Tuesday, April 29, 2008

With Urgency

You are the salt of the earth . . . you are the light of the world (Matthew 5: 13, 14).

We’ve reduced these wonderful words of Jesus to mere poetry; an inspirational metaphor or image, but little more. Is it possible that when Jesus spoke these words he wasn’t simply giving us a picture, but rather giving us a command? We would do well to recover the urgency in these words. Not unlike the kind of urgency that drew Dietrich Bonhoeffer back to Nazi Germany from a safe parish ministry in England.

In 1933 Adolph Hitler was solidifying unchallenged power in Germany and the protestant church was capitulating, willingly swept up in the nationalism Hitler so skillfully stoked. Not all Christians in Germany were pleased with what was happening to their country, among them a young theologian by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Frustrated with the inner workings of the German church and the refusal of the church to stand up to Hitler, Bonhoeffer left Germany and went to pastor a German speaking congregation in London. The situation for the church in Germany continued to deteriorate, and in November of 1933 Bonhoeffer received a letter from the renowned theologian Karl Barth. The pointed message from Barth to his former student: You must return to Germany. Barth wrote

You must now let go of all these intellectual flourishes and special considerations, however interesting they may be, and think of only one thing – that you are a German, that the house of your church is on fire, that you know enough and can say what you know well enough to be able to help, and that you really must return to your post by next ship (Letter from Karl Barth to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, November 1933).

That’s urgency.

God likewise has given you a post in this world. Whether in a law firm or a classroom or a clinic or a playroom littered with toys, you have a post. And Jesus has said that wherever that post may be, we are to be salt and light in the world. The conviction beneath “my95” is that all of you can do this. As Barth said to Bonhoeffer, you know enough. You don’t need a seminary degree to be salt and light. And you can say what you know in a way that is fitting and effective in the place God has you.

If “ my95” is, to borrow Barth’s words, an “intellectual flourish” then our faith will not likely impact our world. Our influence will be confined to the length of a pew and the height of a steeple. But Jesus has given us an identity that carries a mandate. You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.

Assume your post again today, and this time with urgency.

Lord Jesus, help me to live this day with urgency – not an anxious need to make things happen or to control what others think and do, but an intense desire to be salt and light and make a difference in the place you’ve given me. May others see something in my life that draws them to you, and may you be honored in all that they see. Amen.

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