Monday, 28 February 2011

View from the Vicarage

March Newsletter

The first question we want to ask when we first meet someone is “Who are you?” Such a question sounds rather abrupt, so we usually ask something else. I suppose we’re not so much interested in their name as how they earn a living and where they live. So after asking their name, we come out with something like “What do you do?”

I’ve never been honest in my reply to this question. When I worked for Clarks, I didn’t admit to it because people then told me how uncomfortable their last pair of shoes was. I never said I was with John Lewis, or people sought my help with faulty washing machines or wanted to relate their last experience of customer service. Now, for the first time, I can admit to being what I am and see how people react.

Our desire to categorise folks in some way is all very well, but what do you say if you are have just been made redundant? What if you are retired? What if you are bringing up children? Do you say what you are, or what you used to be? The question, you see, is not just a request for information. It’s more than that. It’s so we can assess someone’s importance. It’s so we know how to treat others. Rightly or wrongly, it’s how we judge their worth.

I sometimes have to ask a person’s profession. When they get married, for example. When a child is baptised. When I have to sign official forms or fill in a register. That sort of thing. Occasionally people are reluctant to give ‘full time mother’ or ‘home maker’ instead of their previous profession, even though the job of rearing children is one of the most important anyone can have.

Christianity, on the other hand, is a great leveller. All are equal in the sight of God. This is especially true at times of crisis, which is after all when clergy tend to see people who otherwise don’t consider themselves religious or attend church. The Chairman of HSBC becomes just another Anglican priest. High court judges hand round biscuits. Distinguished careers are unknown to the person next to you in the pew. They’re just fellow seekers of the truth.

Yet there is importance in the Kingdom of God. Look for the words ‘you are…’ in scripture and you will quickly discover your true worth. You are a child of God, a friend of Jesus, a citizen of heaven, one of the saints, a child of the light, or a branch of the vine. Perhaps best of all ‘you are loved and forgiven.’

Isn’t that why Jesus gave such importance to the humble, the meek, those who mourn, the poor and hungry, and the pure in heart? There were no blessings for the well-to-do, for bankers or government ministers in the Beatitudes no matter how holy they might be. The words of Christ turn our worldly values upside down. Suddenly the number of people who love you becomes more important than what you earn.

The supreme example is God himself. When Moses encountered God in the burning bush and was sent to free the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, he asked for God’s credentials. “Who shall I say has sent me? What is his name?”

The answer came back “I am who I am.” That was all. No description of omnipotence or majesty. No everlasting creator, redeemer or sustainer. No proper title at all. God has no name. He is what he is. We have to encounter Him through a personal relationship. Whatever attributes God has are not displayed openly, but left for us to discover for ourselves.

I’m currently reading one of the oldest books in the English language. It’s called The Cloud of Unknowing. It’s short but written in Middle English by a contemplative monk. The book teaches that we can never encounter God through our intellect, through thought processes, or intense enquiry. We can only find God by setting aside all thought and encountering him by love, through the heart. Love is all, and God is love – that’s as good a name as any other.

It sounds hard, and it is. But we can also encounter God through love of each other. That’s easier – the self-sacrificing love of a mother for a child, or a married couple, or a long term partner – all are models of the love of God. Ask yourself – what would someone write on my epitaph? What would I want them to say in my obituary? “Who am I?” is so much more important a question than “what do I do?”

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Ruth and Naomi

All-Age Service at St Giles

Sunday 20 February 2011

A Playlet for the Children

The Story of Ruth

Narrator The story I am about to tell you took place almost 3,000 years ago. A certain man named Elimelech lived in Bethlehem. You remember Bethlehem don’t you? It was the same place where Jesus was born. We’ll call him Eli.

Eli The girl I married was called Naomi. Together we had two sons. We were very proud of them. They were good boys. They worked hard and did well.

Naomi My husband Eli and I had no daughters, so I did all the work in the home. When my boys were still teenagers, all our crops failed. There had been no rain for ages. Everyone was starving. We couldn’t stay in Bethlehem, so Eli suggested we should move to another country where we could buy food to eat, and where there was work.

Eli Me and my two boys went with Naomi to Moab. At first everything worked out fine. Both my boys got married to local girls. One was called Orpah. The other was called Ruth. They were lovely girls, and we made a happy family together.

Narrator Then tragedy struck. First Eli got sick. Then he died.

Eli (Eli falls down and dies)

Narrator Then Naomi’s two sons also became sick and died.

(Eli’s two sons both fall down and die)

Naomi So I was left on my own with my two daughters-in-law. What was I to do?

Narrator In those days, there was no income support, no social security, no benefits. When her money ran out, Naomi and the girls would starve. So she decided to return home to Judah, where she had family who might help her.

Naomi (addresses Orpah and Ruth) My daughters. We have no food. Our money has run out. What can we do? We have no alternative but to beg food from our families, or we will end up on the streets. I will travel alone home to Bethlehem. Maybe some relatives will help. You girls must return to your fathers, and ask them to take you back. May God have mercy on you, my daughters!

Narrator Naomi’s daughters wept and clung to their mother. (Orphah and Ruth are in tears). They did not want to leave her. But Naomi said

Naomi You must stay. My family may not take even me into their homes. They certainly won’t have pity on you too. Besides, maybe you can find husbands from your own people. It’s too late for me. I am too old. But you are both young. You can marry again and have children. So stay here, and God be with you!

Narrator So Orphan kissed her mother, and went back to her father’s house. But Ruth would not leave her.

Ruth Mother, do not make me leave you. (Ruth and Naomi and crying and in each other’s arms) Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. Where you die, I will die. And where you are buried, I will also be buried.

Narrator So Naomi and Ruth take the long and dangerous journey together, back to Bethlehem. They arrive exhausted, having walked all the way and slept in the open, with nothing to eat and no roof over their heads.

Naomi The famine here has ended. Look at the fields. The barley is ready to harvest. See these fields? (points to the fields) This land belongs to a relative of mine. His name is Boaz. He is a rich man.

Ruth Let me go into the field tomorrow. I will walk behind the reapers. I will ask them for permission to pick up any grains of barley that and left on the ground after they have cut and stacked the stalks. That will give us a little food to grind into flour and make bread.

Narrator Next day, Boaz came to check on the harvest and he spotted Ruth picking up grains from the ground.

Boaz Who is that young woman, and what is she doing here in my field?

Narrator The workers said to Boaz

Harvester “Her name is Ruth. She was the girl who returned from Moab with your kinswoman Naomi. She has been working here since first light. She has taken no rest, even for a moment, but has carried on working in the heat of the sun all day.

Narrator Boaz went to speak to Ruth and said to her

Boaz Listen, my daughter. Do not be afraid. You can work in my fields. Don’t go onto anyone else’s land. You can carry on picking up grain here. No one with bother you. And if you get thirsty, go and drink from the water provided.

Ruth (kneeling down at Boaz’s feet) My lord, why are you doing this? I am only a foreigner.

Narrator Then Boaz said

Boaz I have heard how you would not leave your mother. How you left your family and your country to remain with her. You have come to a people you do not know. God will reward you for what you have done!

Narrator Then Boaz told his workers to drop more grain deliberately for Ruth, so that she would have enough to collect.

Harvester It’s time for lunch! Today we have bread and wine. Look – our master Boaz has invited Ruth to join him for his meal. How amazing is that?

Boaz Ruth – have this morsel of bread. I have dipped it in wine. And some roasted barley. Eat your fill.

Ruth May God bless you, for you have spoken kindly to me. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, because you have taken care of me.

Naomi Look – it’s Ruth coming home after her day in the fields. She seems to be struggling! Goodness – she’s carrying a large bag of barley. How is that possible, my daughter?

Ruth Mother! You’ll never believe what happened to me today. Our kinsman Boaz spoke kindly to me and offered me lunch. He allowed me to pick up grain even among the workers, and told them not to chase me away. He treated me like his own servant girls, and told me not to go into anyone else’s fields but to come back tomorrow and gather more grain. Here’s this big bag I have gathered for us today. Mother – we can now bake some bread and not starve!

Narrator Time went by, and Ruth continued to work in the fields. At the end of the harvest, Naomi said to her

Naomi My daughter. The harvest is coming to an end, and it’s time I found a proper home for you, rather than staying with me. Maybe Boaz our friend and kinsman will be able to help? Tonight there will be a party. The workers will be celebrating a successful harvest. Why don’t you go along? Make yourself look gorgeous. Put on your best clothes. Wash and put on some perfume. Then when Boaz finishes eating, see where he lies down. Then when he is asleep, go and uncover his feet!

Ruth Wow! OK mother – you know best. I will do as you say.

Everyone That was some party!

Harvester We are really tired. Time to fall asleep. (Boaz and Harvester lie down)

Ruth Here’s Boaz. I will uncover his feet, and lie down with him.

Boaz (after a short pause) My feet are cold! (looks around and rubs his eyes) Look! A young woman lying down beside me. Who can this be?

Ruth It’s me, Ruth. Spread your blanket over me too. We can keep warm together

Boaz This kindness is greater than you showed to your mother. Don’t be afraid. I will look after you. Everyone knows you have a good reputation. You have not run after the young men. So stay here with me tonight, and in the morning I will see what I can do for you.

Narrator Next morning, Boaz got up early and made sure Ruth left whilst everyone else was still asleep. Then he poured 6 measures of barley into her shawl and put it on her. Then he sent her home.

Naomi How did it go, my daughter?

Ruth Look! Boaz sent me home with all this barley. He was kind to me, and said he would let me know what he will do for me.

Naomi Wait in patience, my daughter. He will not delay, but will settle something for us today.

Narrator Boaz went to meet the elders of the town. They sat in the gateway out of the sun, and Boaz spoke to them about finding the most suitable young man as a husband for Ruth.

Boaz I thought I should come and speak to you all about my kinsman Ruth, who came back from Moab with her mother-in-law Naomi. Unfortunately, Naomi and Ruth are very poor. She has no dowry, so it may be hard for her to find a husband. But as she is my relative, I myself will provide some money.

Elder Times are hard, what will the credit crunch and all. No one can afford to buy houses. Jobs are scarce. The young men will not want to lose face by taking money from you.

Boaz That’s true. Well, with your permission, this is what I suggest. I will buy the fields and property that belonged to Eli from Naomi, and with that money she can provide Ruth with a dowry. And if no suitable young man can be found, I will marry Ruth myself!

Elder That is a right and proper suggestion you have made

Narrator So Boaz took off his sandal, as a sign he had bought the property, and the sale was recorded in the town register office. Then the elders said

Elder We are witnesses to the sale.

Boaz (to Ruth) This is what I have arranged. If I can find a young man for you, you can marry him with the money. If not – I will marry you myself – if you will have me?

Ruth Oh yes!

Narrator Then Ruth and Boaz were married, and there was a great celebration. Soon Ruth became pregnant and she had a baby boy. His name was Obed, and Naomi loved to have the baby in her lap and care for him.

Narrator Many years later, when Obed himself grew up and got married, Obed had a son whose name was Jesse. And Jesse was the father of King David. Jesus was of the line of David, so you see, God works in mysterious ways.

I wonder what you think of this story? I wonder whether you think Ruth did the right thing, by staying with her mother-in-law Naomi? I wonder if you think she should have married Boaz, or found someone younger? I wonder where you think God was in this story?

While you think about all this, this is where my story ends.

© Copyright 2011 Robert wright

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Be perfect!

St Giles Sunday 13 February Holy Communion

First Reading Deuteronomy 30.15-20

Moses said: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

“But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Gospel Matthew 5.21-37

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Demonstrations in Cairo – stopped for prayers. More to Islam than ritual observance – also more to OT religion than following the Law.

Jewish law – foundation of Jesus’ teaching. Like Islam - contained ritual – sacrifices – set prayers each day – feast days observed.

Deut. – book of Law – love the LORD, walk in his ways – choose life. Turn away – be disobedient, bow down to other gods, you will not live long in Promised Land.

Words of Moses – end of Deut. – his disobedience denied him Promised Land and he died. Irony.

Epiphany – recent readings warning of danger of reducing God to ritual formulas – trying to use communal practices to avoid giving ourselves, hearts and minds to God. Ritual observance not enough – Jesus calls us to a whole new life in God.

Matthew 5 – begins Sermon on Mount. Jesus has left crowd – teaches disciples. They are aware of Law of Moses. His teaching has strong ties. Takes them beyond Law. His ethics more radical. Demands of Christ-like Christ-filled life go way beyond.

Choose life says Moses. Under Law – a person is justified – mainly by what he has and has not done. Attendance at Temple. Sacrifices made. Laws followed.

We tend to think same way. You might say – I have not murdered, committed adultery, stolen from the poor. Isn’t that sufficient? I am justified. Ten Commandments. Isn’t that what we tend to believe?

Jesus says no. Not nearly enough. Says has not come to abolish Law but fulfil it. How? Intensifies. Extends into every facet of life. Not just deeds but our very thoughts. Nothing taken away – much added.

He gives examples. You might not have murdered – but have you been so angry you almost did so in heart? Not just behaviour – attitudes, emotions, thoughts. Adultery – was intent there, given half a chance – or adultery of the heart – lust? Who can say not guilty?

Is this not what the Law intended? That we should be above the Law? Higher standards than mere compliance. Internal behaviours, not just external. Means we must avoid anger, derision, slander, arrogance, temptation, desire, envy, loose speech, wrongful thoughts.

Joining the dots. Picture emerges from random pattern. Jesus joins dots. Dots are outward acts – pattern emerges internal orientation. Lesser murder=anger. Lesser adultery=lust. Lesser theft=envy, desire, covetousness. Joins dots – internal orientation revealed. That’s what judges us. Who can say not guilty?

Beatitudes – blessed are – poor in spirit, pure in heart, those who are humble, those who mourn. They are righteous because of internal orientation of hearts. Not because kept the Law. Went far beyond.

We all know of people who get away with it. Walk thin line of keeping rules whilst behaving badly. Have not killed anyone – ruined reputation by spreading slander and lies – hinted at unsuitability through resentment and jealousy – said one thing to face, another behind back.

We can all think of parallels. Dark side of life. Discrimination. Bullying. Ostracism. Rumour mongering.

Good news of Christ – light coming into dark world – illumines nooks and crannies of our lives – dark corners when are hidden things we are ashamed of. Joins dots – makes recognisable picture not of big sins but the way we are inside.

Not the Jesus we signed up for? One who – released from law – set us free from rules and regs.. – made life easier? Now we are told we can’t even dislike people. Can’t look on member of opposite sex without risking mental adultery. Famous Jimmy Carter interview Playboy 1976. Can’t call another driver a fool (Raca) without risking fire of hell! Standards have moved up several notches into the impossible region. Can’t be done.

Good news is also we do not have to live lives through our own power alone. Yes Jesus asks more of us – much more than is within our power unaided – much more than can escape temptation and failure – but he offers and promises much more too. God incarnate brings into the world abundant life. Has made perfection a reality.

Look at rest of chapter, esp. v48.   

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Law of Moses still applies – his words. “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you ... may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Salt and Light

First Reading Isaiah 58.1-9a(b-12)

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they 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.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves on 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.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Gospel Matthew 5.13-20

When the Gospel is announced the reader says
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus said: “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.

“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 its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, 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. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises 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.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


Baroness Warsi recently gave a speech in which she warned that hatred of Muslims had passed the dinner-table test of Britain. I don’t think Islamophobia is rife in Cheddington, but on the other hand I don’t think we can dismiss statements like hers out of hand either.

Extremism and fundamentalism are not confined to the faith of Islam. They can be found in very many places. To identify any one faith as being characterised by fanaticism is almost certainly wrong, and this goes for Christianity the same as any other. If there is discrimination or persecution against any faith it is contrary to our basic human right to freedom of expression.

Reacting against perceived threats to one’s faith with violence is wrong, but the grave risk is that the very many places where Christians are persecuted tends to go unnoticed because their resistance is peaceful.

Recent headlines include:

  • New Year’s Day bombing of church in Egypt
  • Last Christians ponder leaving their home town in Iraq
  • Gunmen kill soldier guarding church in Nigeria
  • Christians might die out in Middle east, say experts
  • Eritrean government arrests 100 Christians in major crackdown
  • UN condemns ‘rising religious fanaticism’
  • Burma army oppresses Christians, study says

Isaiah’s advice is that his people should shout aloud and not hold back. But all they have done for their faith is mute. All they have done is to observe days of fasting. Yet God condemns them for exploiting others, for violence, quarrelling and strife. They did not share their food with the hungry, they did not shelter the poor or help the homeless.

God says ‘I do not want fasting. I want you to do away with the yoke of oppression. Stop pointing the finger and using malicious talk. Spend money on the homeless, and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.’

It’s a very practical gospel, isn’t it? Much more about doing good, and less about religious rituals, observing feast days, coming to church, or worshipping in a particular way.

During Epiphany, we heard a lot about light and darkness. Here Jesus uses the analogy again: this time it’s about justice and fairness, through which our light will shine forth. The other analogy he uses is salt. We must be like Salt and like a Lamp. What does this signify? What do we have to do, in order not to lose our flavour? How do we have to act, if we are to shine out like a light on a hill?

The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ mission statement. In it, he teaches us about the nature of righteousness. Justice and Fairness is the in-phrase. It’s popping up everywhere. In legislation, as a test for each new measure, as a universal benchmark for how people are treated. The aim is to ensure everyone gets what they deserve.

The sermon opens with the Beatitudes. They are not commands. God is not demanding anything of us. Jesus tells us whom God favours: those who mourn; those who have an active peace-making strategy; those who have a hunger for righteousness; those who show mercy, and so on. Once again, they are all things we do, not just religious observance. Nothing Jesus says countermands the law: but to obey his words, that is the new law.

So against this practical background of righteousness and justice, does that help us decide how we should act if we are to be like Salt? Salt does many things. It doesn’t just flavour, so why do we immediately think about that one property? Salt purifies. Salt preserves. Salt seasons. Salt was a currency – it represented a Roman soldier’s salary.

Notice that Salt is no use on its own. Its importance is its application to other things. It’s what it does not what it is.

Light is the same. It cannot be touched or felt. Light is no use, except to illuminate. That’s its application. Obscure light, and it ceases to have any effect at all.

In Jesus’ world, the darkness was extreme. To be without a lamp was to be blind. Lost. In danger. Darkness of course can be physical, but it can also be spiritual. Transparency is something light can shine through – very often we hear of government wanting to hide things. Withholding evidence from public enquiries in the national interest. Making announcements on days when the news won’t be noticed. Playing with statistics to conceal the truth. All this shows a lack of transparency.

So – these are the properties of Salt and Light. Putting them together with the Beatitudes is one way of trying to determine what it really means for us to be like salt or like the light – after all this passage comes immediately after the beatitudes in the sermon on the mount.

Who then are the salt of the earth? They are the humble, the ones who mourn, the meek, and those who thirst after doing what is right in the world.  Who are 'light'? They are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who receive abuse for standing up for what is right.

This is what follows for those who would follow Jesus. They must be like him. They must be more committed to God’s justice and fairness than any of the standards of this world. They must lead virtuous lives. They must have the characteristics of those who are blessed by God, according to the Beatitudes.

But putting it in this way risks giving you yet another thing you should do. Something else to fail at. Happily it’s not like that. Being salt – being the light – is not a burden, it’s a gift. Not something you have to make sure you do. Something you are. So rejoice in it.

Great. But it does beg a couple of questions. One – where have you seen or encountered someone who acts like they are salt or light? Where have you seen God at work in others?

Secondly – at a more personal level – what does it mean to live like that? Ponder this – if you will – during the week to come. How can you be light salt in the world? How can you be the light? And how will that change the way you are, and the way others see you?