We are, you know. We are the salt of the earth. It isn’t a colloquialism with us. We are poor in spirit, hearts going out to others more than moaning over our own ills or dissatisfactions, always hungering and panting for righteousness, mourning over things others celebrate, and celebrating every opportunity to suffer – with grace and good heart, taking no coin of glory under the table – for Jesus’ sake.
We are peacemakers, not finger pointers, and when the genuine meekness of Christ illumines our souls, that strong, rich, even aromatic meekness that routs enemies of darkness and covers the sins of others with mercy and the hope of the Gospel, we are blessed beyond expression. Rich or straightened in circumstances, we are all alike, poor in spirit, and that blessedness suits us and salts us. We are the very flavor of life, and millions have come to know it over the centuries. Light and flavor, both, are we.
Not weak, meek. Such a vast difference. Not impoverished, but poor as to hubris and carnal successes and the crippling venom of self-reference. Because, not in spite of these, we shine where we have been established, and we have been established, a city on a hill. A lamp upon a stand.
We don’t live in Hobbiton, much as we may have fashioned our homes after theirs. We aren’t the cabana on the beach. We’ve been placed on high, for good reason, and our lamp does not go out. Our lives are peppered with opportunities to salt the earth with kindness, showing courage, rejoicing in hope, strong in battle, fervent in love. It is not for nothing that we dwell on high. It may be that seldom a day goes by when we are without opportunity to show patience, perseverance, joy, and good neighborliness. We don’t say, “Why, oh why??” … We say, “Oh Lord our God, we love the place where your glory dwells.”
Do you think I have forgotten that today is the first day of Lent? Oh no! Not at all! We step with all this blessedness into the fasting and fighting and the favor of this season. More impoverished, through our fasting, and the Word dwelling more richly in us. Making ourselves more weak, and thus renewing strength. Purifying our hearts all the more, and seeing God at break of day.
Something special for you today. Excerpts from President Ronald Reagan’s Inaugural and Farewell speeches. Let us covenant to remember and carry on as he challenged us to be and to remain …
from President Ronald Reagan’s Inaugural Address:
“Standing on the tiny deck of the Arabella in 1630 off the Massachusetts coast, John Winthrop said, ‘We will be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.’ Well, we have not dealt falsely with our God, even if He is temporarily suspended from the classroom.”
“Somehow America has bred a kindliness into our people unmatched anywhere, as has been pointed out in that best-selling record by a Canadian journalist. We are not a sick society. A sick society could not produce the men that set foot on the moon, or who are now circling the earth above us in the Skylab. A sick society bereft of morality and courage did not produce the men who went through those year[s] of torture and captivity in Vietnam. Where did we find such men? They are typical of this land as the Founding Fathers were typical. We found them in our streets, in the offices, the shops and the working places of our country and on the farms.
“We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, ‘The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.’
“We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth.”
January 25, 1974
from the Farewell Address:
“And that’s about all I have to say tonight. Except for one thing. The past few days when I’ve been at that window upstairs, I’ve thought a bit of the ‘shining city upon a hill.’ The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we’d call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free.
“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still.
“And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”
President Ronald Reagan
January 11, 1989
photo, National Archives and Records Administration
Public domain, Wikipedia