“Now, guys… You’re going to go down on your right knee on the word ‘me.’ Ladies, you’ll spin in on two-three-four, sit on your guy’s left knee on five, and both of you will pop your outside hand up on seven. Got it? Let’s take it from ‘tell you what you mean.’ Ready? Five, six, seven, eight…”
Show choir choreography rehearsals used to be my favorite thing in all the world (‘cause you can sing anywhere, anytime—if you don’t mind weird looks—but you can’t pop your outside hand up just anywhere without risking bodily harm or, perhaps, incarceration).
But that was (quite) a few years ago when I was singing and dancing with the Auburn University Singers, by far one of the finest show choirs in existence. (That’s not a biased opinion—I must say that to avoid bearing false witness.) Now, however, the only time I pop my outside hand up is if I’m in the contemporary worship service at church, swatting a mosquito or, as I occasioned to be recently, at the weekend-long 45th reunion of those same Auburn University Singers, where I spent a couple hours on Saturday rehearsing the above choreography to “The Alphabet Song” along with all the reunion attendees who had been in the group during my era.
Although it would be tempting and would certainly add a little comedy to this post, I’m going to refrain from all the old geezer jokes; except to say that, thankfully, I made it down on one knee—and got back up—with a minimum of pain and suffering. (Equally thankfully, my lovely and lithesome dance partner was just that—lovely and lithesome. And talented and way too young to be dancing with this particular geezer. But we had a blast.)
Over the course of the weekend, 45 years’ worth of Auburn Singers (or just “Singers” if you’re a current or former member of that group) receptioned and banqueted and caught up and shared pictures of kids and grandkids and laughed and sang and danced and actually managed to perform the songs we rehearsed on Saturday at the Sunday afternoon concert.
It was a wonderful experience…
…but a slightly different one, compared to the 40th reunion five years ago—at least to me.
At the 40th reunion, I was almost two years into my faith journey and busting a gut to let my Singers choirmates—most of whom knew about my former life—know what had happened to me and that I was not the same guy they sang and danced with back in the day. (“The old is gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) Since then, and partly because of that reunion, I have grown my fellow-believers posse considerably, rekindling old friendships and kindling new ones.
So as the 45th reunion neared, the text-o-sphere was awash with “woo-hoos” and “countin’ downs” and “can’t wait to see yous.” Even more important, though, were messages between me and my “I love Jesus” peeps promising to pray for friends who were going to be there who didn’t know Him as savior.
Before I left, one of those texts centered around concern for a mutual Singers friend who, for the duration of our friendship (which, unfortunately, had kind of petered out the past few years), had been searching for something they could never seem to find. My dear friend-in-the-Lord with whom I was texting and I knew what—or rather who—that something was, and we both committed to pray for this person, with the final message before I hit the road being, “Praying that ___ sees Jesus in all of us.”
In other words, that we’d be salt and light.
On the drive up, I got a call out of the blue from a good brother and powerful prayer warrior from church (non-reunion related). I told him where I was going and what I would be doing and that I had been praying for my friend ____ who would be there, a friend I was pretty sure wasn’t a Christian. My praying brother immediately said, “Let’s pray for _____ right now.” So I’m careening down the interstate at the speed of light while my buddy prays fervently that, not only would God work in my friend-at-the-reunion’s heart, but that He would use me in some way to show the love of Jesus to Him.
In other words, that I’d be salt and light.
(That whole phone prayer incident moved me so much I had to pull off and find a place to park so I could share a moment of thanks and praise with the Lord.)
I woke up the next morning with a text from another first-tier peep (peepette, actually) who knew about my concern and prayers for my friend: “My prayer for you this weekend is Colossians 4:2-6.”
A quick check on my Holy Bible app revealed the following:
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:2-6 NIV
I had to call her right then and share my amazement at all the ways God was providing encouragement. She told me, “I woke up praying that your conversations would be ‘seasoned with salt.’”
In other words… Yep—THAT.
(Of course you can’t see me right now—I hope—but I’m sitting here shaking my head in awe thinking about all that.)
Oh—and on Sunday morning I went to the church where I attended when I was a student. And what text did the pastor use? Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world.”
You think the Lord was sending me a message? A loud-and-clear message? One He was going to make sure I got?
Salt and light: two analogies Jesus gave describing our role in and relationship with the world. While He didn’t say, “When I compare you to ‘salt and light’ what I mean is…” we can put on our 1st century cultural thinking caps and pretty much surmise what He meant.
You are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)
Fish was a staple of the middle-eastern diet during Jesus’ time. But dead fish don’t last too long in the heat. (It’s hard for us spoiled, modern kids to envision a time when there was no such thing as opening the door of the Frigidaire and popping the morning’s catch in to keep it from going bad.) To avoid ruined fish and that gag-inducing ruined-fish smell, salt was used as a preservative, since most bacteria, fungi, and other narsty organisms can’t survive in a highly salty environment…
…HIGHLY salty being the key. To truly preserve it, the salt has to penetrate the food, which means it has to be used in abundance—no skimpin’ on the salt.
Plus, there’s that whole “this fish could use a little salt” piece, because salt also influences the flavor and enjoyment of everything. (It’s likely that more than a few people sitting on the slope of that mount where Jesus delivered his famous sermon had some salt-influenced fish in a purse or pocket for a snack.)
So to be salt to the world—to truly penetrate and influence it—we can’t just huddle up in church with the doors shut tight against all the tax collectors and sinners outside (‘cause then we’d just be trapped with a bunch of tax collectors and sinners inside; although hopefully some saved ones). We have to get out there and be heard and be visible.
You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
Light is the best way to make something visible (that and wiping the schmutz off your glasses). Just as salt preserves and influences food, light preserves… well, light and banishes the darkness while revealing the truth. But again, we can’t shine our light in secret. Jesus said that no one turns a light on and sticks it under something…
Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Matthew 5:15 NIV
We’ve got to get out there among “the people walking in darkness.” (Isaiah 9:2 NIV) And I’m sure you’ve noticed there are a bunch of those these days.
Salt and Light and Jazz Hands
So basically, Jesus said, “You ARE the salt of the earth and the light of the world,” not “You know what? It would be a good idea to be salt and light” or “Hey—here’s a thought: why don’t you guys try being salt and light?”
It wasn’t a suggestion. He didn’t give us the option to opt out.
How can you be salt and light? You don’t have to have a Jesus fish on your car or stand on the corner with your Bible and shout the good news at passers-by. I mean, you can, but I’m not sure that always has the desired affect…
- Do you thank the cashier and bagger warmly and with a smile at the grocery store?
- Do you tip well, even if the service wasn’t world-class (especially on Sunday when you’re eating out in your church clothes)?
- When another lane of traffic merges with yours, do you smile and let somebody in? (You don’t have to let ‘em all in—there are rules.)
- Would people at work be surprised to find out you’re a Christian? Do you get there on time and stay as long as you’re supposed to and take projects no one else wants and finish them in a timely manner?
- Do you act like a Christian on Facebook? You don’t have to always post Bible verses, but it’s a good idea not to share things or comment on things others share with cuss words in them (for starters).
- Do you ever attend school board or PTA meetings? Do you know your kid’s teachers and what they stand for? Do you know what they’re being taught in school? Do you speak out when it’s the opposite of what you want them to be taught?
- Do you vote? Do you ever write or call your government representatives? Do you pray for them?
I’m sure you can think of others.
The question for me and my weekend in Auburn with the Singers then becomes: Was I salt and light to my friend at the reunion? Did I penetrate and influence and banish the darkness?
Maybe. I don’t know. It was boisterous and busy and there were no quiet moments to pull my friend aside and sit and let the Holy Spirit erect a little spiritual bubble around us. But I did my best to engage and reconnect and rekindle our friendship. Plans were made to keep in touch. Salty and light-ish kinds of seeds were planted.
Time will tell.
You can join me and my posse and pray for ______. Make up any name you want—the Lord knows…
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, if you’re a Christian you ARE the salt of the earth and the light of the world—even if you’re in a choreography rehearsal.
And sometimes you just have to pop your outside hand up and let the love of Jesus shine through…
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