February 3, 2020

Being Salt and Light – 10 am – Revd Sally Bedborough

Being Salt and Light

How many came of you came in through the pink door this morning? i.e. the north door?How many came in through the south door?

If you were in the first group, coming in through the north door, you may not have been aware of all that is going on in the churchyard lately.

A very large cypress tree has been cut down, leaving a rather shapely tree stump, all the beautiful rings of its growth have been revealed. All the diseased parts of the tree have been chopped down and are awaiting shredding- that will happen next month.

There is a large oak – one of two just outside our west window, it’s ailing but the tree surgeons have spread an enriching mulch all around the area that surrounds it in the hope that its roots will be nourished.

Bulbs are appearing; in particular, the yellow crocus (why is it that the yellow ones come out before the purple and the white ones??) there are also miniature daffodils in an attractive grouping by the approach to the south door. There are snowdrops dotted about and the buds on the camellias look like they are about to burst open at any minute.

All this though, may have been missed by those who came in through the pink, north door.

And it may be that in the same way, some of us are not aware of other things that are going on in this church. Not just the activity in the churchyard, but the other signs of change – admittedly, some of these changes cause concern: our financial deficit for instance or the state of the fabric of the church. But there are also signs of growth and of hope in our various groups. And it is the latter that I want to flag up today. I bring you good news!!

Did you know, for instance, that there are a number of children and their parents who attend BW at the Parish Centre down the road, once a month on the last Sunday of the month? That gathering is a real tonic. The families arrive at any time after 9am, they help themselves to a simple breakfast and then at 9.30 the ‘service’ begins with a couple of interactive songs – there’s a bit of jumping around, stretching, bending and so on. Then there is a bible reading and some helpful teaching about the reading. To reinforce the message, there’s a bit of craft and the children usually bring their creations forward to be shared and admired. We share the peace and it all finishes with a blessing. It’s really a good time.

Some of those families return and attend the All Age service that happens usually on the following Sunday. An exception will be in March when we’ll take advantage of it being Mothering Sunday on 22nd March so we’ll gather all ages that Sunday instead of the first Sunday in March.

All this is really encouraging. Some of us may not have been aware of all that was going on.

Not only that, there are many other things going on as well. We have new children attending our services. You may have noticed three of these in particular because they are here in front in the choir: Ruby, Riley and Kyla, who have joined the choir and who today are going to be given their white surplices as a sign that they are in full membership in the choir. That’s really good isn’t it?

The third thing that’s been going on with our young people is that some of them want to go further with their spiritual life. Some want to be baptised, others who are already baptised want to be admitted to Holy Communion, and in time we will have another group of those wanting to be confirmed. It’s all very positive, encouraging and exciting.

Lately I’ve had conversations with parents who are bringing their babies and children for baptism. They admire the beauty of this building; they comment on the warmth of the welcome they receive here. I ask them why they want to bring their babies and children for baptism in this day and age when people are not necessarily attending church to express their spirituality or their faith. The answer is often something like: we want to have our babies baptised because we were baptised and it’s a good thing. We want to give them good values; that’s very important.

It seems that there is within many people – perhaps within all people – that desire to be salt and light in the world, and to pass that on to the people for whom they are responsible.

In all of this I truly believe our children are leading the way. Perhaps we might say children are naturally more ‘salty’ and more ‘light’. It may be that saltiness and the capacity for light gets worn down, rubbed off or dissipates as we age. And this is why Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount speaks about how important it is to keep salty; and how important it is to keep our light on show. Perhaps that is why elsewhere in the gospels Jesus advises us all to become like little children. What would be the point of having light as we do, naturally, if we are not using our light for its purpose of dispelling darkness? What would be the point of having light if we shelter it to such an extent that it’s of no use to guide others to safety, to welcome and to include them? What would be the point of salt if it loses its capacity to preserve, to add taste, to keep us from slipping and falling?

However, our saltiness can become ineffective or contaminated. Our light can become dull and obscured. What might we do to counteract such a sad loss to the quality of salt and light that we are naturally intended to be? Lets take a lesson from the churchyard…..

First: Contamination. Anything that mars or obscures the light within us needs to be removed. Sin is not a popular word these days but there is within us all a tendency to mess up even to mar that light of our original nature. Lets us reflect on the cypress whose diseased parts had to be cut away. This is what penitence, saying sorry, and resolving to turn from darkness to light is all about.

Second: Weariness and lack of effectiveness. Ponder that oak that is so majestic and yet so spindle-ey; it is being enriched as we sit here. The oak has a mulch and bark dressing all around the area of its roots; it’s being nourished. We too need to expose ourselves to that which will enrich us: prayer, song, liturgy, bible reading, church fellowship and so on.

And those emerging flowers of spring may remind us of the capacity within us all to rise above and beyond the hard earth of our sorrowful situations, or the sodden earth of our pain.

Above all, may we notice the forgotten and less obvious corners of what is going on within this church and all that is being done in the name of its ministry. Let us be led by those who want to go forward in light and saltiness. May their decisions encourage us and inspire us to bend towards their light and towards God’s light and to brush up our own light. To God be the glory. Amen.