After three pastoral visits this morning and an engaging lunch with a couple of co-conspirators, I checked my email and then took a first cursory look at the readings for this Sunday (Isaiah 58:1-12 and Matthew 5:13-20) – in preparation for crafting the liturgy on Tuesday, Lectionary Study Group on Wednesday and writing a reflection on Sunday. Imagine my surprise when in an email from a member of the congregation asking me to be a part of their sangha* they sent me a link that referenced a verse from the Gospel text for this Sunday.
In Matthew 5:13 in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, we find this statement: “Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt hath lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden underfoot of men.” In this passage, Jesus describes his followers as salt. Food needs salt in order to be tasty. Life needs understanding, compassion and harmony in order to be livable. This is the most important contribution to life that the followers of Jesus can bring to the world. It means that the Kingdom of Heaven has to be realized here, not somewhere else, and that Christians need to practice in a way that they are the salt of life and a true community of Christians.
Salt is also an important image in the Buddhist canon, and this Christian teaching is equivalent to the Buddha’s teaching about sangha. The Buddha said that the water in the four oceans has only one taste, the taste of salt, just as his teaching has only one taste, the taste of liberation. Therefore the elements of sangha are the taste of life, the taste of liberation, and we have to practice in order to become the salt. When we say, “I take refuge in the sangha,” it is not a statement, it is a practice.**
I love it when elements of life converge in ways such as this! One email connects with another, one conversation leads to another and so on and so on and on and on…
I’m not sure where exactly the reflection will arrive at on Sunday morning but I am certain that I’ll try to make some connections between the rhetorical question of the prophet Isaiah,
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
and how the Holy is present in the saltiness of the tears we share as community in both celebration and sorrow.
Today has been filled with visits and meetings and as of writing there are still one meeting, one group gathering and one pastoral visit left to go.
Tomorrow I’ll be working from home: reading and research and crafting the liturgy for Sunday and on Wednesday I’ll be back in the office for meetings, Lectionary Study Group, two pastoral visits and finish up with a meeting of the Executive at 6:30PM.
Thursday will be spent crafting a reflection to go along with the liturgy on Sunday, interspersed with a couple of meetings: one with the Trustees and Finance and Investment Committee and another with a group of colleagues.
Friday and Saturday will be days off – and don’t forget Saturday is Frank Oulton’s birthday! Call and have a pizza delivered to him in the shape of a Maple Leaf!
Sunday we will gather at 9AM at Upper Sackville United Church and 11AM at Sackville United Church. The Town VS Gown Hockey Game is at 4:30PM and the Heavenly Voices Karoke FUNd Raiser for Sackville United Church from 6-7:30PM
*A community of friends practicing the dharma together in order to bring about and to maintain awareness. The essence of a sangha is awareness, understanding, acceptance, harmony and love.