A few weeks ago I went to Minnesota for a conference at Luther seminary             where I attended many years ago. One of the speakers was Paul Hoffman,             pastor for 15+ years at Phinney Ridge Lutheran church in Seattle. In one of his presentations, Paul told a simple story of church life. Some years ago, as Advent approached, the children’s ministry leaders discovered             that the Christmas pageant costumes were missing. Every part of the church was searched and searched again,             questions asked and fingers pointed,             but the costumes were no where to be found. The children wore quickly improvised costumes for that year’s pageant,             and the mystery of the missing costumes began to fade from people’s minds. I will tell you how the story ends in a few minutes. First, I want to share more about what I heard at the conference,             and how it relates to our lessons this morning. The conference was titled God’s Mission and Worship. Some of us may be uncomfortable with the word “mission” because the history of mission in the Christian church is troublesome. Too often Christian mission has been understood as             us taking something we have and they don’t to them, whoever they are. And too often Western Christians brought cultural norms along with the message of Jesus, mistaking cultural imperialism with sharing the good news. So our conference started with a look at that challenging word – Mission. Mission was described as what God is already doing in the world –             God’s ongoing work of creation and restoration, of healing and new life. God is present and active in the world God loves. The church is not a box that holds God and portions out bits of salvation. The church is where followers of Christ come to be nurtured and fed,             and sent into the world to participate in God’s ongoing work of love. Dwight Zscheile, a professor at Luther seminary, said this: It is not the church that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church. I love that. It is not the church that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church. The church exists to meaningfully participate in God’s mission in the world. Jesus was speaking to his disciples and all who followed to hear him. You are the salt of the earth, he told them. You are the light of the world. You have a role to play, just by being who you are in the world. Salt and light are both necessary things. They are things we take entirely for granted in a culture where salt is cheap on the grocery shelves, and light is right there when we flip a switch. For most of us, the problem is not how to get salt in our diets,             but how to avoid getting too much salt in all the processed food we eat. But in Jesus’ time, these vital things were not so easy to come by. They were a precious and necessary part of life –             salt and light were treasures to be appreciated. And that is who Jesus says we are. Salt. Light. Necessary and good and to be appreciated. In a commentary on this text professor Amy Oden wrote:
We are the tastiness that adds salt to the lives around us. We are the light that makes plain the justice way of the kingdom of God. Jesus says we must be tasty and lit up in order to make a difference for God in the world. Neither salt nor light exists for themselves. They only fulfill their purpose when they are used, poured out.
I invite you now to think back on your week,             and think of a time when you were salt and light for someone else. For some of you, this will be easy. You are used to thinking of your life as something you share with others –             by sharing food with someone in need, or in your job or volunteer work. Others may find it more challenging – but these don’t have to be big things. Every day we can be salt and light in ways we don’t even recognize.             Listening to a co-worker who is struggling.             Reading a bedtime story to a child.             Bringing tea to your partner while he or she is hard at work.             Offering patience and kindness to a retail worker dealing                         with long lines and grumpy customers. When you have thought of something,             I invite you to take the card from your worship bulletin and write it down. Place it in the offering plate when it comes by. If you don’t have a pen, borrow one from your neighbor –             or, email me during the week to share your salty, lit-up moments. I will use these to create a “Salt and Light Log,”  in the Noticias, to celebrate the ways each and every one of is being salt and light –             and sharing God’s mission of love in the world. I’m sure you’ve all been wondering about those missing pageant costumes. I need to give you a little Lutheran background A common ministry in Lutheran churches around the country is to create quilts for Lutheran World Relief. Quilters gather year-round to sew and tie quilts to be sent around to world to people in refugee camps and other places of great need. At Phinney Ridge Lutheran, as in many churches, there is a quilt Sunday,             when quilts are spread out on the pews to be seen and blessed             before being shipped off to LWR. So quilt Sunday arrived in April, and as folks came into the church and saw the displayed quilts, some of them recognized bits of fabric. There was Mary’s soft blue head covering,             and there, the linen of the shepherd’s robes Here were the swaddling clothes from the manger,             and over there upholstery fabric fit for a king. It was an honest mistake. The quilting cabinet and costume storage sat right there together,             and in their creative, loving zeal, some quilter had mistaken the shelves. But really, what better use for the swaddling clothes of Christ             than to warm a child in need? What more fitting way to see the story of the church in action? We gather to hear the story – to be formed and shaped into one,             the Body of Christ, steeped in God’s imagination of love and justice and peace. Then we are cut into strips and sent out for the sake of a needy world. Every Pentecost at Phinney Ridge, the people renew their commitment to God’s mission in the world. I am going to share these words of commissioning and invite you all to respond. Friends in Christ, Both your work and your rest are in God. Will you endeavor to pattern your life on the Lord Jesus Christ, in gratitude to God, and in service to others, at morning and evening, at work and at play, all the days of your life? If so answer, “I will, and I ask God to help me.”            
I will, and I ask God to help me.   Amen St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church Albuquerque, NM

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