It Does Not Take Much

Sermon for Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Matthew 5:13-16
Bethany Convent, Arlington, MA

‘You are the salt of the earth…  You are the light of the world.”

2015_1025_lop_mustard_seedAs the priest of a small congregation in the shrinking Episcopal Church in the least-churched part of the country (here in the northeast), I take comfort in this morning’s gospel lesson.  I take comfort because, just as it doesn’t take much salt to add flavor, just as it doesn’t take a big light to see in the darkness, so does it not take being large to make a difference in our world.  Living in Newton, I live in a place where Christians are a minority, and where practicing Christians are a distinct minority.  And yet – if we Christians really are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” – we can take comfort in knowing that it doesn’t take much – we need not be many – to help make the kingdom of heaven a bit more real here and now.

I imagine that perhaps you, too, might find comfort in this morning’s Gospel lesson.  It doesn’t take much – the Sisters need not be many – to help make the kingdom of heaven a bit more real, right here, right now.  Just a few people, living faithful to a life of prayer, manifesting in their lives the life of Jesus, make an out-sized difference in our world!

I hope that you are not dismayed be fewness of numbers.  And I hope that you continue faithful in your prayer and witness.  Because you are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.  And you can help transform this world.

Fr. Benson’s letters to Fr. O’Neill in India are treasures, not merely for the Society, but for all who labor in fewness of numbers and see little results.  (Fr. O’Neill lived as an Indian holy man for years and was often discouraged by his seeming failure to make converts.)

In August of 1874, Fr. Benson wrote Fr. O’Neill:

A retired work, and a life of devotion and prayer very little heard by others, is what will surely tell the most in the end, not only upon the neighborhood, but upon others at a distance.  God will manifest his power in bringing to light, for the increase of His glory, whatever has been done in simple reliance upon himself.  (Fr. Benson to Fr. O’Neill, in a letter dated August 20, 1874.)

It doesn’t take much – we need not be many – to help make the kingdom of heaven a little more real, right here, right now.  “A retired work… a life of devotion and prayer” – though it may seem like so many grains of salt, or like only one small candle in the darkness – yet it “will surely tell the most in the end,” bringing saltiness to this world, and enabling those around us to see light and hope.

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