Holy One, you who are salt-maker and igniter of lamps, you who call to us in our deepest longings, call to us now. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be salt and light for your kin-dom. Amen.
One of the earlier texts in the field of Queer Spirituality and Theology is a book by Christian de la Huerta called Coming Out Spiritually in which he reflects on the particular charisms or gifts that the LGBTQ+ community has to offer the world. He lists about a dozen charisms but one of them that keeps coming to me today is the charism or gift of the coming out process.
There are several parts of the coming out process and they are deeply related to saltiness, letting your light shine and righteousness. And I’d love to reflect briefly on how our text for this morning strikes me as a pretty queer text about the importance of coming out. And I mean the importance of coming out for all of us, not just queer people.
Saltiness. There are two parts about Matthew’s reflection on saltiness that strike me. The first is a kind of self-understanding of what makes each of us salty. What are our particular gifts and graces? Who are we authentically? How has God taken the whole universe and arranged it in the particularity that is us? The first part of saltiness is authenticity and self-knowledge.
And the second part of saltiness is an awareness of our power and social location so that we can use our saltiness to help flavor the whole community. Our authenticity isn’t a gift to be used in isolation. It is a gift to be used for the common good.
The coming out process starts with knowing yourself, claiming your authenticity, even as you claim your power and social location in the context of and in service of communities of love.
Letting your light shine. Our text for this morning pairs saltiness with sharing your light and it lifts up the ridiculousness of lighting a lamp and then putting it under a bushel basket. The very point and purpose of the light is to share it for the illumination of the gathered community.
I’m coming out, I want the world to know, I got to let it show… Diana Ross’ classic song… and queer anthem… embodies the next part of coming out: speaking the truth about your own authenticity, sharing the realness of who God made you to be publicly.
And finally, righteousness. I was really helped by Allan Henden’s sermon last month in which he quoted Professor Diane Chen to remind us that righteousness is a relational term. And it’s about trusting in God and living life out of that grounded place. Our text for today urges us to see our call as Christians as deeply related to our Christian and Jewish ancestors. Jesus wasn’t doing something different than his Jewish ancestors. He was acting out of a deep relationship with God, as they did. And he is inviting his disciples and us to root ourselves in that relationship.
Our text directly follows the Sermon on the Mount… blessed are the peace makers, blessed are they that get angry at the right time for the right reasons, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…
These blessings are directly followed by our text about saltiness and letting our light shine and righteousness. Several scholars I read suggest that the way to embody the blessings that Jesus commands in the Sermon on the Mount is to engage the coming out process our text suggests.
So, on this morning, I invite you to consider this queer text that lies at the center of the Gospel of Matthew.
In what fabulous ways are you salty? What is your particular authentic self? And how can you take seriously your power and social location in order to use your saltiness to bring out the flavor of this community?
Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher who was best known for his writing on the I-Thou relationship once wrote about this question about authenticity this way: “Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?”
And how can you share your salty, fabulous self in ways that honor and illumine your corner of the world? How are you letting your light shine?
And how about your relationship with the Holy, the Sacred, the salt-making, light-igniting Spirit of God?
When the author Madeleine L’Engle visited the college I went to, Earlham College in the early 1990’s, a good friend of mine gave her a tour of the campus. During the tour, L’Engle asked my friend how she would characterize the community. My friend paused and then said, have you ever seen the movie Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? And L’Engle said, of course. My friend then said, Earlham is like the Isle of Misfit Toys. We have a lot of people whose talents and ways of being are misunderstood or even rejected by the outside world. But there is a particular brilliance and gentle love of everyone’s gifts in a way that make this place deeply special.
I think Lyndale is also like the Isle of Misfit Toys. There is a lot of particular brilliance and gentle love of one another’s gifts.
So how are we to continue to encourage each other’s saltiness? How are we to continue to come out and claim our authenticity amidst the deepest of relationship? How might we let our light shine in ever more faithful ways.