…and walk humbly with your God

January 29, 2017

Bible Text: Micah 6:1-8 |

I’ve misplaced a few things lately:  the small leather pouch containing my earphones and the lock I use at the gym; the compact bible I like to use for study at camp, or on retreat; my favorite set of prayer beads—they are made of malachite and proved to be indispensable during fraught seminary nights.

 

Not one of these items is necessary for my survival—not really.  But their absence and the mystery of their current location has become a distraction…   time and again throughout the day my mind returns to these lost items. To make the situation worse, I’m not even sure when I last had them—they were a part of my life, at hand when I desired them, and I have taken their presence for granted like so much in my life.

 

It’s funny how quickly we become accustomed to our blessings in life—whether small, like earphones, a book and some beads, or larger blessings—those from which we have benefited in real meaningful ways.

 

A week ago, as you may have heard, thousands and thousands of people participated in the Seattle Women’s March.  The participants, as you might expect, were mostly women; but there were also many, many, men.  There were babies in strollers and old women in wheelchairs.  There were democrats, and republicans, conservatives, liberals, Christians, Muslims & pagans.  The LGBTQ community was well represented, as were people of color.  Indigenous peoples, as well as immigrants were all there.

 

Each person had her own reasons for joining the march.  Yes, For some it was a form of protest against the current administration, but for many, many more, it was to draw attention to our blessings.  To hold them up and acknowledge them, to stop taking them for granted lest we lose them when we aren’t paying attention.

 

As you may have surmised, I joined the march.  I hadn’t fully committed to march until the day before when the voices echoing in my soul became too loud ignore.  They were the voices of my grandmothers, Pauline and Dessie, who between them, birthed 19 babies and raised them in poverty without sufficient health care, or nutrition.  They were born before women had the vote in this country and their worlds were small and their choices few.

 

The voices of the Shawnee branch of my family spoke up, as did cousin George.  George helped to liberate the prisoners from the concentration camps in Nazi Germany.  His wife, Tilly, had herself been imprisoned for a while because she was overheard telling a joke about General Goebbels.  My mother’s voice was loud and clear.  Mom, who lapped up knowledge like water and who, in other circumstances, may have gone on to study law, or political science; who refused to believe motherhood was the sole measure of a woman’s worth and, in her own sometimes-caustic way, encouraged my sister and I to find our own unique paths.

 

I determined to march for all those whom I love, and all who have loved me; past and present.

 

I don’t know what I expected.  I had never participated in anything on such a grand scale before.  But what I experienced transcended every expectation I had.  Yes, there were skads of people and pink hats seemed to be the uniform of the day.  And of course there were all kinds of signs—some clever, some scathing, some calling for peace and love; but the one that stuck with me more than the others, was one I saw in the park before the march began.  I couldn’t even read all of it—obscured as it was by the crowd.  Still, the phrase was one I knew well—I didn’t NEED to see its entirety.

 

The sign read:

 

Do justice, and love kindness and walk humbly with your God.

 

And there it was.  The prophet’s charge to us, no less pertinent today in our swiftly changing world, than it was in the 8th century BCE.  This is what God requires of us—each of us.

 

Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

 

And my brothers and sisters, I am here to report that the words of the prophet Micah held sway during the march.  It was extraordinary.  Never have I witnessed so many people gathered together, walking together, without incident.  There was no fighting, no belligerent behavior, no pushing, or shoving, or elbowing the other aside.  Rather, the mood of the marchers was joyful.  There was singing, and dancing, old friends embraced even as new friendships were born.  We were kind to one another; we looked out for one another.

 

Goodness, when we heard there was a misplaced ten year-old in the park—we knew we weren’t going to take one step until little Campbell was located and returned to her mother.  Kindness ruled the day, and any individual agendas we may have brought with us, seemed to dissipate into the cumulative unity—the flowing river of celebration.

 

We walked together—not in anger, not with vile slogans on our lips—but in kindness and humility.  Like walking with 100,00 of your closest friends; like taking a stroll with God.

 

Or maybe sitting on a hillside with thousands of others listening to the Son of Man expand on Micah’s theme.

 

Matthew tells us that people came from all around to listen to Jesus—from Syria, from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. They gathered together to hear him speak, and upon the Galilean hillside he taught them the crux of what’s necessary to enter the Kingdom of God.

 

Now the Beatitudes can be challenging—for many of us, socialized as we are in a world where there is no blessing given to the meek, or the pure in heart, or the peaceful—the only people who seem to be able to live into them are the standouts amongst us.   People like Dorothy Day, or Desmund Tutu.  But if this were the case, why would Jesus teach these basic precepts to so many people from the entire region?

 

Truly; surely, the beatitudes must be for us all.  They must be the most practical, the most basic foundation from which we live our lives.

 

The Rev. Charlie Cook offers this insight:

 

Living daily into the spirit of the Beatitudes involves looking at them as a collection of the whole, rather than looking at each one individually.  Each is related to the others, and they build on one another.  Those who are meek, meaning humble, are more likely to hunger and thirst for righteousness because they remain open to continued knowledge of God.[1]

 

 

Simply put, Jesus is saying, “You are blessed in this life whenever you demonstrate humility, bring a peaceful presence, open your heart to others and show mercy on those who cry for it.”[2]

 

Or put another way,

 

Do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.

 

These are the basics of what we are called to do.  It has been so since God’s first interaction with humanity, it is the message the prophet Micah had for his people in the eighth century BCE, it is echoed by Jesus Christ on a hillside in Galilee, and it shows up still in the most unlikely of places—even on a placard stapled to a stick held by a modern day prophet in a pink hat.

 

When we answer God’s call by bringing these words to bear on our world, then we can rest in the knowledge that God speaks to each of us uniquely; we will remember that we are each—every single one of us—an image of God in the world; we will recognize that we belong to one another—united by our humanity and livened by the Spirit.

 

This is the hope to which we cling.  This is the divine eschatological promise we look to be fulfilled.  And we must not give up this hope or abandon the promise.  It is real; it is more than simply a pipedream we tell ourselves to get through our days and face the darkness.  I know because caught I caught a glimmer of its reality in the midst of all those women when I tumbled into a march and was swept up by the Spirit into a reality I imagined only existed in Utopian novels.  Where peace ruled the day and circling eagles blessed us as walked through the downtown core.

 

We must not be swayed from the hope of Christ.  To do so allows cynicism and despair to pull us under.  Rather, in the midst of the swift and varied changes of this world, of this last week, we put our trust solidly in Christ Jesus even as we open our eyes and take nothing for granted.  To do otherwise is folly--losing a book, a pouch, and some beads is one thing.  Losing our hope is another thing entirely.  Pay attention then, but don’t be consumed by sound bites; be vigilant, but don’t fall prey to misinformation that would destroy your spirit.

 

Instead, let the words of the prophet, the words of the Christ be your north star and don’t allow yourself to be pulled off course..

 

After all, what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 

 

[1]Bartlett, David L.; Taylor, Barbara Brown (2010-07-13). Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration (Feasting on the Word: Year A volume) (Kindle Location 11176). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

[2] Ibid

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