Updated: Jan 28
This past Sunday, according to the Episcopal Church’s lectionary and seasonal schedule, was the fifth Sunday after the Epiphany. Some excerpts of the verses read aloud were:
“For day after day they seek me out; they [the house of Jacob] seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.” (Isaiah 58:2) “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58 9b-10)
“The wicked will see and be [angry], they will gnash their teeth and [pine] away; the [desires] of the wicked will [perish].” (Psalm 112:10)
“For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:11-16)
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, 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 in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)
Now I know the pewples sit and maybe feel a breeze going over their heads when such verses are read aloud (the Psalm was said aloud by them, so it is harder to know what one is saying when one is having to focus on reading and speaking aloud at the same time), but it is worthwhile to realize that these verses are screaming at all Christians (present and money-giving or absent and giving the church’s money to the golf course or fishing lake nearby), “God is talking about YOU!!!”
Let me give a quick rundown of what is stated in these verses, which is more than a silver thread of linkage. The continuity that connects these four readings together is more like a steel cable that is difficult to avoid grasping.
First, Isaiah was saying the children of Judah (the Southern Kingdom) that had lost their land, temple, and freedom, toiling in Babylon, were hanging around Isaiah as if he had the inside skinny from God about when they would get everything back that they had lost. After all, they were the most special children of God, descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (a.k.a. Israel). They could not get it through their thick skulls that they were sinners and sinners who think they are saints, simply because they were born to some elite class of human beings (descendants of Jacob), they were actually worse than sinners who did not know anything about Yahweh.
The “yoke of oppression” was the ones they were placing on those of like blood. They were making the less fortunate among them do their work and thinking that was okay. They were staying out of trouble by pointing an accusing finger at someone (anyone other than themselves) who the Babylonians could punish for work not done or done wrong. They were planting seeds of wickedness in each other’s ears, as if getting someone else to sin made their sins acceptable before God Almighty.
The hungry? Forget about it! The “hungry” in Scripture is always about being fed spiritual food, not lox and bagels. In that regard, Isaiah was the only one offering a divine buffet, but there were few takers.
What Isaiah saw as the reason those Jerusalemites were in captivity was always known to be the end result for sinners. The Psalm of David pointed out what happens to the wicked. They will get very angry, gnash their teeth and pass away empty-handed and without eternal bliss. David told those following him to be shining lights of God’s Love for the world to see, not whining brats that hate not being pampered.
Guess what? Paul goes and writes a letter to the Christians of Corinth, telling them the best kept secret that few Christians today realize. He said, basically, “The answers that come for how to live one’s life, so God will be pleased and bless one with eternal life, are not as simple as waking up in the morning and saying, ‘I sure am glad I believe in Jesus because my life is filled with lots of material things: Food; Shelter; Wealth; Cars; and Toys (blah, blah, blah)’.” Instead, the answers come from receiving God’s Holy Spirit, which brings a wisdom that is totally unlike the smarts sold at universities and seminaries.
When Paul wrote, “Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned,” he said the same thing, basically, as did Isaiah, when the bellyachers in Babylon were looking to him for some magic touch of guidance and a friendly seal (in a kiss?) of approval for their wicked ways. In short, you cannot tell someone how to be righteous, because righteousness will always seem to be “foolishness” to those who are so filled with self-love they cannot see the light of God from the forest of sins that surround themselves.
Then, lo and behold! Jesus was recorded on the mount saying, “You are the salt of the earth.” How many Christians reading this understand what that means?
<Cue the Jeopardy theme song.>
None of you know this answer, even if stated as a question.
You might have a guess, like the one I saw online that explained (I paraphrase): “What is the salt of the earth is a reference to those who are the premiere leaders of the world?”
That is very wrong.
That answer says the brain is leading oneself to figure out a thing or two (discern), without the Holy Spirit making the meaning shine brightly (“gifts bestowed on us by God”). However, just like a child can easily be tricked into making a wild guess of imagination, their purity from being children makes their wild guesses humorous and as the producers of laughter, children are worthy of being taught the truth. For a candle’s wick needs to be lit, to experience the flame.
Salt is a preservative. Without the luxury of refrigeration in a dry and hot environment of ancient Judea and Galilee, all the fish that were caught needed to be preserved so they would not spoil. While salt is a necessity for most higher life forms on earth (blood consists of sodium), and while adding a sprinkle does add taste to bland foods that humans eat, too much salt is certainly not “tasty.” The value of salt is then slight as a flavoring agent, but great as a preservative that draws water out and cures meats.
Since Jesus promised to make his disciples fishers of men, rather than being fishers of fish, Jesus was not a man that needed quantities of salt to preserve his catch from the Sea of Galilee. His disciples were being trained to be the preservatives of mankind’s faith in the One God. All the descendants of Israel, who had lost their land due to the wickedness of their forefathers, were still expected to be like the disciples of Jesus and preserve the meaning of righteousness for all mankind.
Salt does not preserve salt, just as Jews do not preserve Jew. The Mosaic Law made the Israelites become this “salt of the earth,” just as eons of rain runoff from the land increased the mineral content of the oceans, making it salty bodies of water. The Jews were then the salt of the earth that spread out around Jesus as he spoke wisdom on the mount, because they wanted to be fed the minerals of meaning that Jesus possessed. As Jews, they were chosen by God ONLY for the purpose of becoming righteous folk, who would then become the necessary compound for curing wickedness – drawing out all the watery emotions that lead human brains to seek sinful ways.
But, therein lays the caveat. All that “salt” had become as useless as dirt; and, you don’t use dirt to cure meats.
This is why Jesus then transitioned to the element of light, as a flame set high upon a lampstand. The Jews, as the salt of the earth, were supposed to be the bearers of God’s illumination that would light the way for others to be led. Since that light comes from God and always has come from God in the same way as photons illuminate darkness always in the same way, then there is no way a human mouth can mimic this divine light. The light of God is written into the Mosaic Laws and the truth of those laws becomes the flame that ignites one’s candle wick; but to be a burning lamp in darkness (the salt of the earth awaiting fish that hide in the darkness of a deep sea), one has to be able to have “righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees [the Big Brains].”
If you cannot receive the Holy Spirit, “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus said that, which is the same thing as David saying, “the desires of the wicked will perish.” Jesus said the same thing as Isaiah, who said: “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Paul repeated the same thing as Jesus, saying, “Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
The steel cable that connects all these readings together is the common thought that says the wicked are those who think they are privileged, but do nothing that helps others become likewise privileged. The reason these readings have been sorted to be read together on the fifth Sunday after the Epiphany is there have been people who were the salt of the earth, led by the Holy Spirit to see the truth, so priests could speak like did Jesus on the mount.
Throughout all times, since God picked His children to be led away from the world of sin and learn how to be the salt of the earth that would preserve humanity from becoming spoiled when in the light of day too long, the people who profess a special religious belief still cannot get it right. For that to happen, a priest has to be like Jesus reborn, so he or she can discern spiritually the words of Mosaic Law (including the New Law books, which add nothing to the Old Law), so that others can see the light of truth and be moved to preserve that light for others.
Alas, we continue to read these verses out loud because ignorance is commonplace and pewples are idiots that are easily misled by false shepherds. Perhaps it is sinners love a sinner to tell them that sinning is okay?
This is quite evident in the ways that Protestant sects of Christianity have developed serious in-fighting over political issues. Churches have split in two, with one half going right (conservative) and the other half going left (liberal). There has always only been one path, which is straight and narrow and the same path Jesus walked. However, the ways of righteousness, like in the Biblical times past and like today, have been misconstrued as crooked and continuously in need of being rewritten, so the Law never seems to fit the needs of the present. The gross failure of humanity has always been to seek the end reward in the present, desiring to never face a struggle to meet the demands that God set in the Law (a Covenant agreed to).
Isaiah saw this as the disgusting ways that he was sought out for his insights, by the elite Jews in captivity, “as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God.” David had written a song that sang, “Their descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed,” but then he added that would only be for as long as they represented how “Light shines in the darkness for the upright; the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.” Otherwise, the Israelites would be no better than the Gentiles who fought them, to gain their land back.
Today, the Law has degenerated to a level of acceptance of sinful ways, as if Jesus was the progenitor of American presidents and congressional dignitaries, with the political factions being descended from Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and Temple priests, all of who say their have the new letters of the Law that must be added to ensure eternal Salvation.
“I have not come to abolish [the Law or the prophets] but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
For any priest, minister, pastor, preacher, or any man or woman of the cloth to say, “If Jesus were here today, knowing all the changes in mankind that have made this generation different from that of olden days, then he would pass this law or enact this legislation” … well … do not follow those false shepherds to eternal damnation, because Jesus would say today what we read aloud today in Christian churches on Sundays.
With that said, the sermon that I heard last Sunday had little to do with this most important message that Jesus, Paul, Isaiah and David sent for our modern times (as prophets of the Lord). Sadly, I heard a personal opinion that masqueraded as a sermon. Either the priest was afraid to preach a message of truth, thinking (there’s that brain action going again) the pewples would reject his shepherding and seek a new priest, or he was completely lost as to the meaning these readings contain. If the former, then shame on him. If the later, then he speaks as a child who knows nothing of the Holy Spirit. However, his gray hair leads me to believe it is more a matter of the former than the later; but then I felt the need to preach a sermon that is truth here, so one person (at least) was able to discern via the Holy Spirit and act as a shining light that leads others.