Last week on the blog, we took time to practice Lament. We took time to acknowledge the reality of this moment; both the negative experiences of loss and disruption, as well as the positive experiences in life and ministry that give way to thankfulness and praise. Isn’t lament a powerful tool?! If you missed this practice, find it here.
Today, out of this posture of Lament, I want to begin pointing us forward – pointing us to how we live and lead, holding the tension of reality with hope, while seeking to create God’s good culture right in our neighbourhoods.
Matthew 5 is a section of scripture I find myself in regularly. Every time I’m in it, I’m reminded of the culture we carry as disciples of Jesus. This time around, I’ve really been struck by the ‘salt of the earth’ metaphor, and what it means for this cultural moment.
Let’s check out Jesus’ words, in the MSG translation:
13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”
Now consider this: This metaphor Jesus uses to describe our call as his disciples on the Earth is sandwiched right between the primary two sections of the Sermon on the Mount – that is, right AFTER the beatitudes, a series of poetic blessings, and right BEFORE the rest of Jesus’ sermon, which Brian Simmons has called, “the constitution of the kingdom of heaven.”
Stick that context in your back pocket, and let’s take a look at the Beatitudes, shall we?
Matthew 5:1-13 (MSG)
1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
I think what often goes missed when we look at this passage, is the intent behind Jesus’ teaching here. This section of scripture is really less a description of the CHARACTER of the Kingdom, and more a description of the POSTURE of the kingdom.
Here, Jesus is teaching his apprentices a posture towards life; a way of being, that holds the tension of reality, with Hope.
Jesus acknowledges that;
Yes, there will be suffering.
Yes, there will be times when we’re at our end.
Yes there will be times when we grieve, and those around us are grieving.
Yes, there will be division.
Yes, everything you’ve built your life around will at some point be unpopular;
Yes, this is the essence of being human.
BUT, He says, count it a blessing.
Because THESE are the moments that open up space for more of him. These messy, disappointing, unpredictable moments are the moments that we find the kingdom near, and that we find the true nature of Christ-in-us on display.
We know there is no going back to pre-Covid times for our next generation ministries. We’re in a moment in which we might be losing everything familiar, everything held dear, including our people, our programs, our platform, and our relevance.
But Jesus says, in this space YOU ARE BLESSED. In this space, I’m going to show up. In this space my church has an opportunity to dig deeper and find Me, for the sake of Me.
In this space, maybe just maybe, renewal can spring forth.
As disciples of this rabbi Jesus, and Leaders of his way, our job is to take Jesus at his word – to trust him when he promises blessing in the midst of hardship. And to embody this reality as we lead from hope.
And so this call to be a salt, is a call to live in the tension of reality, in all of it’s suffering and hardship, with HOPE. The kind of hope offered through the beatitudes.
While at the same time, being a people in pursuit of creating a decisively higher way of living and relating to one another (we’ll explore what this looks like in a later blog post – stay tuned!).
To be a salty people is both to accept reality as it is, and yet hold it with hope as we seek to create the good culture of the kingdom here on Earth, in our very own neighborhoods.
As you live and lead this week, try this on your own:
What promises in the beatitudes stand out to me personally today?
Ask the Father – how can I be salt in this moment of transition?
Try this with your team:
Read aloud the beatitudes at your next team meeting.
Ask – what promises do you need to hear as you lead? What promises do you think our students / children / parents need to hear at this moment?