Sermon Epiphany 5, yr a, 2023 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” I think we forget from time to time that Jesus was a Jew, born and raised. I think we, as Christians, sometimes think Jesus belongs to us. That he was teaching new and never before heard lessons. We forget that he was Jewish, steeped in the scripture and traditions of a people who have traveled with God for millennia. I’ve also heard said, that now that we have Jesus there is no need for the old testament, the first teachings…that since Jesus gave a new commandment and there is no need for the old. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” What Jesus taught was astonishing, revolutionary and life changing…but not because it had never been said before, rather because in Jesus those same teachings that God had been teaching through the prophets were being applied further and broader than ever before. Case in point, what we have been hearing these last few weeks as we read and learn about the kingdom of heaven. All this has been spoken by God from the beginning of creation, God has always told us to care for the widow, the orphan and the stranger among us, to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly. Even today we read in the prophet Isaiah; “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.” God has always loved the people of God…all of us…and God has always sought after us; to guide, teach and show us how to live in righteousness. However, it is just as clear that we, humanity, are a bit pig headed …or as scripture puts it…hard hearted, we have ears but do not hear…eyes but do not see. Prophets were send, people repented, but then just as quickly they …we turn back to our old ways. So, in Jesus, the plan moved from prophets teaching God’s word, to God…Jesus himself demonstrating to us stubborn students how it is to be done. God calls and calls and calls again, never giving up on his people, trying over and again to help us regain that relationship with God we had before it was broken. Now in our gospel Jesus is teaching us again, trying to explain how to live in right relationship with God. Teaching us what it is like to live in the kingdom of heaven, in the world where our relationship with God and all creation is whole once more. We are called to learn, and to teach, to follow Christ and live in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus calls us to be salt of the earth, the light of the world. Salt and Light. The significance of these two simple elements has changed dramatically as technology has revolutionized the world. Salt has been so valuable in the past that it has been used for currency. Salt has amazing properties, and as an analogy can be used so many ways. Salt, as we use it, is a flavour enhancer and make food more vibrant, brings out the flavours. Salt is also a preservative and keeps food safe to eat over long periods. Salt was also used as a cleanser, from scouring wooden tabled to kill bacteria to flushing out wounds. Salt is incredibly valuable. So, what does this have to do with living into the kingdom of heaven? Being salty helps us do just that! If we want to, if we choose to…and make no mistake it is a choice, live in such a way that helps bring the kingdom of heaven into being on earth we have to be salty! Just as Jesus calls us to repent, we need to be that powerful anti bacterial salt which scours away all that festers in us, the sin, the brokenness the ways we distance ourselves from God and damage our relationships. We need to be salty enough to wash ourselves clean, so that like a wooded cutting board freshly salted and scrubbed we can be used to make great things that will feed those around us. We need to be salty so that when we live in community, in relationship with others our saltiness can bring out the best in those around us. We need to be salty so that we can help preserve and sustain all that nourishes good in the world, we need to realize that we are a blessing and we have a saltiness to us that is needed. But why is it needed after all God has made clear what a faithful people are to do, God has laid out in scripture, through prophets and even by showing up in the flesh what we are to do, why does our gospel go even further? Almost to what seems extreme? “… I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Unfortunately, due to our long taught bias against pharisees as Jesus opponents this verse has lost it’s punch. Let’s contextually translate that; unless your righteousness exceeds that of the monks, nuns, Gandhi, the Rev Dr King, and all the saints you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Let that soak in for a bit. In Jesus time, the Pharisees weren’t the bad guys, quite the opposite they were exceptionally good guys. The Pharisees were a group who endeavoured in every way possible to follow each and every one of God’s commandments. They taught scripture to everyone including women and had great authority and popularity among the people. So, for Jesus to say you needed to be more righteous than a pharisee was quite impactful. The challenge with the pharisees was that they seemed to value the letter of the law above the spirit of the law, recall the controversies around healing on the Sabbath. The letter of the law said no work was to be done on the Sabbath, but was there room in the interpretation to allow for someone to be healed? What is more important? The command to do justice and kindness or the command to keep the Sabbath holy? To decide how to interpret life we need to be salty. Now here at St. Andrew’s we’ve got a few rather salty folk already, and nope I’m not naming names! But perhaps we could be a bit more salty, and cultivate a ‘salty’ parish so that St. Andrew’s can continue to grow as a valuable part of the kingdom of heaven. This coming year we will continue to welcome new members to our parish, and there is a human tendency to become cliquish…the old and new, the right way and wrong way… pharassitical if you will. Yet if we focus on becoming more salty, we can enhance our communities skills, talents and blessings by bringing out the best in each other ensuring that the community thrives together and becomes a blessing to our wider community. We have a strong heritage here at St. Andrew’s liturgically and within our community and we can use our saltiness to preserve and keep all the aspects of that heritage that feeds those around us bringing strength and wholeness. However, we must also remember that salt cleanses and purifies and there are aspect of any parish that do not bring heath and wholeness. We remember that all followers of Christ, all children of God are called to repent and return to the lord…which means taking a long hard look at ourselves and seeing where that saltiness is needed to scour and cleanse. Not only to scrub away those things that fester, but to lay the foundation for goodness to grow and thrive at St. Andrew’s. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to be more righteous then even the Pharisees. We are called to be like Christ We are called to know the scripture, the word, the ways that God is calling us to live and to interpret them as Christ would; with Justice love and compassion. To do not only what is right, but to do it righteously. That is what Christ teaches us, and not only teaches us but demonstrates, that we can follow God’s law’s with love and compassion. The law that God gave to ensure that everyone would be cared for with dignity, with loving kindness and that we all have the opportunity to live into the kingdom of heaven.