I revisited the mall-of-God church last Sunday – the one that was seeking to be counter-cultural two weeks ago. I did not make it to Sunday School, but I did make it to the worship service. And though we worshipped the Creator God of the Universe with a concert band giving Him all the glory we know how, I was actually thrilled about the sermon!
Our preacher was a young guy I do not know. But it was clear that he had done his homework – especially in Image Bearing Theology. The text is part of an on-going series from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, in particular he talked about salt and light. Our speaker recounted for us a couple of cliché sermons (good though they are) about salt seasoning food and then about salt preserving meat from rotting, but he noted that being salt is not something we do; it is something we are. And in ancient times, unlike today, salt was currency (from which we derive our word “salary” – it has great value.
He told us that Jesus’s words were not meant to be heard as speaking to individuals, but to the collection of hearers. When Jesus took the multitudes up on the mountain, he was prophetically re-enacting the vocation of Moses. With Moses as mediator, God constituted Israel up on the mountain. The Ten Commandments, thus, were like the constitution of that nation. Here Jesus reconstituted the people of God around himself, and so the commands of the sermon are not for individuals but for the whole people of God together. This is The World Jesus Imagines (which is the title for the series), that the people of God are of infinite value like salt.
He also spoke of light in the darkness. The sermon moved to an illustrative mode as the lights in the worship hall were cut off while the speaker preached. He talked about how our eyes were becoming comfortable with the darkness, and then he lit a small lamp at the front of the crowd. As he did it, he pointed out how natural it was for all eyes in the sanctuary to be drawn to the light.
He summed up talking about how together we bear the image of God which has infinite value – the medium of relation with each other and the world around us – and how in bearing his image, we are the light in the darkness. This salt-n-light metaphor is part of how the people of God are constituted, it characterizes our purpose and mission, and helps us to imagine the world as Jesus imagines it.
Theologically, I could not imagine a better sermon. I was really jazzed! My only concern is: What does that have to do with anything almost a week later?
I think the world as imagined by a man purposefully orienting his short life towards coronation via crucifixion, the world imagined by the Son of God, surely does not have in mind business as usual come Monday morning. I am watching the nightly news, but I see no sign of the people of God bearing the light of God’s image in the darkness, and when I go to the grocery store, whatever likeness I (or for that matter “we”) bear is not accepted as currency that purchases food.
So, if we are going to do this great exegetical research and theology, what is the point? What has it changed?
And as far as I can tell, here on Friday morning almost a week later, as fall is setting in and the temperatures fluctuate nightly, our church house is still locked up at night while the least of these brothers and sisters (metaphorically constituting Jesus himself) sleep out doors (Matt. 25:40) scattered all over Lubbock.
What’s the point?
I am all ears…