I am sure many – if not all- of you know the movie “Sister Act” – one of my favorites from the 90s. The protagonist Delores VanCartier, a showsinger in Las Vegas, NV, witnessed the execution of one of her lover’s employees, and comes under witness protection by the police. The police came up with the great idea that a convent, a monastery, would be the best way to hide her from possible harm. That, of course, is a challenge for a Go-dancer in a pub in the middle of Las Vegas. No good food, no sweets, no drinks, no…. well you can imagine.
So here we are. The head of the monastery decided that it would be best for Deloris to sing in the choir. Those who know the movie know: this choir needs some “seasoning” — not in terms of the age of the members, but in terms of the quality of its performance.
Seasoning – that’s what we may think of Matthew 6, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Here, we read that “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.” Salt is in important mineral, a life-giving and life-taking mineral. Salt seasons our food; it is an important preservative when we use it to cure our meat or pickle our vegetables. AND: our body needs salt – it contains potassium that our muscles need to contract and relax.
Likewise, Jesus tells us that “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 your Father in heaven.” Light illuminates, makes things visible that are otherwise hidden in the dark. Like a city on a hill. Light makes us see things – makes us look at the horizon. And, like salt: light is life-giving. Without light we cannot live: no photosynthesis, no oxygen, no life. Friends, receiving those proclamations is really a gift from Jesus. Jesus tells us that we are necessary, we are vital parts of light. And we all come with this light within ourselves. Jesus asks us to “let that light shine” out in the world.
In a choir, usually everyone has their particular talents (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) – some have a stronger voice, others a softer voice. We have all these individual gifts, these little lights that shine. But here, those individuals together don’t yet make everything work. Especially, here in the choir. People were in the choir but all were – in different ways – just singing by themselves.
Don’t we all sometimes have that feeling: I can do it, I can pull it off myself. I am the light of the world, after all. – Alas, I wish it were this simple. If we look closer at Jesus’s teaching, we realize that there’s more than we can see: “You are the salt of the earth.” Jesus speaks to the plural of his disciples. In fact, it may better be translated as “Y’all” are the salt of the earth. It is the plurality of things that is vital.
Indeed, one grain of salt alone doesn’t help anything. The quality of salt is measured by its quantity, and its surroundings. A grain of salt doesn’t help us on the drive way for snow (you shouldn’t do this anyway, because it is not good for your plants… use icemelt). Likewise, one grain – or even two grains of salt won’t help you with spinach. Different foods need different quantities of salt. Likewise, a candle under your table doesn’t help you with your light – it will only cause a fire in your house.
Here, Sister Mary Clarence a.k.a Delores VanCartier makes that clear: You alone are great, and all of you have this little light shining within you but we need to be together as a community. We only work as a choir when we work together. We need to listen to each other, need to adjust our expectations and our little lights to one another. Sister Mary Clarence puts the choir members into their right positions and suddenly, the choir sounds much more beautiful.
Jesus emphasizes the vitality of community that is so vital for his ministry, and the ministry of his disciples to make things possible. This is such an important aspect of our ministry together as well. We often have these ideas that we need to fix or someone else needs to fix. But as a congregational church, we are only powerful when we are working together. Of course, everything goes faster if we just pursue our agendas by ourselves. But we are stronger together as a community of believers. We celebrate Holy Communion” because we are a community of believers and remember that we all are together Christ’s body. For that reason, we have committees, we have a council, and we are a congregation, a church community. And—there are plenty of ways to be part of that. For those who have not yet been assigned, take your 2 hours a month to be part of this community, to be active not as this single grain of salt but as a community together. Let your little light shine in this community. Amen.