Let us pray: Dear Savior, in the midst of a cruel, cold winter we’re eternally grateful that we have You in our corner and in our hearts. With You there is hope. With You there is the certainty of a better tomorrow. With You we can bear up under all adversity and come out the other side a winner—warmed continually by the sunshine of Your grace. Continue to keep those thoughts uppermost in our minds as we bear up under all our burdens. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SUNSHINE OF GOD’S GRACE!
TEXT: Matthew 5: 13-17
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
I’ve dubbed this winter as: Hibernias Horribilis in Latin. That is, the horrible winter! This past week was the worst, so far…. All I did was snowblow, shovel, take a quick nap, and do it all over again. My formal Church work got sandwiched in wherever and whenever between trips for ice melt and more ice melt. Horrible. Finally, after snowshoeing around the church twice to pull the white gluck off the roof, and having my wife ban me from climbing the parsonage roof to do likewise, I hired some roofers to shovel off the parsonage roof along with the oil shed. Then I hired another fellow to do a little more work around the property. My 56 year old body says: No mas! No more! I’ll bet yours does, too.
Some smart minded wag might well say of this winter: “Too bad I don’t own stock in shovels, salt, and sunshine.” Well, in a sense you and I do own stockpiles of two out of the three—those being salt and light. Christ says that very thing in our lesson today. And as we analyze this text I want to remind each of you that:
CHRIST HAS EMPOWERED YOU TO MELT ICY HEARTS!
20 years ago I used to tell Midwest pastors that I do “foreign mission work” here in New England. That is, New England seemed to have a preponderance of hard, icy, flinty hearts when it came to God’s Word. But, that has changed a bit. Now, we all do foreign mission work wherever we happened to be stationed in America. First you have the pseudo-intellectuals who basically think God is passé. They have no time for Godly truth or commandments since the “smart people” of our nation believe in moral relativism. Next, you have the folks that are so busy running the race of life that they never give God more than a passing thought. Maybe someday when their sick they’ll take the time, maybe. But, ingrained habits are hard to break. For most, the pursuit of money, keeping the kids from getting too out of hand at home—hence the chauffeur parents, and the mass opiate of sports has taken center stage. God has become an afterthought, at best. Couple that with the media which portray Christians as old-fashioned hicks and Christianity isn’t viewed as important at all. America would view you and I as anachronisms. As out-of-touch, archaic fools. Yes, mission work, or melting icy hearts is as tough as getting rid of the ice dams surrounding the church today.
And yet, nothing has changed in the 2000 years since Christ uttered the words of our lesson. Addressing believers He states: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
Before refrigeration or modern chemical preservatives, salt was all people had to preserve food from spoiling. Some of our Norwegian ancestors used salted cod to get them through the winter. All used salted meats. Salt even helped keep vegetables from rotting by killing off certain bacteria. So, as salted believers we help preserve the moral fiber of our nation. Salt also provides and enhances flavor in most foods. That’s us! We enlarge and enhance people’s joy of life. We provide answers to those age-old dilemmas: why am I here? Why was I born? What happens when I die? Can I really get through tough times with hope that does not disappoint? Yes we can! Because our hope and help is in God Almighty! Our hope and help is in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, Who came to give up His life to save ours! Our certainty of hope is proven by His resurrection from the dead. You and I can give up our saltiness. If we give up on Christ and let the ice back into our hearts, we become cold and embittered by life. Then Hibernias horribilis becomes a lifestyle from which not even death provides and escape. Don’t let that happen to you! Just as people have been escaping the winter to warmer climes, so let your soul escape into the warmth of knowing Christ will never test you beyond what you can bear and will give you strength and help in every adversity. He promises that to you and proved it with His life, death, and resurrection.
Right now we all want light. The sunshine of Friday and today lifted your spirits a bit, didn’t it? Well, you and I have Christ’s eternal light in our hearts through faith and we can help others escape the clutches of endless, eternal winter, too. We can point them to Christ’s light by letting it emanate from our lives. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Christians stand out in the world. The Christian influence upon us of loving our neighbor as ourselves, that influence comes out especially during tough times. When you help others, when you do those small acts of kindness, when you don’t “pass by on the other side” people notice. They wonder: Why? Tell them why! As Jesus says: “Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers, you do unto Me!” That’s sharing the light. That’s getting them to think: “Maybe the world is wrong about Christianity? Maybe they really do have something I’m missing? Maybe I should pay more attention to all that talk about God and Jesus?” And once they begin to think such thoughts, you can tell them exactly how much God cares about them—the passion, the cross, and the triumph over the grave.
Christ has empowered You to melt icy hearts. Sometimes it takes a while, kind of like those huge snowdrifts will take a while. But just as the Spring sunshine will come and work its magic, so Christ’s love works its power too. Green grass and flowering trees are coming. That’s because God’s love is always with us and we help preserve the world. Moreover, He preserves it and sets limits on all nature and all evil for our sakes. And that’s the reason we will continually praise God from whom all blessings flow! Amen