Running the Relay
February 5, 2023
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Matthew 5:13-20
Jane Shelton, CRE

I’m sure you all remember those school relay races in your P.E. classes. Remember those?
You had to race the other team, passing off a baton from one person to the next as you ran each leg of the race to see who was going to win. I loved those!

When I was a child, I had asthma really bad, and I could not do a lot of running without giving out of breath. Running laps around the gym was not for me, and I hated when I had to sit out and not be able to participate with the rest of my friends. However, in those relay races, I could run as fast as I could in a short amount of time, and pass off that baton to the next person who could run to the next person, and so. In essence those to whom I passed the baton were breathing for me to finish the race. It was a great way to be a part of something fun, and be able to work together as a team to complete the race.

Let me interject here that I am honored and humbled to be chosen as your CRE for the Interim Period during our search for our new Pastor. For those of you who don’t know or who are new to the Presbyterian Church, a pastor is a Teaching Elder, a member of the Session is a Ruling Elder, and a Ruling Elder that has been called and completed a course of training to preach the word is a Trained Ruling Elder. Once the Trained Ruling Elder is called to a church, they go through a process by which they are examined by the Presbytery and, if approved, become a Commissioned Ruling Elder or CRE.

I want to explain that in no way am I your future full time pastor. In fact, as are the rules of Presbytery, as your chosen interim, it is not an option for me to be chosen as your next pastor.
As much as I love all of you, my call is to fill this interim period, and to simply run the relay.
I’m taking the baton from Dr. G., and when the time is right, before I give out of breath, I will pass that baton on to the next pastor chosen, and to the one that I believe is already being called by God for this church.
It will not be productive for this congregation or the Pastor Nominating Committee to get fixated on my being your full time pastor. The PNC will need your prayers and support in selecting the person God has chosen for you.

Not only will I be running the relay, so will all of you. Each of you brings special gifts of your own, and as we work together, we bring new light and life to each other and to others outside the church. In the relay, it will be important that we stay positive, and support one another, and to consider what is best for the whole of the congregation, not just a few.

In our scripture today, Jesus said, YOU are the salt of the earth, and we must not lose our taste so that we don’t get trampled under foot. What did he mean when he called us salt? In Jesus’ day, salt was used a lot as a preservative, and it is still is today. So when Jesus says, “we are the salt of the earth,” he is saying we are preserved in the way of Jesus. We stay preserved by following in Jesus footsteps….these include, prayer, meditation, reading God’s word, and putting our love into action, for example.

Jesus said, YOU are the light of the world. How are we the light of the world?
You are running the relay of the baton handed to you by Jesus Christ. As long as you have that light, you cannot be trampled or hidden or forgotten.

Just picture for a moment all of yourselves drenched in salt, preserved by Christ to continue his work, and you are a light shining on a hill. Maybe you see yourself as a bright burning candle, a lighthouse, or a bright ray of sunshine. Perhaps you are the 100 watt bulb shining in the lampstand, or the campfire burning in the darkness. Whatever your light is, whatever your picture in your head is of your light, see yourself as that light right now. (pause) It’s okay if you need to close your eyes to see it.

Now picture yourself as that light glowing where you are, and as you look around, you see all the other people seated next to you as lights.
IF you are watching from home, you can picture all the lights around you in your environment, your care takers, your family, your pets. Think on the lights that surround you.

Now can you feel the warmth in the room?
If your light doesn’t feel too bright to you today, look around the room for the person with the brighter light, and be warmed by that person; the joy they bring.

Now imagine this congregation getting up and walking outside the door, down the steps and onto the sidewalk. What do you see? Who do you see? Do they need light? Give them some of yours so they shine…share a little salt.

Do you see someone outside that is glowing bright? Invite them to come along on your journey, to join this group of bright lights journeying together as we move down the sidewalk.

Now let’s pretend that half of us reach the corner on the side walk, and half of us go north, and half of us go south, can you see the glowing lights going down the street into the world? That’s you, that’s us, together in our everyday journey. We are together even when we are apart, and we journey together in the Light of Jesus spreading joy, and being gracious, and helping others.

If you see yourself making this journey, you are indeed running the relay of Jesus Christ. We are not to the end of the race yet, we are still running as long as we have breath. Some days our light may be brighter than other days, and when you know this within yourself, reach for a baton with enough light to fill you and renew you.

No one should ever feel they have to go it alone. You don’t have to be strong all the time if you are going through something tough, or struggles you keep inside, share it with someone here. I assure you they will embrace you and pray for you and pray with you.

Jesus said a city built on a hill cannot be hid. I would say that a congregation that is built on a hill cannot be hid, and once the light of the congregation is lit by the love of Jesus, it cannot go out or be hid either. It is preserved in God’s grace and mercy and love.

As we continue the relay, we want others to see so the light of Jesus cannot be ignored, and in so doing, we give glory to our Father in heaven.

As we run the relay together, let our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Let us be wise in our hearts so that the word of God will be fulfilled. So that we can move closer to justice and peace. So that we can move away from sin and darkness. So that we can abolish judgment and hatred among us.

One of my commentaries wisely stated, “Light does not change a room: It enables us to see what is in it. It helps us appreciate what is good and beautiful, just as it facilitates avoiding pitfalls.”

We are children of the light, and we are illuminated by the love of Jesus. When life gets depressing and discouraging, and changes happen that we don’t like, think on the light that glows inside of you, and know that you are illumined by Jesus who will never leave you. You are never alone.

The light of Jesus helps us to see the hidden hope of glory that is in it. It helps us to see the hidden hope of love among us in a world that grows dark. We must continue to look at the light and move away from the darkness, and seek out the love….the light that flickers in the darkness, so that we may rejoice in the goodness and grace of our Lord.

As the Psalmist writes, let us rise in the darkness as a light for the upright who are gracious, merciful and righteous. It is well with those who deal generously and lend, those who conduct their affairs with justice, those who distribute freely and give to the poor. These will be remembered forever. These are all a part of the relay.

My prayer is that we are all drenched in salt with lights shining bright in Jesus’ relay race in our life’s journey.


*Cover Image: Unsplash, free