Being Salt and Light

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Epiphany 5
SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 2: 1-12 and Matthew 5: 13-16
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise you Father in heaven.
Matthew 5: 16 (NIV)

SALT & LIGHT

Next week is our Annual Congregational Meeting and there is just one more thing I want to share with you this morning about that. Before I do that, I should tell you that we have had some pretty positive results when it comes to finding people to sit on the new Church Board. We have both men and women, seniors and young adults, people who have been around here forever and people who are fairly new. Clearly God has touched people’s hearts and they have responded positively.

It is our hope that we will have a slate of people to fill the Church Board when we go into the annual meeting. That does not mean that we won’t be accepting nominations from the floor because we will be doing that if there are any further nominations. And if we have to have an election, then so be it. We will have an election. Regardless, I find it quite encouraging that people are interested in serving on the new Church Board.

So what is it that I want to talk about today? I want to get away from talking about what we need to do around here and spend some time this morning talking about what it means to reach out to our community. First, I want to talk about salt and light. Salt and light are the two images that Jesus uses in Matthew 5:13-16 to describe how Christians ought to live. Jesus says that we are supposed to act like salt and light. But what does that mean?

First of all, what does salt do? Contrary to what many people think, salt is not a spice. Do you know what it is? It’s a preservative. It keeps things fresh so that they don’t spoil. Years ago, salting things was an important way for our ancestors to preserve food for the winter. Beef was salted as was pork. The fishermen in Newfoundland made their livelihoods by salting cod and shipping it back to Europe. That’s what salt does. It preserves.

But what about light? What does it do? It shows us the way. Without light, you can’t see where you are going and you can trip and fall perhaps injuring yourself. But as long as there is light on your path, you know where to go. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t trip. Some people have two left feet and can trip over the yellow line in the middle of the road. I’ve been known to do that myself. But as long as there is light, at least you know what you’re tripping over. Light shows you the way.

As the Church of Jesus Christ, we are called to salt and light in our community. We are called to preserve that which is good and to be light that provides direction for the way that we should go. Those are two pretty awesome responsibilities but that is what Jesus calls us to do. He calls us to preserve what is good and to provide direction in our community.

GETTING BEYOND OURSELVES

What that means is that ministry is not all about us. It is not about getting our needs met, looking after ourselves, keeping our building in good shape and keeping the grass cut and the snow plowed. While those things all have to be done, ministry is so much more than that. Ministry is not about us. It’s about God, first of all, and it’s about reaching out to meet the needs of the community.

In order to do that more effectively, one of the goals for 2017 is to look at the possibility of hiring a second ministry person to work with me. That means another minister. Now before you go too far with that thought, the goal is not to actually hire anyone. Keep that in mind. But we do think that it’s time to take a serious look at the possibility. We’ve talked about it for a number of years and now might be the time when some of the doors seem to opening to make this happen. So let’s explore this in a bit more detail.

We are faced right now with two important realities. The first reality is that the people who have been taking a major leadership role in Christian Education have been doing it for quite a long time. I know that various people have been in and out of the committee and that, as a whole, the committee has done a marvelous job. But some of those people are getting older and maybe thinking about doing something else in the church. And we don’t seem to have anyone who is able to step in and provide the consistent leadership that is necessary.

This is part of what we might want a new ministry person to look after, someone to take on more of the leadership responsibilities when it comes to Christian education. It would provide us with a dedicated staff person who could not only provide leadership but also seek out resources, look at new programmes for children and youth and support the volunteers who have done such a marvelous job both now and in the past.

We are blessed here at Cottam United Church to have a relatively young congregation. We have lots of young families with a growing Sunday School. It seems that every time I turn around, another family is expecting. You know how we put a rose on the communion table when a baby is born in the congregation? We don’t have a budget for that and that’s a good thing because, if we did, I’m pretty sure we’d have blown the budget out of the water last year. And right now, there are three more families expecting their first child in the next few months. That is music to the ears of our Sunday School. Keep those babies coming.

What we also know is that those children are all going to get older and, if we want to keep them in this church, we need to be prepared to provide what their families need as they seek to raise them in the faith of Jesus Christ. That’s where another staff person would really help.

And I’m not just talking about Sunday School. There is so much more that could be done. We did VBS for a few years and it provided a Christian education programme during the summer. But we didn’t have one last year. Why? Because, for various reasons, the people who had been providing leadership were not longer able to do that. That’s not to cast blame anywhere. But it is to face reality. If we had someone in place to look after those programmes, they would be far more likely to happen.

So, our first reality is that our volunteer leadership is getting tired. The second reality is that the demographics of Cottam are changing. When I look around this community, do you know what I see? I see a community in transition. I will never forget the first year we moved here in 2004. We went out trick or treating on Hallowe’en and the streets were crowded with kids. Hill St. was wall to wall costumes. It seemed like there were hundreds of children everywhere. But seven or eight years later, all the kids had grown up and on Hallowe’en you could shoot a cannon down Hill St. and not be too worried about hitting anyone.

But it’s transforming again. Many of those houses in the newer subdivisions are changing hands. Younger families are starting to move in again. Right now, also, there is room for about twenty new homes to be built on Joanie Lane. “Where’s Joanie Lane?” you might ask. It’s the brand new street in Cottam over beside the solar panels just east of Belle River Road. And that might just be the beginning. That new sewage system that we’ve all been paying for allows for hundreds of new homes to built. Cottam is going to get bigger and Cottam is going to get younger. And we need to start planning for that now as we seek to minister in the changing demographics of this community. That’s because if we don’t meet those needs, you can be sure that some other church will.

Somewhere around here are those pictures of the church Sunday School back in the 1980s when there were over 100 children in the Sunday School. Some of you have yearned for a return to those days. Well, guess what? Those days may be approaching and we need to be ready for them.

So, those are the reasons why we want to look at the possibility of hiring a second ministry person.

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

The first things that people will wonder, of course, is how are we ever going to pay for this minister? That’s a great question because it’s all well and good to want to be salt and light but salt costs money and, as far as light goes, have you seen our hydro bills lately?

There are a few things I want you to consider. First of all, we probably aren’t looking at a full time person – at least not yet. We’re more than likely looking at a part time position to start. But there will still be a salary and there will still be benefits and we’ll still have to find a place some extra office space.

We’re also probably not talking about an ordained minister. That’s because most ordained ministers are not trained in Christian education ministries, especially when it comes to children and youth. So the salary scale will not be as high a mine. It will be different pay scale entirely.

The second thing to consider is that when I technically retired in May 2015, you stopped paying into the pension plan for me and that has saved you a decent sum and it will continue to save you that same amount as long as I’m still your minister. Those are two practical reason. We’re looking initially at a part time person and you are not paying into the pension plan for me.

But there are also a couple of theological reasons as well. The first one is this: As the people of God, we need to pay for what we want, not for what we have. That actually comes from a book called Fishing Tips that was written by a classmate of mine. John Pentland pastors quite a vibrant church in Calgary and Murray McLeod picked up his book and has been getting all kinds of good stuff from it. Pay for what you want, not for what you have.

What does that mean? It means that we need to use our financial resources to pay for the stuff that will help our ministry to grow. In short, if we are serious about building our Christian education programmes, then we need to be willing to spend the money to do that. That’s because churches are not so different from people. If you want to know what’s really important to someone, what do you look at? All you have to do is take a look at the monthly credit card statement and you can tell right away because people will spend their money on what’s important to them.

Churches act the same way. If you want to know what’s really important to a congregation, look at their annual financial statement. That will tell you. It doesn’t matter what a congregation says is important to them, it’s their money that will tell you what’s really important. I know that sound very crass but it’s also very true. Besides, it’s also what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 (NIV): “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I want to share an example with you of what I mean by this. I know of a United Church that not too long ago decided to spend a quarter of a million dollars on a rebuilt pipe organ. You might wonder why they did that. I wondered the same thing. They did it because their old pipe organ was kaputz. It was no longer worth repairing so they thought they had to replace it. Why? Because it’s what they always had. They did it and do you know something? They had it paid off in about a year and a half. Isn’t that amazing? I thought it was amazing.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is that this same church said that it wants to attract more youth and young families. But if that was their goal why did they spend $250,000 on a pipe organ? Is it because teenagers just can’t wait to plug in their I-pods and phones and listen to 19th century pipe organ music? I don’t think so. In fact, I know precious few people of any age who have classical pipe organ music on their pods and phones.

At the same time, the same church tried to raise enough money to fund a part-time children and youth minister position. Do you know much money they got for that? It wasn’t nothing but it was almost nothing. Why is it that this church could raise $250,000 for a pipe organ but couldn’t scrape enough together for a youth minister? Simple. It’s because they were willing to pay for what they had, not for what they wanted. There was no salt and the lights were turned off. That same congregation today is one of the many that is wondering why they are aging and can’t attract young people. Salt and light. Salt and light. There isn’t any. I don’t want to be that church and I don’t think want to be that church either.

That’s the first principle, that we need to pay for what we want, not for what we have. Here’s the second one: mission does not follow money; money follows mission. What that means is this; mission is not based on how much money we have. Rather, we decide what mission we want to achieve and then think about how to fund it. That’s one of the reason why we intentionally left the treasure off the Church Board. It’s because if you want to kill a good idea, the best way to do that is to start talking about money. I also need to say that John Logan, as our treasurer, is not like that. John loves new ideas but he’s not your typical treasurer.

Money follows mission. Once we have decided what we believe God is calling us to do, only then do we think about the funding. That’s because as people of faith, we have to believe that if God wants us to do something, then God will also provide the means to achieve it.

You have had all kinds of examples of that over the years and one of the best ones happened before I arrived here. I’m going to pick on Lou-Anne for a few moments. I wasn’t here when she was hired but my understanding of what happens goes something like this. Cottam United Church was looking for a new musician and got wind that Lou-Anne was available. The only concern was that she was way more expensive than the last musician and some people wondered how you were ever going to afford her. But there were people with vision who said that you could do it.

What happened? You hired Lou-Anne and not only did she come. She brought her family and she brought Larry and Sharon who were going to stay for about three months. They’re still here and we are happy about that. But Lou-Anne also improved the music programme so much that more people came and those new people more than paid for the extra cost. That’s what I mean by money follows mission.

I was talking about this to a good friend who is a minister in the Missionary Alliance Church. He echoed the same thought. He said that their experience is any money spent on a quality person to run the Christian education programme will more than pay for itself by attracting new people and families. He said to not get bogged down with the money because money follows mission. That’s the kind of church I hope that we can be.

Salt and light. Jesus calls us to be salt and light. Jesus calls us to preserve what is good in our community and then to reach out by providing direction and hope. Salt and light. Let’s be salt and light in our community.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Holy God, you are in our world. You are in our communities. You are in our lives. You are in our hearts. You are with us every moment of every day and for your constant presence we give you thanks and praise. You are with us in the laughter. You comfort us in our tears. You lift us up in times of pain and offer us the healing protection of your enfolding wings. You come to us in love. We return to you in love.

Although we have received our salvation by faith and not by works, it is a comfort to know that you care about the things that we do for others. Enable us to always do all that we can for others, taking full advantage of every opportunity to be an example of your love and character. Thank you for your unconditional love and unfailing promises.

We remember our Annual Congregational Meeting coming up next week after worship. We pray, O God, that this will be a good, constructive and godly meeting. Enable us to hear everyone’s voice but especially yours. Give us direction. Give us courage and give us a kick if and when we need it so that we can continue to be your people in this place.

We lift up in prayer those who have been sick at home or in hospital this week. We remember especially Jacqui, Millicent, Soham, Rebekah and Helen. Bless them as you have blessed us all with your Healing and Holy Spirit.

Once again, we remember our military personnel around the world. Keep them safe as they carry on their duties with courage and professionalism. We pray for peace in the troubled places of your creation. We pray that the communities may be rebuilt and families re-established that life may return to normal according to your justice.

We also lift up the family and friends of Anna Arner whose memorial service was yesterday. Bless them as they mourn this loss and celebrate a life well lived.

God, you are our Heavenly Father, the one who nurtures and supports us through all of life. It is our desire that we be always willing to follow your leadership and instructions regardless of how it may appear to others. Help us to have courage and strength to go anywhere and do anything that you ask of us. May we go without hesitation or reservation, confident that all things will happen according to your great purpose. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

February 5, 2017 / Epiphany 5

SCRIPTURE

Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12); Psalm 112:1-10; Matthew 5:13-20 ; 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)

CALL TO WORSHIP

Let us sing praises to God.

Let us worship God with gladness.

The love of God is eternal;

Complete in us, O God, the work that you have begun.

PRAYER OF ADORATION

We enter your presence, God of Grace, and bow down within your Holy Temple. Your love and your faithfulness rise through the ages. Your name is supreme among all names. Answer us as we call upon you, O God of Creation. You are faithful to fulfill the promises that you have made and, so, we lift up our voices in praise to give you glory, honour and blessing. Come down from your heights and care for us. Redeem us in your love. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

God of Earth and Ocean, you have called to us but we have not always been faithful to answer. Sometimes we are timid. Sometimes we are shy. Often we hesitate to cast our nets into the waters of life for fear that they will come up empty and we will be disappointed. Forgive us, again, for our doubts and uncertainties. Enable us to see beyond our narrow vision and to follow Jesus where he leads. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

When Jesus calls, he leads. When he makes demands, he provides. When he promises forgiveness, he redeems. Walk in the light and stand in awe of the One who gave his life as a ransom for all that we might be freed from our sins to live and answer the call of God.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

For all of your goodness, God, we give you thanks. How can we respond but by giving back a portion to you for your work? We send these gifts in Jesus’ name as signs of love and faith to answer your call to mission and ministry. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John, to becomes fishers of humanity.

We, too, are called to reach out to those to whom God has sent us.

Go, in Jesus’ name, to cast the net of salvation into the waters of our community.

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