I was preaching on a very familiar passage this morning, Matthew 5:13-16, which can be difficult. Not because it is complex, but rather because it is hard to say something that hasn’t been heard by the congregation many times before.
So this morning, preaching at St Ebbe’s Headington, I reminded the congregation of the hidden, preserving impact that Christians are supposed to make on society by being rubbed into the world as salt is rubbed into meat. Jesus emphasis is that Christians, and Christians alone are salt and light preventing the world from decaying and shining for God.
If Christians are “the light of the world” one assumes that this is only by way of reflecting Christ as “THE light of the world”. If He is the Sun (Son) we are the moon. Our job is to spotlight Jesus, search out the lost and glow for God’s glory.
So far, so familiar, I guess. At the end of the sermon I encouraged the congregation to buzz in small groups. My contention is that none of this is hard to understand, but like so many passages in Scripture, the challenge is to put it into practice. From the comments I got back from people this was the significant part of the morning as the congregation buzzed with ideas over how individually and congregationally we might be rubbed into Oxford culture and shine for Jesus in this part of the world.
Upon reflection, it made me think that the combination of teaching from the front and small group buzzing, including a subsequent email around to local congregation members to take part in a community social in a couple of weeks by way of application, is a good model for teaching. Did not Paul encourage the Corinthian congregation: … everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. (1 Corinthians 14:3). This kind of prophecy is surely the application of the word of God for the building up of the congregation alongside and accompanying the preaching.
And, the “you” of Colossians 3:16 is “plural” implying that the word should dwell, not just in the individual’s heart but more particularly in the corporate gathering of the congregation: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:16f.)
Of course, the preaching of the word by a prayerfully prepared preacher is essential. But it does not go far enough if it is not accompanied by smaller groupings of Christians working out the implications of the word for their lives and communities. The simple fact of the matter is that we need longer rubbing up against each other if we are going to be effective in also getting rubbed into the world.