Building Bridges between Communities

Sunday, February 5, 2017
Matthew 5:13-20
Today we heard the reading saying that we are salt of the earth, and the light of the world.  Familiar words to many - 
but familiarity should not take anything away from them.
You are the salt of the earth - but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Of course, those who want to be literal-minded get tangled up with the scientific fact that NaCl is NaCl, and it cannot ‘lose its taste’.  
Set aside the chemistry.  
Listen to the message: 
If you carry the label “salt”, then you had better be salt, and you had better taste like salt, or you’re of no use.
Today, on this day, we are asked to be salt in our Québec context.
It’s a good image, salt: For so long, we have had the idea that perfection would be if everyone in society were following Christ.  Perhaps that’s so.  But it is not our current reality.
The salt image speaks to us as active Christians, those attending church, those attempting to measure our day-to-day decisions against the plumb-line of our faith..... speaks to us as a minority making a difference.
Why do I say that?  I remember in high school making a liquid salt solution with various salts to nourish plants - so we could grow some plants without soil.   We mixed this and that, and put in the plant.  It died.  Because we had forgotten one important step: to add 10 parts water to 1 part salt solution.
Jesus’ salt image encourages us as an active minority to make a difference in our world, in our own context.
Including our context where there are xenophobic and racist attacks.  
The Centre for Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence, a body created in Montreal in 2015, received 30 alerts related to the far-right, six related to Islamophobia, and 18 cases were transferred to the police.
But in the first month of this year, there were already 39 alerts related to the far-right, 22 related to Islamophobia, and 5 cases were already transferred to the police.  And it only got worse in the days after the Québec City attack.
How are we going to be salt?
We will be salt by making in clear that we are no where near the far-right.
We will be salt by making in clear that we feel that a compassionate response is needed when faced with the plight of refugees.
We will be salt by countering any blaming of any one group for the ‘problems’ we face in society - such as unemployment, and so on
We will be salt by being clear in our speach and action that we do not think that white Christians are any more ‘Canadian’ or Québecois than anyone else.
We will be salt by building bridges with other communities, including the Muslim community.
We, active in our community, can be salt.
"You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before others” 
Now, sometimes I look at something just a little differently: “No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket”, Jesus says.  Of course, we think - as we are supposed to - that the lamp is useless there, because the light is hidden.  The other problem with putting lamps under bushel baskets:  the bushel baskets can catch fire....  So, not only is it useless to hide our light: it can be disastrous.   
So - we are to let our light shine.  And what is our light?  
Our light is the light of the love of Christ.
And our world needs it.
Part of the problem is that hate speech is becoming ‘normal’.
Bullying words are accepted.
Actions - painting graffitti and saying nasty things to people who are different is not strange.
Terrible things are becoming normalized..... and when they are normalized, many start to think that they are not only normal, but they are acceptable.
But hatred is not acceptable.
The darkness of xenophobia is not acceptable.
But it is up to us to climb up on the lamp-stands.
It is up to us to make sure that we are like a well-lit city on the hill.
It is up to us to shine the light of Christ,
the light of love
into the dark places around us.
And we can do that.
We shine the light by showing the world around us that we want to build bridges, not walls.
We shine the light by making even a small connection or a nascent relationship, by doing something simple as going to the open house at the Muslim Centre in Dorion today - it will make a difference to those we visit, it will make a difference to us, and it will be part of our light to be able to say “the other day I was in the mosque, and I was welcomed there.”
We shine the light by listening to the stories - such as those told at the Dorval Mosque on Monday, when we heard that they, in quiet Dorval, have suffered nine attacks - graffiti, pellet-gun shots on a parked car, damage to the buidling, threats, and so on.
We shine the light when we welcome a Muslim family onto our street.
We shine the light..... when we reflect the light of Christ’s love into our community.
Two Wolves: A Cherokee Teaching
An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life…He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. ======»
One wolf is evil — he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.
The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.
This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied: “The one you feed”.
And we say: This same fight is going on inside our communities, our province, our country.  “Which wold will win?”
“The one we feed.”