Salt, Light & Caring – Thankoffering Sermon

Salt, Light, & Caring

Thankoffering Sermon based on Matthew 5:13-20

Deaconess Jennifer Clark Tinker

 

To learn more about the Thankoffering tradition, you can read about it in this PDF from the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

 

All About Thankofferings

http://www.womenoftheelca.org/filebin/pdf/resources/AllAboutThankofferings.pdf

 

Listen to the sermon by clicking the link below, or scroll down to read the manuscript.

 

Audio of “Salt, Light, & Caring”

http://www.spreaker.com/user/5989422/salt-light-caring

 

Fleeing from inside my in-law’s house, I urged my son, “Quick, get in the car!” Once inside the car, before I turned the key in the ignition, I took a few deep breaths. My son was good to oblige my sense of urgency, but he’s old enough that it seemed an explanation was in order. Why did I feel the need for this quick get-away?

Well, I had to get away from my mother-in-law…

Now, don’t get me wrong here. My in-laws have been very dear to me. And my mother-in-law, Elaine Tinker, died a month ago, so I want to tread carefully here and honor her memory. She was an extraordinary woman. She was kind and social, involved in women’s ministry at her church, and various clubs and associations in the community. She was very smart, excelled in her education and kept sharp throughout her lifetime by reading a lot. She was also very detail-oriented, my father-in-law even bragged that she ran the family from her hospital bed in the weeks leading up to her death.

She was fabulous in so many, many ways. And I learned so much from her. But sometimes that “detail-orientation” of hers…well, sometimes I had trouble orienting myself to it. So, you understand, this is a confession about myself, and not speaking ill of my mother-in-law.

On the day that I fled to the car with my son, I was planning to take my son to run an errand while my husband and in-laws went to a meeting. I had it all worked out in my mind how the day would go. But my mother-in-law was concerned about the details.

How would we get back into the house if we finished our errand before their meeting was over? I tried to dismiss the concern telling her we’d be fine even if I didn’t have a detailed plan.

But she continued to wonder aloud. Finally I explained that we would just go for ice cream to fill time until their meeting was done.

But what if it took longer that that? I had to assure her that we had brought work to do, books to read, and paper to write or draw on. For good measure, to allay her worries I made sure she knew we had electronic devices to keep us busy if all else failed.

I think I set those concerns to rest.

And then she turned to worry about how they were going to get out of the driveway since my car was behind theirs. I said, “We’re leaving when you do.”

“But we have to leave very soon,” she countered.

“Well, we will too.”

“We need to leave any time now.”

Exasperated, I finally said, “We’ll just go right-right now, so we’re out of your way.”

That’s when I grabbed my kid and got out of there. After I caught my breath in the car, I explained to my son, “Sometimes I feel really stressed out when Grandma Tinker frets over details like she was just now.”

“Yeah, I know,” my son acknowledged. He knows me too well. There was a pause as I continued to breath deeply. “But,” he broke the silence, “at least it shows that she cares.”

He couldn’t have been more right about that. Every detail Elaine relentlessly followed up on was because she cared. She wanted so much to know that each of us had what we needed and would be okay in life. Even when I slipped out of her questioning, I was always blessed by how much she cared for everyone.

I think the “why” of someone’s detail-orientation makes a difference in relationships. People can be detail-oriented for less-caring reasons: perhaps out of a sense of compulsion, maybe to control other people, or for selfish gain. When it is less-than-caring, relationships are jeopardized, but when it is for caring reasons, relationships are enhanced.

We have before us in the Bible reading from Matthew 5:13-20 the vision of being salt of the earth and light for the world. This is then quickly followed by Jesus talking about the law. In verse 17, Jesus says that he has not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Now, in one way of looking at it, the idea of keeping to the law can sound like a pretty nit-picky, detail-oriented prospect. Indeed, Jesus even goes so far as to say in verse 18, “not one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”

Now, the pharisees were big on keeping the law and Jesus often got himself in trouble with them when he didn’t stick to the details quite like they thought he should. For instance, the Pharisees were pretty angry when Jesus healed on the sabbath because it was unlawful to do work on the sabbath.

But Jesus showed that the details of the law are not to impose arbitrary rules on our lives. The whole of the law can be summed up as loving God and loving our neighbor. In other words, keeping to the details of the law is about caring rather than control.

Whenever sticking to the law gets to be about something other than upholding relationships with God & neighbor, then those details get in the way, that obsessive, detail-orientation can actually do more harm than good. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense relationally to leave someone ailing just because no work is to be done on the sabbath!

It is in this spirit of wanting to do good for our neighbors that we celebrate Thankoffering this morning. The special offerings collected here will go out to be “salt and light” to neighbors near and far to show our care. And it is in this same spirit that our women’s ministries go about being “salt and light” throughout the year, making quilts, putting together school kits, and health kits, throwing birthday parties in nursing homes, supplying food pantries, and much more. There are many details that go into carrying out so many ministries: funds to manage, supplies to gather, and people to mobilize.

And this isn’t just in women’s ministry. There are many details involved in other ministries of the congregation, in our jobs, in our schools, in our recreation, and in our homes. And even though some of us have more patience with details than others of us…we see to all of the details because we care.

Except, there may be times when the details themselves become overwhelming. How should we direct our funds? What supplies do we need? When is this or that going to get done? And who is going to do what needs done? When all the details begin to press in on us, it may be tempting to flee the situation altogether. Or we may decide to stay and seize control, barking out orders to others to get everyone in line!

If we begin to feel burnt out or stressed by the details, there’s a good chance that something is off kilter in our relationships. It is in those times that we need to be reminded that it is not up to us to do the work of caring on our own strength.

When Jesus says that he has come to fulfill the law, I believe part of what he is telling us is that his example is the ultimate representation of loving and caring. Indeed, Jesus loves and cares for us without limits, even to the point of giving his very life for our sakes. But Jesus’ fulfilling the law goes a step further in his rising from the dead. Jesus’ victory over death means that Jesus himself, through the work of the Holy Spirit, empowers us to tend to the details, to be the salt and light that the world so needs, and to be the loving and caring presence for our neighbors that we are called to be.

We give thanks for the details that have gone into caring ministries by all people in and through this congregation. We give thanks for women’s ministry in particular. At the same time, we honor the source of our loving and caring—the God who first loved and cared for us. And it is that God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that we look to for support in tending to all of the details involved in being salt and light in loving care for the world.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Nice reminder, Deac! p.s. I’d love to hear more about the birthday parties at nursing homes!

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