Right Livelihood, Salt, and Light

First United Methodist Church – Omaha
Rev. Kent H. Little
February 10, 201
Scripture: Dhammapada 173
Matthew 5:13-14
Sermon: “Right Livelihood, Salt, and Light”

When I share a bit of my story, in terms of my call to ministry, someone will often say, “O, you are a second career clergy?” To which I usually reply well… really a about a 4th career. I went to technical school right out of high school and as a mechanic for just long enough to know I do not have that gift. I worked as the manager of a parts department for a large John Deere dealer in western Kansas for about 6 years. I sold Farm Bureau insurance for about 6 years, perhaps a little longer than I should have before I realized I do not have that gift either. And then entered the process into the ordained ministry.

What Does the 8-fold path of Buddha and the teachings of Jesus have to say about our Labor … about the work we do??? “Right Livelihood; and Let Your Light Shine” Right Livelihood in Buddhist thought. What do you do? A common question when we meet someone new. What do you do for a living? What do you do? I can say, it really doesn’t have a lot to do literally with our chosen occupation… but rather how we live into and how we exist in what we do and in the world.

Jesus had a lot of stories and examples that involved work Parables of farmers, workers in the field, sowers, harvesters, fisher people… I think Jesus was in favor of good work… fruitful work, fair and just work… Livelihood

But that is not exactly where I went with the teaching for this morning…

One of the many translations/paraphrases I read in preparation for this morning put the teaching from Jesus like this…
You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.
If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your
usefulness and will end up in the garbage. “Here’s another way to put it:
You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.

Conversely the teaching from the Buddha…

In Buddhist thought, in terms of Right Livelihood…

Whoever, by a good deed, covers the evil done, such a one illumines this world like the moon freed from the clouds.
Right livelihood means that one should abstain from making one’s living through a profession that brings harm to others.
How one makes their living should be compassionate, just, legal, caring for all living beings.

Illumine the world….

Or another…
“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth {salt?}, so virtue appears from good deeds,
and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life,
one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”

Thich Nhat Hahn points out “The Buddha said that we much each be our own torch… light.
And we are called to be salt, Jesus tells us…
These things we must not just ponder and reflect upon but they are practices to be lived.

Both The Buddha and the Christ would say…
We are to Be Salt…
We are to Be Light …

Reminds me of a comment a friend of mine said once…
And I think along those lines the both of them would say, we are to BE Salt not throw it.
I believe the value I have found in Buddhism in regards to this lesson is the practice of meditation.
To focus on salt and light, to envision, visualize what those symbols mean for us.
What does it mean to be the salt of the earth? What does it mean to be the light of the world?
What does it mean to seek the wisdom of a pure and peaceful mind as we walk through this maze of human life? How does one create a mantra of sorts a mantra that reminds one to Be salt and light whatever and where ever they are and are doing?

To focus and become rather than just on doing? To be aware and awake in the moment? The recurrent theme throughout this series, throughout this journey, throughout my readings and learnings Is the one of mindfulness and living and existing in this moment. To be ever aware of each breath, each moment, each action, each movement.

What does it mean to work…to labor …in the sense of a mindfulness of Wisdom and Compassion to Work… to be aware, to feel fulfilled and at peace in this anxious world?

Let me share perhaps a beginning place for us that I believe fits within this journey on which we are embarking It comes from a teaching I received at the Buddhist center teacher Namdrol shared From the book Modern Buddhism by Geshe Gyatso… speaking of the Preciousness of our Human Life…

“If I waste this precious opportunity [moment] in meaningless activities
there is not greater loss and no greater foolishness.”
In other words encouragement to consider each moment, to be mindful of each moment…Employed or not… working or not in the awareness of our activities to make sure they are meaningful and not meaningless. To find ways to practice…Meaningful activities that will help us stay positive in the midst of this anxious world…

BE … Salt… BE Light in the moment where you are. Don’t hide your light under a bucket of negativity… Do not hold on to your salt too long lest it lose its saltiness… yes…
Possible particularly in Jesus day… More impure than ours… and when salt is exposed to certain other elements and impurities…It can lose its savor… Jesus is saying use your salt now…Flavor the world now…light the world now… in this moment.. practice compassion and wisdom…Seek a pure and peaceful mind… in this maze of human life…if you will do that in this moment… Other things will take care of themselves. Don’t worry about the goal or the outcome or the fruit, just do that, really do it.

What would our world look like if in the midst of all of our work we were able to maintain such a mind…? To focus on the other with wisdom and compassion… such is not foreign to Xtianity. Love God…Love others…love yourself. It is the core of who we are as Christians… And… where do we start? And what do we try first? This changing of our minds. We start here. I have a mantra when I find myself struggling or stressed, Patience Kent, Patience.

Where do we start this mindfulness? Right where we are… and really… it isn’t a matter of trying… it is a matter of slowing down and doing…To serve the other it fills our souls and our hearts… Just do it… find a way To serve the other it fills our souls and our hearts… one can do it almost anywhere…At the Sienna Francis, on a street corner, at McDonalds, Grocery store, bank….

Be Awake to opportunities to practice BEING compassion and patience and peace…That… That I believe is our true work… our true work and in that sense if we can find such peace…The world we exist in will be more compassionate and peaceful…And when the day gets long and hard… remember the words of the Christ and go away with the Spirit for a time “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion [on work]? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

And once your Spirit is renewed and refreshed continue to Be… and know as the Buddha says. Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it. And your work? Compassion, Wisdom, Love and Grace. Right here, right now, in this moment.

Each moment… we choose whether we will contribute to the unique flavor of goodness and compassion in the world or will we contribute to the bitterness and cynicism in the world? Will we add to the light of the world or will we further the darkness. I pray we a salt and light in a world, culture, and society that so desperately needs more.

May it be so. May it be now.