Pastor Susan Rogers at The Well at Springfield in Jacksonville, Fla. She preached about the death of Philip Seymore Hoffman on Sunday. (Jeff Brumley/ABPnews/Herald)
Pastor Susan Rogers at The Well at Springfield in Jacksonville, Fla. She preached about the death of Philip Seymore Hoffman on Sunday. (Jeff Brumley/ABPnews/Herald)

'Salt and light' can heal addiction, says preacher in wake of actor's overdose death

The heroin overdose of actor Philip Seymore Hoffman is a reminder to Christians that they are called to be the salt and light to the world — which means using relationships to bring healing to all who suffer, Pastor Susan Rogers preached at the The Well in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday.

By Jeff Brumley

Jacksonville, Fla., resident Josiah Monks stood before his congregation Sunday morning and admitted how being fully immersed in Bible and worship a few years back did nothing to ease the nightmare of his addictions.

But one-on-one meetings with another Christian, just three or four hours a week, transformed his life, said Monks, 27, a member at The Well at Springfield, a missional church plant of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida and Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church.

“I realized how an hour of honesty means more than 1,000 hours of church,” he said.

JosiahBanksCommunionHis remarks were not coordinated with the sermon that had just been preached by Pastor Susan Rogers, but perfectly illustrated it nonetheless.

Moved by the recent overdose death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rogers delivered a message blending the lectionary reading from Matthew, calling believers to be the salt and light of the world, with a reminder that addiction is a disease of personal isolation and broken relationships.

The Internet shows Rogers wasn’t alone in seeing spiritual lessons in Hoffman’s passing.

Some pastors wrote blogs and sermons referring to sadness at Hoffman’s addiction to heroin. Others on how he deserved a Catholic funeral despite not adhering — at least publically — to the faith for many years.

“This is who we are: men and women of inestimable worth ... marked with a dignity and glory of divinity that beams brilliant and true,” Pastor Laura Sumner Truax blogged on Feb. 2, the day Hoffman was found dead in his New York City apartment with a syringe in his arm.

Truax, who leads LaSalle Street Church in Chicago, added: “This is who we are: creatures of dust ... pulsating energies of insecurity and fragility.”

Rogers decided to preach about Hoffman as she saw the outpouring of grief for Hoffman on Facebook.

“And we have several people at The Well who struggle with addiction, and who are current or former members of recovery programs,” she said after worship on Sunday.

The parallels between being salt and light, and the role of personal relationships in the healing of addiction, became immediately apparent, she added.

In the biblical context, Rogers preached, being salt and light means being agents of transformation, purification, healing and hope to others.

“Follow Jesus like you are going to invade this broken world and make it whole one deed, one relationship at a time,” Rogers said.

That heeding this call can succeed is borne out in Christian history, Rogers said, citing the early church’s spread despite its ban by authorities. It was individuals relating to other individuals that caused that spread.

Citing published comments by British comedian Russell Brand, himself a recovering addict, Rogers said the same principle can be used to take on addiction.

Brand said addicts should be viewed “not as criminals but as sick people in need of care.” He also relayed how one-on-one connections can bring that care.

Rogers challenged her congregation.

“Does the gospel still have the life-transforming power, and can the kingdom really overcome competing powers as dark and powerful as these?”

Yes, she said, if each believer avoids the temptation to stop believing in God’s transformative power that is expressed through relationships.

“Jesus tells us: ‘You are going to invade this broken world and make it whole again.”