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Sunday Devotion: 9 February 2020, Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Sunday Devotions

Jesus challenges us to step up

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Written by clergy and lay people across our Diocesan community, ‘Sunday Devotions’ is a column of short reflections based on a Lectionary reading of the day, suitable for small group discussion or personal use.

Main Readings: Isaiah 58.1-9a (9b-12); Psalm 112; 1 Corinthians 2.1-13 (14-16); Matthew 5.13-20

Supplementary Readings: Psalm 119.129-136; Matthew 8.1-13; Isaiah 58.9b-14; Psalm 106. 42-50; Romans 2.28-3.11

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste…It is no longer good for anything…” (Matthew 5.13)

One of the roles of a parent is to set their children straight when they err. I discovered this when I was five. Overcome by temptation and shiny packaging, I took (yes, stole) a packet of chewing gum from a supermarket checkout. In a few short words, my mother sternly explained about stealing and its consequences, and marched me straight back to return the gum and apologise to the store manager.

In this passage, Jesus is setting his people straight. He needs the Israelites to stand up for the things of the kingdom, to live and teach his commandments and to be his righteous people at what is a defining moment in his ministry. And, he makes the consequences clear – unless they do, they are like salt that has lost its flavour, “no longer good for anything”.

Salt adds distinctive flavour and it preserves food from spoiling. Our purpose as Christians today is to be the salt that “keeps the world from going bad” [1]. We are to live as the Christians we say we are, to stand up and stand fast so that others “may see [our] good works and give glory to [our/their] Father in heaven.” This is Jesus’ challenge to us. And he warns us, as clearly as explaining the consequences of stealing to a five year old: if we are not living God’s way, then what are we here for?

Jesus role-models for us, in defining moments throughout his life, what it means to be the salt of the earth and the light that shows God’s purpose – never more clearly than on the cross. If we want to understand the life we are born to lead, we only have to look to his example.

[1]  N.T. Wright, Matthew For Everyone: Part One (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 40.

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