You are Salt and You are Light: The Rev. Canon Leonard Hamlin
Won’t you join me in a word of prayer? Father in heaven, we come once again, so grateful and thankful for your presence with us and your love towards us. And now it is once again our prayer that you would hold us, cover us, keep us, unite us, but most of all fill us, that we would be prepared for all the places you are sending us. This we ask in your wonderful name. Amen. You may be seated.
Certainly this morning, and being just a little bit transparent, hearing the song this morning that said, “May your troubles remind you that you need God” I certainly am thankful to be here this morning. Because all week long I was looking forward to Sunday morning because I kept being reminded how much I need God. It was Byron Pulsifer, an author, who stated, “Sunday is a day to look at what you thought was previously impossible and push it forward into the present where it becomes possible”. Sundays have always been, in my life and in my family’s life, truly a grand day. It has been a grand day, a prominent day, and of course a noteworthy day for what may be for some many of the obvious reasons. Being the first day of a brand new week, closing and leaving another week behind, Sunday was most of all in my household a family day, a Sabbath day. In the community in which I lived and I grew up, it was for many and still is today, a day when the pressures and burdens of life momentarily seem to loosen their grip. It was a day where we would all feel as if we were allowed to take deeper breaths than what we had done all week long.
It was a day of worship where the sounds, the songs, and the presence of the divine spirit lifted up heads and lifted up hearts that had been struggling to find balance all week long. It was a day filled with family, filled with friends, and a day even filled with home cooked meals. Not pick up or drive by, not Door Dash, but a day where the kitchen was perking and standing out, a day where the aromas filled many a home and comforted the soul. I could not but recall the memories on this Sunday as it is the first Sunday of the month and the first week of Black History month. That even in thinking about where I’ve traveled from, the road behind, the road in front. Sunday is a grand day. Sunday, perhaps most especially is a day when we are called to anchor our souls upon the rock of our faith. Sunday, after all is a day of reflecting and if I’m honest, Sunday is a day of remembering. We wouldn’t be here if we were not remembering. If we were not sitting in this moment and recalling so much of why we gather on Sunday for the Christian, especially Sunday, is a day of remembering.
Cuz I can recall listening as I, as I grew older, participating in the conversation that thought about so many things, but mostly on Sunday as we remembered a Christ who loved us, a Christ who died for us, a Christ who was raised for us. That we wrestled and listened to stories as they were told, heard the traditions that were shared, as well as the questions that were asked, that I wrestled with some of those questions that were practical relating to the routine of life, while other questions reached beyond the routine concerns and cried out to the divine. Perhaps in this moment, I remember an old hymn that would be sung from time to time and spiritual that would ask this great question, “Lord, how come me here?” The question is present even today, not just in the African-American experience, but I raise today that that kind of question is raised today because it is part of the American experience. “Lord, how come me here?” Since the founding and most of all, once again in these recent days, we find ourselves asking as a country the question, who are we really? Asking what is our role in the world in which we live? We recognize the divisions, the separations, the communities, the talk, the ups and downs, the crisis’s hear all of the injustices that we see rolling from day to day. And we’re asking the question not just as individuals but as a nation and community, “Who are we and what is our role in the world in which we live?” I could not help over the past several weeks listen to the words even lifted by some of our country’s founding documents. Some I have commented on in an online statement, but today I’m drawn to those other words that’s sought to answer the question, “Who are we and what is our role?”
Many of you are familiar with these words. They ring, they sing, they sound, we hear them from time to time not in its entirety, but hear the statement that says, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution for the United States of America.” These are words that if you’re listening carefully rise up from the ground that we walk on, the land in which we call our own, but they’re also words in here that seemingly rain down from up above, recognizing the reality beyond us. Think for a moment about those words. Words like, form, establish, provide, promote. But we also hear words like, blessings, liberty, ordain establish. Hearing these words today have often caused many to conclude that we have a constitutional crisis.
While I want to declare that we do have a constitutional crisis, who we are and what is our role, I am called today to face these questions by listening to the gospel. There are moments when we are not clear who we are and what is our role. As believers, we do have a constitutional crisis in our makeup because we forget who we are and what is our role. I can only imagine by hearing the gospel that Jesus is observing and speaking to the crowd that had gathered. and realized that they had forgotten and maybe some of them were unaware, who they were and what is their role. They had been gathered listening to the sermon that had been preached, all that was being lifted up just a few verses earlier. And Jesus took this moment to realize that some things needed to be made clear about who you are in this world.
The constitutional crisis that we are suffering from is not just on paper, but what is in our hearts and what is in our community. Jesus speaks to those who have gathered and tells them that they, and us who are here today, are not defined by our circumstances. We are not limited by our demographics. We’re not limited by the lines that we draw, the streets that we claim, the land that we try to possess. Let me say even more that we are not confined and defined because of race and ethnicities. We are more than that. We are children of the most high God. And to put it plainly, he says, “you are salt and you are light”. As salt, we are called to carrying out many responsibilities, flavoring, preserving, sacrificing, destroying, and even fertilizing. As light we’re called to let our light shine before others so that they may see our good works and give glory to our father in heaven.
I’ve gotta wonder with all of the things that have broken us apart, do we really remember who we are and what is our role? African American history and this month will be told, it will be shared and the experience is American history. This experience has provided for the continued fuel, fire and faith and even debate about the pursuit of liberty. Liberty not just simply for some but liberty for all. In this moment, when we are once again facing the issues of injustice and inequality, we hear Jesus calling to those who would hear his words, to possess a righteousness that would exceed the religious leaders of his day. An author by the name of E. Clinton Gardner, in his Biblical Faith and Social Ethics, points out the widespread tendency to restrict the concern of Christian ethics to personal relationships and thereby dispense with the demand for justice as a part of Christian ethics is always present. He also states and gives three fundamental relationships of love to justice. “The first, is love is the fulfillment of justice. Second, justice is a necessary instrument of love. And the third, love for Christians is the ultimate norm of justice.”
He says, “Love is the end and justice is the means by which the end is attained.” It’s also reminded preacher in Brooklyn, New York, William Augustus Jones, in his notice publication, God in the Ghetto, goes on to write, “When the Christian ethic is limited to personal relationships, social structures are permitted by default to go unmonitored and unaltered and remain unredeemed. The vertical dimension of Christian faith is emphasized to the neglect of horizontal responsibility.” Well, today, this constitutional crisis, the question of who we are and what we are called to do, is addressed in our scripture. We are ambassadors of the kingdom. We are children of the Most High God. We are more than just skin, flesh, blood bones. We are more than how we would check boxes on a page. We are God’s children. We are those who have been made a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honor. We are salt. We are light. And on this day we ought to have vision from this moment that we live out every day of our lives.
So I leave you by reminding you and introducing some to something written by Langston Hughes who said, “I dream a world where man no other man will scorn, Where love will bless the earth and peace its path adorn. I dream a world where all will know sweet freedom’s way. Where greed no longer saps the soul nor avarice blight our day. A world I dream where black or white, whatever race you be, will share the bounties of the earth and every man is free. Where wretchedness will hang its head and joy, like a pearl, attends the needs of all mankind of such I dream my world!” Amen.