This week our passages are about how faith can become distorted and unrecognizable to the eyes of love. In Isaiah 58:1-9 the prophet castigates Israel for offering up prayers, rituals, and sacrifices while engaging in behavior that ignores the cries of the oppressed, hungry, and vulnerable. In Matthew 5:13-20 Jesus calls his disciples to be salt and light in the world; to live in distinctive ways that enables community to grow and enlarge in the love and justice of God. How does faith become distorted? How is it that good, religious folk can ignore the neighbor who is in need or lose sight of Jesus who welcomes the stranger? It has a lot to do with fear. Fear is such a strong emotion and has its place in life. Yet, when religion becomes fearful then faith is distorted into something closed, harsh, and judgmental. Isaiah and Jesus are calling us to put fear in its place and live into “The Sharp Edge of Faith” (my title) that moves us beyond fearfulness into a life holy and deep, salted with love and mercy.
Christian faith in our land, today, is being distorted by powerful and fearful voices calling for the building of walls, mass deportations, and the rejection of refugees—all in the name of keeping “us” safe. How do we maintain our distinctive stance of welcoming love in such a time as this? I have two personal stories to share of congregations putting fear in its place and choosing a larger vision of love in challenging times. Such stories, combined with your own, and salted with the wisdom of Scripture can give us the nourishment we need to walk faithfully even in tumultuous times. That’s what we’re serving up for worship this Sunday. I will also talk to the children about giving. We’ll dedicate our new Board and Committee members. And we’ll sing hymns that will lift your heart and spirit. Come, join us.
Following worship our children will take up the Souper Bowl offering to help with the work of the pantry. Ann Roche will take monies received and go on a shopping trip with the older children for items Mary Wheat needs to help feed hungry neighbors. I can imagine the prophet Isaiah tagging along for just such a trip, enjoying such expressions of faithfulness. Peace.