Sunday, February 13, 2011

January 30th - what does the Lord require of thee?

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:1-8)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them...(Matthew 5:1-12)

Vicki said that her favorite sermon she ever heard at Christ Church was a supply priest who came in while pastor Rick was on vacation and basically just stood up and said – “I’ve been supplying here on and off for a while now. I think you are all on the right track. And I just want to tell you God loves you. “

And then the priest sat down. That was it. The End.

As a young person, she thought that was the best sermon she ever heard. Because she was out of church in like 15 minutes.

And I must admit I was tempted to do something similar today. Not JUST because I just spent 4 nights in las vegas. And Not just because I then spent the next two days stuffed in a room full of hundreds of clergy and very patient lay delegates at the annual convention of the Diocese of Newark.

But because the lectionary today contains one of my favorite scriptures of all time from Micah –

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you 
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
 and to walk humbly with your God?
PART of me just wants to say – that’s it. That is the second part of the supply priests very short sermon

God might love you – but God also requires something of you

So Repeat this verse to yourself. Learn it. This is the response we give to the fact that God love us. If we all do this – everything else is gravy. That’s it. The end.

I’m sure some of you would love to get out of here in 15 minutes. But you know I have to earn my keep…. So maybe I should at least tell you why I like this verse so much

This verse has a special place in my heart because I went to an evangelical college. The evangelicals loved this passage. WE sang it in chapel. Everyone had it memorized and quoted it often. Because for evangelicals to be saved means to respond.

To be an evangelical means to have a conversion – not just to belief but a conversion of your whole life.

And so it means we must find out what the Lord requires of us. We must move from Sunday worship to care about things like justice, mercy and humility with God all week long .

So Whether we were reading a textbook or debating about current events, or planning our free time - everything was held up to the question - what is the just thing to do in this situation. what is the merciful thing, how do we bring our wills humbly in line with the will of God.

This is what it means to live in the Spirit of the Beautitudes we read today - longing for righteousness and being a peacemaker. Showing kindness or mercy. Being meek or humble in spirit,

NOW I have to tell you – yet again -- that I have this verse from Micah memorized in the King James language --

what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

I like the old language better ….because for me “doing justly” is both about doing justice work - and about the daily decisions we make to live justly in our everyday life

So it is first about making the world a more just place… a less oppressive place for others -- THIS is related to one of the oldest requirements by God given with the then commandments in Deuteronomy : that the Isrealites should not oppress the widow and foreigner in their midst.

They were saved from oppression in Egypt by God and so – of course – they are now required to respond.

But doing justly also means every little decision we make in a day - how we respond to our children, how we respond to challenges at work, or how we help a person in need. All of that is about asking the question – what is the just thing to do in this situation?

And for me, the word mercy also has more teeth than the modern translation of “kindness”.

Mercy is about seeing others through the eyes of compassion.

Sometimes we think of kindness as “being nice”.

But When we talk of God being merciful we are talking about God withholding His anger at our actions or God reaching out to us even though we don’t deserve it, or God protecting us even when we don’t realize it. SO that includes kindness but also extends way beyond it.

So the requirement to “love mercy” means loving a compassionate way of being in the world. Mercy gives more than is expected. It gives of the self - an outpouring to protect and love and care for the other.

So this is our call from the Lord. The call for conversion in our lives. God loves us. But God also requires something of us, - lives of justice and living justly – lives of compassion and mercy – lives where we humbly seek God’s will for us.

This weekend at our Diocesan convention, we learned many ways that churches around our diocese are responding to the love of God

Churches are building community centers, tutoring at risk youth, taking children to visit parents in prison. They are using their land to create community gardens, creating food pantries, cooking meals for the needy.

They are offering music programs for kids and combining with other churches to worship and serve their communities.

And our church was also held up for our AGC children’s ministry – and Paul Shackford from Harrington Park stood up and told the convention about how we had supported their new AGC program and offered them prayer, help and inspiration.

But there is more that we can do to respond to God’s love.

Both in church – but also in our everyday lives – We can still seek through every decision and every action to make a full conversion of our whole lives in Christ.

God loves us. But God also requires this conversion of us
So maybe we should do what the evangelicals do. Repeat this verse to ourselves. Learn it. Sing it, Pray it,

And when we come up to those decisions points in our day – when we are wondering how to respond -- this verse will tell us what the Lord requires .

When we feel passionate about an injustice in our community – when we realize we have been helped by others and want to give back. This verse will tell us what the Lord requires.

And we as a community can continue to discern – how are we to respond to the love God has given us in this place? How can we extend beyond Sunday worship to acts of justice, mercy and humility? Acts given because of all we have received from the Lord.

After all, as Micah says – God hath shewed thee, what is good; …..and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

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