride. But it is never enough. Isaiah gives concrete signs of what this all means: “Share your bread to the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.”
Light … This means not just being bloated with titles and taken up by the desired image, but accepting one’s finitude and even sinfulness: “”I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling.”
Salt … It means being more than just a fixture in the lives of others, but being truly and fully what we are all called to become: [I came] “with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
It is hard to see people making too many pretenses. It is hard to be a fake, and claiming to be one thing and then doing another. It is simply impossible for our country to go on being led by leaders who are really being led by unseen oligarchs and ideologues. It is hard for me as a priest and preacher to go on exhorting others to holiness and heroism, and then being the last to work on either or both.
Today, I come to you in weakness and trembling, too, like Paul. I confess my weakness and sinfulness to you my brothers and sisters. But I also come to you in faith, knowing that our mission is not something that comes from an elective position based on popularity, but on a vocation that comes from above.
And if may be allowed just one more time, let me repeat what the Lord tells us today … We are called to be light and salt; to be visible and palpable; to be real and authentic; to show and tell; teach and do; plead and lead, by example, “not on the power of human wisdom, but on the power of God.”