One of our gospel texts sets before us the scene of the Risen Lord leaving his disciples, soon to send the Holy Spirit and knit them together into the Living Body of the Living Lord, the Church. I love how this artist emphasizes not only the dynamic character of the moment, the diversity of the disciples, the light into which Jesus was returning, but in particular the arms stretched wide in blessing (Luke 24:50-53).
It is a blessing Christians have felt ever since that day.
But this blessing, then and now, is for a purpose. As made clear at the very beginning of God’s people with Abram and Sarai, we are blessed to become a blessing. And so one gospel scene leads immediately into another, and words from the Sermon on the Mount as treasured by the followers of Jesus after his resurrection and ascension … ‘You are the salt of the earth’ (Matthew 5:13). We conclude this month’s series of images of the Church with this declaration and calling of our Lord.
When I think about salt, I think about how salt is of no use or value as long as it remains in the salt shaker. Only as it leaves the container can it preserve or enhance our food. Is Jesus suggesting that Christians are called together, but only so we might be shaken out to live in and for this world loved by God? that God is at work in the world beyond the sanctuary, that good exists beyond the Church, and that our ministry as Christians is to identify, enhance and support the good in this world in the service of welcoming God’s realm of justice and peace?
A lot of questions. But also a fullness of blessing.
The last image of every service of worship at St. Andrew’s is of raised arms, and the last words heard are of benediction. As this minister enters into retirement, I thank God for this original and abiding blessing of our Lord, and I pray that this congregation and us all as Christians continue know it and live it.