First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


Sermon & Weekly Bulletin- February 9, 2020

02-09-20 Bulletin PDF

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Road Salt and Reflectors
  2. This was a week for reading the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other
    1. How do you hear today’s scriptures?
    2. Some hear a lot of condemnation and judgement
      1. People’s crime against God in Isaiah
      2. Paul talks about hidden wisdom for the mature – which excludes the present day rulers (which in a democracy, would include ourselves)
  • Jesus, saying we have to be better than the pharisees and legal experts
  1. Others hear an affirmation of salvation, righteousness,
    1. Paul brings us God’s word in his weakness and fear, that had demonstrations of the spirit and power
    2. Isaiah calls for justice, which will let our light shine forth
  • Jesus, fresh out of the beatitudes, reminds us that we are essential, like salt, and light, to be shared with others
  1. As Paul said in today’s reading from 1 Corinthians Who knows a person’s depths except their own spirit that lives in them?”
  1. Echoes of the scriptures in today’s news
    1. Ending of the witness-less Impeachment trial
      1. Rolling retribution against employees that raised concerns
    2. President at the national Prayer breakfast
      1. Nationalistic, not-prayer breakfast
      2. Or perhaps, showing what he truly has faith in – power and vengeance.
    3. Beatitudes Happy are people who are hopeless, who grieve, who are humble, who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, who show mercy”
    4. “You could read chapter 5 and pick up a newspaper from this week and do a pretty easy inventory on the failures that surround us. But, that isn’t my main concern today. Because the failures are ours, too.”
    5. our enemies, not mock them, nor seek revenge against them
  2. Jesus, using every day, relatable examples
    1. “You are the salt of the earth.
      1. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet.
    2. 14 You are the light of the world.
      1. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden.
      2. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket.
  • Instead, they put it on top of a lamp stand, and it shines on all who are in the house.
  1. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.
  1. We need to be salt, and light. Visible, tangible,
    1. Not forget the beatitudes, and God’s orientation towards the poor
    2. Madeleine L’Engle quote on evangelism “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
      1. That’s where too many of us, individually and as churches are falling short
    3. Jesus commands us to love – Be zesty! Be a beacon! to others
      1. Add flavor to life, especially when a tiny pinch goes a long way
      2. Not for one’s own glory, but for others
  • Salt has lost its flavor – ground underfoot
    1. We need salt on the ground too!
  1. Power is judged by how it affects the powerless and the dis-empowered
  2. These examples work just as well in our context as they did in Jesus’ context
  1. Road salt and reflectors – even more timely
    1. You are the road salt of the world
      1. Communal, not just individual concern
    2. Keep people from tripping, falling
    3. Shared circumstance – the cold
      1. While we might not share hunger, sadness, of financial hardship
      2. We all deal with the cold – requires extra attention
  • Winter warming shelters
  1. Shoveling sidewalks
  2. Putting down ice, more than just when the big snows hit
    1. Because things melt and refreeze\
  3. Whose light is it?
    1. Mirror on the altar “There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
      1. Not interested in a theoretical, theological debate whether we have our own light or it’s all reflected from God,
      2. Practically, Jesus called us to be “the light of the world.”
    2. Be roadside reflectors
      1. Keep people on the path
      2. Needed more when it’s dark and storming
  • Isn’t your light but a reflection of their light
  1. Also, road salt and reflectors are a bit more self regulating
    1. What if there’s Too much salt?
    2. Kills things
      1. Grass
      2. Causes heart disease
    3. Overpowers everything else (in food)
      1. Too preachy, too pushy
    4. Gets clumpy
      1. Not effective
      2. A tendency to be worked against – just as churches can become insular
    5. Again, we are called to show a light so lovely people want to seek the source, not overpower them
      1. Seasoning everyday life and events
    6. Parable of the Choir
      1. We all, individually, lose our saltiness sometimes.
      2. The way that a choir can sustain notes and songs for so long is that it provides space for individuals to pause and catch their breath, while the rest of the choir continues the melody
  • What do you do with clumpy rock salt?
    1. Break it up again. Sift it
      1. Not pleasant, but necessary
    2. Be salty again
    3. Be a beacon
  • Looking ahead to lent, and 2020
    1. This is the purpose of fasting and sacrifice
      1. Stay salty, break up clumps, reorient the focus from ourselves to God
    2. Start thinking about Lent
    3. Start preparing for the year – it’s going to be a hard one.
      1. Centering one’s self and one’s neighbors
        1. Vicious attacks,
          1. Verbally – identity based
          2. Physically – already an uptick in hate crimes
          3. Attacks on democratic structures
        2. Caring for those who oppose us
  • Our President is one of the most wounded people I’ve seen
    1. And attracts wounded people to him
    2. His Cruelty is the point
  1. Not about them – about us. Being the light on the hill in a time of darkness
    1. Being flavorful when everything is leaving a bad taste in our mouth
    2. Watching out for one another in treacherous times – and remembering that God includes EVERYONE, so should we.

Readings

Isaiah 58:1-12 Common English Bible (CEB)

58 Shout loudly; don’t hold back;
    raise your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their crime,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
    desiring knowledge of my ways
    like a nation that acted righteously,
    that didn’t abandon their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments,
    wanting to be close to God.
“Why do we fast and you don’t see;
    why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
    and oppress all your workers.
You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast;
    you hit each other violently with your fists.
You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today
    if you want to make your voice heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I choose,
    a day of self-affliction,
    of bending one’s head like a reed
    and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
    Is this what you call a fast,
        a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
    releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
    setting free the mistreated,
    and breaking every yoke?
Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
    and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
    covering the naked when you see them,
    and not hiding from your own family?

Then your light will break out like the dawn,
    and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
    and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
    the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
10     if you open your heart to the hungry,
    and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
    your light will shine in the darkness,
    and your gloom will be like the noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually
    and provide for you, even in parched places.
    He will rescue your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water that won’t run dry.
12 They will rebuild ancient ruins on your account;
    the foundations of generations past you will restore.
You will be called Mender of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Livable Streets.

 

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 Common English Bible (CEB)

2 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I didn’t come preaching God’s secrets to you like I was an expert in speech or wisdom. I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified. I stood in front of you with weakness, fear, and a lot of shaking. My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I did this so that your faith might not depend on the wisdom of people but on the power of God.

What we say is wisdom to people who are mature. It isn’t a wisdom that comes from the present day or from today’s leaders who are being reduced to nothing. We talk about God’s wisdom, which has been hidden as a secret. God determined this wisdom in advance, before time began, for our glory. It is a wisdom that none of the present-day rulers have understood, because if they did understand it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory! But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being. 10 God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, including the depths of God. 11 Who knows a person’s depths except their own spirit that lives in them? In the same way, no one has known the depths of God except God’s Spirit. 12 We haven’t received the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit so that we can know the things given to us by God.

Matthew 5:13-20 Common English Bible (CEB)

Salt and light

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet.

14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.

17 “Don’t even begin to think that I have come to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I haven’t come to do away with them but to fulfill them. 18 I say to you very seriously that as long as heaven and earth exist, neither the smallest letter nor even the smallest stroke of a pen will be erased from the Law until everything there becomes a reality. 19 Therefore, whoever ignores one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called the lowest in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever keeps these commands and teaches people to keep them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 I say to you that unless your righteousness is greater than the righteousness of the legal experts and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.