Salt and Light: Jesus’ Teachings in Matthew 5:13-16

This week in our “Gospel Encounters” adult Sunday School class we will continue our study and discussion of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5. Following verses 1-12, which we call “The Beatitudes” and we discussed last week, Jesus explains to his followers how we are called to act as both salt and light in our world. The Message presents these teachings in clear language:

‘“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. “Let me tell you why you are here. 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 are the slides we will use during class to discuss and explore these verses.

Starting at the 1:16 timestamp, we will also view this depiction of these teachings by Jesus.

In the interest of time, I will likely just reference but not play the following videos, which include some of the cultural references to “a city on a hill” for me. These include President Ronald Reagan in his farewell address from the White House.

Another reference these verses bring to mind is the lighting of the warning beacons of Gondor in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings.” This is the depiction in Peter Jackson’s third movie in the series, “The Return of the King.”

Last of all, the well known children’s song, “This Little Light of Mine,” has a very important second verse, which proclaims, “Jesus is the Light.” We will discuss tomorrow how this is a vital distinction. Unlike ancient and modern gnostics, as reformed and evangelical Christians we believe Jesus is the light of the world, and it is only through his grace and power that we can come to know our Father in Heaven and receive forgiveness for our sins. We are not the light, but we do seek to share and reflect the light of Jesus in our lives to a dark world hungering for truth, righteousness, love and all the fruits of God’s spirit.

Narrated SketchNotes on Romans 14 & Luke 14

Today was my first day at our church to use the iPad app Procreate to create sketchnotes of both our Sunday School lesson and today’s sermon by our senior pastor, Mateen Elass. My friend Carol Anne McGuire (@rockourworld) is an avid sketchnoter each Sunday of sermons at her church in California, and I’m very inspired by her work. She posts all her sketchnotes (for sermons and other presentations) to this Flickr album.

I’ve been a fan of the iPad app “Brushes” for years, and created my own sketchnotes for my eBook single and book chapter on “visual notetaking” back in 2013. Unfortunately, however, when Brushes went to verson 3 it was a functional downgrade. The interface got worse, and the ability to export stopmotion-style animations of drawings as shareable videos was also eliminated. As a result, I’ve been on a quest to find a new iPad app to replace Brushes. Carol Anne recommended Procreate, and my initial experiences with the app today were superb. I really like it and look forward to learning how to use it more effectively.

Keep in mind, before I show you my creations today, that the goal of “sketchnoting” is NOT to create great or compelling art. The purpose is to more deeply process the ideas the sketchnoter is hearing, seeing and experiencing, and create a visual product which can be used later to “re-tell” the main ideas and points of the presentation. Sketchnotes are also handy to visually represent key ideas and share them on social media, which is critically important in our “attention economy.” Today I not only used Procreate to create and export static images of my sermon sketchnotes, but I also used it to export video versions which I later narrated using iMovie for iPad. I’ve taught my 4th and 5th grade STEM students the past couple of months how to use iMovie for iPad to narrated the Lego Stopmotion movies they’ve created in our Maker Studio, and those positive experiences led me to try narrating my sketchnotes today. For more information, links and resources about sketchnoting or creating “visual notes,” please see the visual notetaking page of Mapping Media to the Curriculum.

Our couples Sunday school class lesson today focused on Romans 14. Here’s my VERY child-like sketchnote. As a partial disclaimer, understand I forgot my stylus at home today so these visuals were drawn with my finger!

Sketch note about Romans 14 in Sunday Sc by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Wesley Fryer 

Here is the 14 second narrated version of that sketchnote on Romans 14:

I also shared a few tweets on my @eyesrightblog Twitter channel during Sunday school class.

Here’s my sketchnote of Mateen Elass‘s sermon this morning, which focused on Luke 14:25-34.

Sketchnote about Luke 14 by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Wesley Fryer 

Here is my 30 second narrated version:

I love sketchnoting, even though I’m not YET very good at it. I know I’ll get better with more practice! I added both of today’s sketchnotes to my Flickr set for Sketchnotes / Visual Notes. I can’t wait till next Sunday when I’ll have more opportunities to practice! Hopefully I’ll also remember to bring a stylus. 🙂

Inspired by Oscar to Watch God’s Not Dead #GodsNotDead

One of the highlights of my fall semester last year was getting to know one of my 4th grade students, Edgar, a little better. In October I learned about the absolutely fantastic builds he’s made on the Android version of Minecraft Pocket Edition, and a week later we recorded this 15 minute video together where he took me on a tour of his creations. The things he has built in Minecraft are truly spectacular. In addition to recording that video, I was able to share the video with most of my STEM classes in subsequent weeks to highlight his creativity and Minecraft skills as exemplary. I think that meant a lot to him. I received a very sweet Christmas note from him just before break.

Christmas note from a student by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Wesley Fryer 

After making a connection to Oscar through Minecraft, he started bringing some different DVD videos to school for me to borrow and watch. The first one was about tornados and stormchasers. The second one was the 2014 movie, “God’s Not Dead,” which I’d heard about but never seen.

As a STEM teacher, I talk a great deal about science, our scientific understanding of the universe, but don’t talk about my faith or Christianity. Talking about my faith during class in a public school, as a public school teacher, would not be appropriate. I think Oscar loaned me the movie, “God’s Not Dead,” (he actually had checked it out of a local public library) because he things I’m an atheist. I asked him if he wanted me to watch the movie so we could discuss it, and he said yes. We didn’t have an opportunity to visit about it before Christmas break, and I won’t have him in class during the spring semester because of our rotation schedule for STEM and Art classes. I was very touched that he wanted me to watch the movie, however, and I plan to talk privately with him about this at an opportune moment when we get back to school.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Friday morning after Christmas (when Mark Veasey shared his testimony) one of the guys at my table for our men’s group was talking about having just seen “God’s Not Dead.” I told him one of my students had loaned me the movie to watch, and this friend (Ron Bath) encouraged me to watch it.

A few nights ago, 4 of the members of our family watched “God’s Not Dead” on AppleTV. We had to buy it, however, since it’s not for rent from iTunes. It is a very good movie. It raises some great questions and issues, and led to some good conversations with our girls, particularly with Rachel (who is 11.) There is some discussion in the film of acknowledged atheist Stephen Hawking’s evolving views on the origin of the universe, and that was more meaningful to the girls and I since we’d recently watched “A Theory of Everything” at the movie theater. That film is the biography of Stephen Hawking, and was also worthwhile to see. It included much less about theoretical physics than I’d hoped it would, but it made a big connection with our older daughter and her understanding of ALS. Afterwards at dinner she made the connection, “So THAT is what the ‘ice bucket challenge‘ was raising money to try and cure?!”

I thought the portrayal of Christians and Christianity in “God’s Not Dead” was very good. Certainly there are all kinds of beliefs and Christian denominations, and it’s impossible to generalize with complete accuracy what “Christian faith” means to everyone. The movie’s focus on “God is good, all the time,” and that God places us in exactly the right place at the right time to do his work resonated deeply with me. The college professor who is a main character in the film grapples with the existence of evil, and like many others has anger for how a benevolent Creator could exist who would allow evil to apparently flourish in the world. Without a doubt this is a HUGE question, and one which turns many people away from faith in God around the world.

Because I continue to personally EXPERIENCE the reality and power of God’s existence through prayer and my shared life experiences in our family and community of faith, I do not see any incompatibility between my love and interest in science and my faith in God and his Son, Jesus Christ. I continue to be humbled and grateful at the ways God opens up doors in my life, my wife’s life, and the lives of others to serve Him and love others. I count it a great personal blessing to have been able to teach Oscar for the past five months. I’m glad he wanted me to see the movie, “God’s Not Dead.” As the lyrics to The Newsboys title track for the movie say:

My God’s not dead
He’s surely alive
He’s living on the inside
Roaring like a lion

Praise God for his goodness and his faithfulness! My God bless you and your family this new year in 2015.