Soul Talk Advent Series 2019: 'Words to Live a Life by"
Guest Blogger: Jon Timms
One of my favourite places is the shoreline. Its the place where all good things come together, the known meets the mystery. From the comfort and safety of terra firma we gaze at the vastness of the horizon, and if we’re able to still ourselves for long enough we’ll hear her gently whispering to the deep longings, there is more….just step forward and feel the embrace.
As a surfer I love nothing more than a stepping out into the ocean as the sun is rising. We’ve been clothed in darkness through the night waiting for the promise of warmth and light. At daybreak, like the ebb and flow of the tide, landscapes shift as shadows lose their threat and night time retreats and loosens its grip on Creation…..first light reminds us of the faithfulness of the Artist who has gifted us such a treasure.Heart alive as I paddle out, the sea is achingly cold to touch as small splashes on my face remind me of the salt that is helping keep me afloat enough to glide across the surface. The first glimpse of sunlight illuminates the world around me and joins in with the symphony of the dawn chorus as
diamonds dance across the surface of the ocean. Sight, sound, touch, taste and smell - senses alive, joining the heart in wonder and praise. The beautiful collision of salt and light!
Scientists and coastal experts will tell you that salt actually comes from the rocks on land. Small amounts of acid in the rainwater break down the rock and eventually creates ions that run off into the rivers and streams that lead to the sea, salting the ocean! Salt itself makes the journey from land to sea, from its origin to a new purpose, to ensure that life can thrive there, can find nourishment there and that life can find ‘places the pray in and places to play in’ (John Muir).
Jesus famously talked of salt when he spoke from the side of a hill in what we now know as the Sermon on the Mount. The Salt of the Earth, cut from rock and formed by from rain. The echo still rings true of our original glory, formed from the dust of the ground, brought to life by the very breath of God himself. And then brought into purpose, firstly to enjoy sweet union with Him, enjoy the cool of the day. Then to bring balance that will enable life to thrive. Salt in the sea plays a vital role in the Earth’s climate, upholding the creatures who inhabit it. This truly is a symphony of profound importance.
When Jesus says ‘you’ to the people on that dusty hill, its easy for us in our individualistic culture to bear the burden of such a weighty proposition on our own. However, scholars will tell you that the ‘you’ here is pluralistic. It is ‘we’, the church, ‘us’ that need to heed this instruction.
Who are the salty church? We are the ones who take simple yet monumental step of trusting the voice of the One who calls us out from the known and into the mystery. We are cut from rock, formed by rain, and made for the sea. Like salt, we create and then uphold environments where life is sustained and allowed to flourish. We bring nourishment to all, we are a place of care to the vulnerable, young and old; we celebrate the technicolour of life, allowing it to revel in its own existence and purposes; we allow the cycles to bring rest when needed and then to journey onward with awakening.
Is life flourishing in the church/community environments we inhabit and invite people into?
In my home, cooking with sea salt is slowly being replaced by cooking with Himalayan salt due to micro-plastics evident in the sea salt. A Sermon on the Mount salty church that brings flavour and nourishment will lose its saltiness when we let the ‘plastics’ ruin and taint the environment of our communities. They will no longer be the places of refuge, family, awakening, acceptance, hospitality, forgiveness and love that they need to be for the Kingdom to come and be a reality now.
At this point in the delivery of this paradigm-shifting discourse Jesus talks also of light, the second element in our beautiful dawn collision. As if awakening from the darkness, the light is the source of ALL life.
Jesus had a close friend, a fisherman with a propensity towards being the favoured one. He began his Gospel with the story of two cousins, one a wild man from the hinterland, the other…..well he was the Christ. This Christ, his friend Jesus, wasn’t just a carrier of light….He was and is the light.
He is the true light of the world. Just like the first rays of daybreak during my morning surf, the light that Jesus emanates bathes Creation in God’s beauty, faithfulness and love. He is the welcome promise of morning after the long and cold night time, the dark night where shadows feed lies and distort shape and truth. Joy comes in the morning and dances like diamonds on the surface of the salty ocean. In the light of day truth becomes reality and our spirits sore as we take our place as sons and daughters of possibility.
Light and salt are hope and peace; they are home and they are mystery; they are warmth and they are awakening. Within their embrace we are still and we know…..we are seen, we are loved and we are held. We are embraced and we embrace. We are welcomed in and we welcome in. We are the both/and.
May we, the sons and daughters, the beloved ones, may we revel in our place in the Kingdom, and may we invite others to do the same. May they see the peace in which we live, move and have our being, and may they jump into the deep blue salty sea as the light clothes them in Glory.
Jon Timms leads Discovery Church, Dunbar. He lives in Dunbar with his wife, Emma and their four children.