Sunday’s Sermon: A Salty Sort of Faith

  • I’m guessing a lot of you may not be familiar with the wild and wonderful world of children’s literature, but there’s a fairly new character on the scene. Trust me … you want to know who this new guy is.
    • Description
      • Cute
      • Funny
      • Just a little bit sassy
      • This character is a pigeon, but he’s not just any old pigeon. He’s THE Pigeon – a loveably annoying character created by Mo Willems in 2003.
        • Debut: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus![1] – simple story about a bus driver who leaves you (the reader) in charge of his bus for a little while with one very important instruction: Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus. –> Of course, what’s the one and only thing that the Pigeon wants more than anything in the world? To drive the bus!
          • Begs, pleads, cajoles, tries to bribe and even threaten you (reader) in all sorts of outrageously entertaining ways
        • Many other Pigeon books available now: The Pigeon Finds a Hotdog! (2004), Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late (2006), and most recently The Pigeon Needs a Bath! (2014)
    • Now, when you look at Mo Willems’ Pigeon books, at first glance you may wonder why they’re so popular and entertaining. The illustrations and the plotlines are pretty simplistic. They aren’t full of adventure or non-stop action. So why are so many children so enthralled by this simple Pigeon?
      • Easy answer: Pigeon has spunk – definition of “spunk” is “being spirited” –> Pigeon’s vibrant spirit is contagious
    • Now, even if you aren’t familiar with this crazy pigeon, there are plenty of other characters whose spunk has earned them a place in our hearts.
      • Little orphan Annie
      • Anne Shirley – Anne of Green Gables
      • Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings
      • These are all characters that bring life to their stories with their spunk – their heart, their wit, and their enthusiasm. They fulfill a need within their stories – a need for authenticity and uniqueness, for that spark that keeps you coming back for more. Imagine what their stories would be like without their infusion of spirit.
        • Dull
        • Uninspiring
        • Even tedious
    • And sometimes, I think our faith ends up feeling like this. It becomes dull and uninspiring, something we do because we’re supposed to – because we know we should, not something that enlivens every part of our lives. Sometimes, our faith needs an infusion of spunk because when our faith has life, we cannot help but be God’s light in this world.
  • Jesus is all about the spunk this morning! – Gospel: You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?[2] –> This is Godly spunk that Jesus is talking about! Think about it …
    • One main purpose of salt = flavor
      • Enlivens bland dishes
      • Tickles our taste buds in a way nothing else can
      • Introduces zest/essence that enhances food experience
    • By likening his followers to salt, Jesus …
      • Speaks to nature of their mission –> to bring that Godly spunk; that unique, dynamic element to faith
      • Emboldens them in that mission
        • Scholar: Jesus’ followers seek to live justly as an expression of their worship of God; they have been blessed and are passionate about being participants in God’s vision for the world.[3]
        • E.g. – listening to “The Splendid Table” driving between service –> The passion with which people describe food and the way it’s seasoned is astounding sometimes! And by calling us salt for the world, Jesus is challenging us to bring that same kind of passion and zeal to our faith.
  • Jesus’ next words: You are the light of the world … Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.[4] –> encouraging us to embrace that spunk
    • For some reason, we are often urged or even forced to deny that spark within us – that special bit of amazing that God has given to each and every one of us.
      • Story of seminary friend – took her 35 yrs. to get to answer God’s call and go to seminary
      • The dark patches in the world – the apathy, the weariness, the pessimism, and the unbelief – can sometimes threaten to swallow up our light. They can make us feel like that special flavor that we alone can bring to this mix of faith isn’t necessary or isn’t worth the effort … like the light we carry and the light we are isn’t going to make a difference. But that’s not what Jesus says to us. In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus points to us and says …
        • Unique flavor you bring to faith is essential
        • Special light you shine on this world is vital
        • Scholar: Jesus encourages his followers to bring light to a dark and broken world. The light is the light of the gospel, and it draws all people to its warmth and radiance. … In order for the light to be seen, we must be willing to go where the darkness exists, to engage and walk through it, so that, in time, the light can overcome it.[5]
  • David’s encounter = perfect example of this
    • Israelites’ situation – earlier in the chapter: The Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. … All the Israelites, when they saw the man, fled from him and were very much afraid.[6]
      • Goliath
        • Massive guy – estimates anywhere between 6’9” and 9’9”!
        • Aggressive guy – utters one-on-one challenge to the Israelite army –> “Send out your best warrior, and we’ll fight. If he wins, Israel wins. If I win, the Philistines win.” And understandably, this enormous warrior has the Israelite army pretty darn scared. Any confidence, any conviction, and any faith that they had in themselves and even in their God is gone.
          • Intimidated
          • Afraid
          • Basically lost hope
    • At this point, the Israelites need something to believe in, something to lift their spirits and restore their courage. They need a powerful light to shatter Goliath’s darkness. They need someone to bring that salt, that spunk, that essence back into their faith. Enter little David. Remember, at this point, David is still just barely a teenager – a kid who takes care of his father’s sheep. And yet he approaches this situation with Goliath with boldness and conviction. David comes with spunk!
      • Has plenty to fear – Goliath’s threats: The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.”[7]
      • And at this point, David is not only facing the ridicule of his enemy, he’s also facing a glaring lack of belief from the Israelites – his family, his friends, even his king.
        • His brothers have told him to go home
        • Other soldiers have told him him to go home
        • King Saul:  “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”[8]
        • All people urging David to ignore his light – to hide it under a bushel basket, using Jesus’ words … but David refuses. David unflinchingly claims his salty faith, his Godly spunk.
          • Claims it in the face of his enemy: But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied … for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”[9] –> Modern translation: Big whoop. David says to Goliath, “Sure, you’ve got a sword. You’ve got a spear. You’ve got a javelin. But I’ve got God. So there.” In the face of a giant, fierce, aggressive warrior. Salty, salty spunk.
          • Also claims Godly spunk by shining light on his friends’ doubt – response in the face of Saul’s reservations: Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.[10] –> Saul wasn’t trying to be malicious. He wasn’t trying to crush David’s spirit. Saul was trying to save a little boy from what looked like certain doom.
            • Evidenced in the way Saul tries to dress David up in his own (too big) armor for protection
      • But David’s Godly spunk – that special God-given light of his spirit – would not be dimmed.
        • Marched out to meet Goliath
        • Exchanged battlefield trash talk with the giant
        • Put his money where his mouth was – felled Goliath with the first stone
    • And through it all, David remembers the most important element – that the salt, the light, the spunk doesn’t really belong to him.
      • Text reveals his reason for taking on Goliath: So that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s.[11] –> It would be so easy for David to take all the glory at this point – to let the Israelites lift him up on their shoulders and sing his praise – but instead, David points to God. “God did this. This is God’s work, God’s doing, God’s strength … not mine.”
  • So how do we do what David did? How do we become that salt and that light? How do we claim that Godly spunk for ourselves and our family of faith? Well, let me ask you this: Where do you find joy? Where do you find purpose? When you think about your faith, what makes you excited? Where is that spark? Like the spunky characters in the stories we talked about, what keeps you coming back for more?
    • Is it prayer?
      • So many different kinds of prayer
        • Visual prayer
        • Audible prayer
        • Enacted/body prayer
    • Is it worship?
      • Also so many different kids
        • Visually stimulating
        • Aurally stimulating
        • Provides a full experience – sight, sounds, possible feels (think children’s sermon on a grand scale)
    • Is it God’s word?
      • Reading Scripture = part of it
      • Bigger part = interacting with it
        • Breaking it down, wrestling with it
        • Various ways to do that (writing in your Bible, circling/highlighting, “contemplative doodling,” etc.)
    • Is it community involvement?
      • Places that need your flavor
      • Places that need your light
    • Or is it something else … something about faith that makes you so excited, so enlivened, so lit up and spirited that you feel like you want to shout it from the rooftops and share it with everyone you know? Because that’s how God wants us to feel about our faith.
      • Supposed to add that flavor
      • Supposed to shine that light
      • So where is your Godly spunk this morning? Amen.

 

 


[1] Mo Willems. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. (New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children), 2003.

[2] Mt 5:13.

[3] Marcia Y. Riggs. “Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany = Matthew 5:13-20 – Theological Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 334.

[4] Mt 5:14a, 16.

[5] Charles James Cook. “Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany – Matthew 5:13-20 – Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 334.

[6] 1 Sam 17:3-4, 24.

[7] 1 Sam 17:43-44.

[8] 1 Sam 17:33.

[9] 1 Sam 17:45, 47b.

[10] 1 Sam 17:36.

[11] 1 Sam 17:46-47.

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