The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany…Series A
Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church (January 28th&29th, 2017)
Text: Micah 6:1-8
Title: What Does the Lord REQUIRE???
What exactly does the Good Lord REQUIRE of You? This is, arguably, the single most important question that could ever be asked or answered of a Godly person…a lover and worshipper and a follower of the Lord God (would you agree?)…And it is that essential question which is asked and answered by the Old Testament Prophet Micah in our first reading for this Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.
AND WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU…But To Do JUSTICE…to Love KINDNESS and to WALK HUMBLY BEFORE God
In my experience working in the church for more than 30 years, I have noticed that there is often confusion, among God’s people regarding the meaning of justice and mercy and grace. Let me “shed some light”…try to provide some guidance on that question this morning/evening. Justice is when people get what they deserve… (Enough nutritious food to sustain life…access to safe drinking water; a decent place to live; access to healthcare, education)…that is JUSTICE. Mercy is when people don’t get what they really deserve (the Bible teaches that “the wages of sin is death…we are all sinners…we all deserve to die…but the gift of God is pardon and forgiveness)…that is MERCY. And Grace…Grace is when we get what we don’t deserve! And the unique contribution of the prophet Micah (who preached more than 700 years before Jesus lived) is the reminder that the DOING of Justice, according is the very first priority…the very first obligation of a Godly person! Notice that Micah does not say, Talk about Justice, or Preach about Justice, or even Pray about Justice. No, Micah says the first priority…the first obligation of a Godly person is to be Doers of Justice!
If I understand what Micah is trying to say it is that ever person who is Godly has a moral obligation to be personally involved in doing justice…personally involved in doing the demanding work of creating a world community where ALL of God’s people (regardless of who they are or where they live) enjoy the rich blessing of justice…where all of God’s beloved children (the rich and the poor…the educated and the uneducated; the righteous and the unrighteous…the wise and the foolish…the lovable and the unlovable) get what they truly deserve.
Several weeks ago a friend said to me, “I don’t understand why everyone is so concerned about the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States…nothing that he has proposed poses a threat to me personally”. As I pondered my friends comment, I had to agree…as a white male and a practicing Christian, nothing that the president has proposed poses a direct and personal threat to me… I am not personally threatened if a wall is built on our southern border (unless the American tax-payer ends up “footing the bill”) and if millions of undocumented immigrants are rounded up and deported. I am not personally threatened if the new attorney General does not vigorously defend the voting rights of minorities or the civil rights of LGBT folks. If people who practice the Islamic faith are required to register and if Syrian refugees are prevented from seeking safety and sanctuary in our borders…it won’t affect me… If the Affordable Care Act is repealed and if Planned Parenthood is defunded, I will not be personally threatened. No…none of these proposed policy changes our new president and his administration have made poses a personal threat to me and to my family (and probably to most of us here this evening/morning)…but, my friends, I would argue that they pose a real threat…a palpable threat to millions and millions of our fellow citizens (many of whom are our sisters and brothers in Christ)…and they threaten some of the most sacred values of our faith, and of the Gospel of Grace and of the teaching of the Episcopal Church…the values and teachings imbedded in our Baptismal Covenant…values and teachings affirmed by our Lord in the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount…and I wonder…I really do wonder what the crusty Old Testament prophet Micah would have to say about some of the things that the 45th President of the United States is proposing!
Friends, DOING JUSTICE is not optional for the godly person…it is, in fact a moral imperative! To do justice requires involvement…engagement with a bruised, broken and sinful world…to do justice implies involvement in the political process where the urgent issues of justice are so often decided…Doing Justice means being an instruments of God’s justice in the world….to do justice means to be involved in feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the naked and caring for the widow and the orphan and the refugee… and standing in solidarity with the most vulnerable people in our midst…
WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU…But To Do JUSTICE…to Love KINDNESS and to WALK HUMBLY BEFORE God
…nothing that, on the surface, appears to be particularly religious…2/3rds of what Micah says the Lord requires is all about the way we treat our fellow human beings. The Hebrew word for MICAH means “Who Is like God”. It is a good question, and the Old Testament prophet answers the penetrating question which his own name raises…WHO IS LIKE GOD???…those Who DO JUSTICE…those who LOVE KINDNESS and those who WALK HUMBLY with their God…Amen!