“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 under foot. 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, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-20
It can be easy to blame others for why we might have lost our taste or dimmed our light. I graduated from seminary when the Presbyterian Church still had amendment G.6-0106b in the Book of Order, blocking most openly LGBTQ people from ordination. I desperately wanted to live into my calling to ordained ministry but felt like the PC(USA) was holding me back. So I hit pause on my journey to ordained ministry, got a job at a non-profit and started going through the motions of what I thought I should do while I couldn’t be ordained: sit in the darkness and wait. Two years later, I was pretty miserable in my job and felt further from God than I had in a long time. I cried to God in my isolation but wasn’t ready to hear what I might need to do to take that bushel basket off of my head. I had gotten so enmeshed in my routine and my life that I forgot to look around me and see where I might be that critical dash of salt which brings the whole meal together.
I was doing all the wrong things: wallowing in a woe-is-me place and failing to see my neighbor. One day, I looked around and realized that there was some good I could do to help people of faith be welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people in their churches, and I could be a witness for LGBTQ people who were straining towards God to reconcile their sexuality and their faith. I had been holding myself back from participating in this work because I had my eyes focused in the wrong direction. I was looking for my denomination to ordain me without seeing how God was already calling and preparing me towards a ministry God had already set before me.
In this text, Jesus is coming to us to ask, how might we be the ones holding on tightly to the bushel basket over our heads? Where are the places we’ve allowed our lights to be dimmed? The problem with clinging so tightly to our own bushel baskets is that it means we cannot see the light of others nor can we be a point of light for someone who is sitting in darkness. Without light, how can darkness know it can be illuminated?
Friends, I believe we are in a bushel basket moment for our churches and in our denomination. Yes, we have come a long way in the past 30 years towards the acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in our religious traditions, but we haven’t quite achieved the kind of beautiful luminous radiance of welcome and inclusion that God is calling us towards. Our congregations have the opportunity to be a beacon of hope and light amid a dark night of rejection and intolerance, and yet we’ve clung tightly to our bushel baskets afraid of the dark that we might encounter if we truly took them off. How might God be calling your church to further shine a light for LGBTQ welcome? Is God calling your congregation to take off your bushel baskets and start having conversations on what it would mean to be a church that welcomes all? Is God calling your congregation to take off your bushel basket and get involved with a local LGBTQ group in your community? Is God calling your congregation to stand up for marriage for all committed and loving couples in our denomination?
This summer, at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly, we have the opportunity to help hoist the bushel basket off of our denomination and pass two pieces of legislation that would affirm the ability of ministers to act on their conscience and marry same-sex couples, and amend our Book of Order to affirm that the gifts of marriage are available to all couples seeking to make a covenant before God. Our denomination has been sitting in the darkness of our own bushel basket for too long, we have failed to notice that all around us there is a dawn of glorious light breaking over the horizon. We have the opportunity as an assembly to throw off our basket and greet the day shining brightly.
The good news of the Gospel is that we do not have to be salt and light alone. As we restore our saltiness and uncover our lights, we join together with others who have done the same. The world has been fasting and hungering without end and sitting in darkness. God has called us to be more salty, to be more light so that no one is lost in darkness any more.
What God has deemed salt and light, let no one trample under foot, least of all ourselves. Amen.
Yours on the journey,