Sermon, February 2nd, 2020, St Petri. Epiphany 4A
Micah 6:1-8 Listen to what the Lord says: ‘Stand up, plead my case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. 2 ‘Hear, you mountains, the Lord’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the Lord has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel. 3 ‘My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. 4 I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. 5 My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.’ 6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.
I am liking 2020 so far.
Sharing wedding celebration of one of our kids with family and friends was good. Riding my motorbike for a few days was good. Being the surprise guest preacher at one of best mate’s 20th anniversary of being the pastor at the same church was fun. Playing music with me friends last week at a local venue was good fun. Being in Naracoorte last Sunday to give greetings from you all to the Lutheran community there on the occasion of Pastor Shaun Manning’s Installation was a pleasure.
But there is another reason why 2020 is looking good. It’s because of you all, and the Holy Spirit’s working among us.
The Spirit is calling us into what he is doing again. I love the fact that we are a local church who are listening for that call. We are becoming a local church who are more willing to follow his call rather than settle for simply doing things the same way because that is ‘always the way we have done it’.
As we press ‘go’ for this year, we get a great gift from Micah. It is a gift that centres us and helps us keep things simple and clear in our hearts.
In a courtroom drama setting, Micah shows the simple truth of who we are and what we are all to be about.
God is the accuser in this court. His creation (mountains and hills) are the witnesses. We are on trial.
Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. for the LORD has a controversy with his people….. (verses 1 and 2)
What the issue?
6:3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
We have “become wearied with God”. We have become inattentive, distracted, even unaware of his working.
How do we know we have, and how did it happen? Micah tells us….
We use ‘dishonest scales’ and ‘false weights’ when dealing with others and making decisions about what is fair and right. We tip the scales in our favour. We feather our own nests more than help others keep and improve what they have (7th Commandment).
We fight when wronged or offended, rather than do justice; which is to work to forgive and restore. Words of violence come from our lips as we speak untruths or half truths about others, in an effort to keep our reputation intact and avoid self-reflection and truth (8th Commandment).
These things come from the same place: our wayward, wondering heart that is always on the hunt for self-satisfaction at the expense of others and self-justification before God. Micah says we tend to;
“observe the statutes of Omri (King Ahab’s father) and all the practices of Ahab’s house…..” (Micah 6:15)
In other words, we replace God’s promises and presence with our own, as king Ahab did more than any other leader among God’s people (1 Kings 16:30). As we search for hope, trust in and give our love to just about anything more than the promises and presence of the Lord we get tired of God’s presence and his promises.
“What have I done to you that you treat me this way?”, asks the Lord.
Answer? Nothing! God proves his innocence.
I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to you. O my people, remember now……, Remember that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” (verses 5 and 5)
O, the longing in God’s voice! “O my people…” he cries. The Father weeps for his wayward and foolish kids…..
O, his grace! “I want you to know what? My wrath? My anger? My rights? My authority and power to condemn? No. I want you to know the;
“… SAVING acts of the LORD”.
Friend, he longs that you know his SAVING acts above everything else. Like a loving parent, God longs for your SAVING not your destruction.
This is God in person calling you, not to religious code but a relationship of love.
This is forgiveness on offer when you don’t deserve it and cannot earn it.
Jesus even quotes Micah. As he calls a corrupt, thieving traitor, Matthew, the tax collector, to be his friend and apostle, Jesus tells everyone that God desires mercy in the heart than money in the bank or condemnation in the community.
God is after fairness with kindness much more than punishment without mercy. (Matthew 9:13). God is a parent searching for your whole heart by giving you his. Mercy is king with this King of kings.
So, our 2020 centres around the mercy. Mercy is our centre because Jesus is our centre and he is Mercy.
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (verse 6-7)
We will not need to hold up the story of how much we have suffered, how much we have given, how much we have offered to others to win God’s forgiveness. God has given his forgiveness by doing the giving up of his firstborn Son!
We don’t need to bring a hundred stories of our greatness here, telling God, and his mountains and rivers, how we have loved people, how much we have served others, how great our sacrifice for others has been. In Jesus, his love is wider and deeper than ten thousand rivers of the best Oil.
We don’t need to tell them or him how religious we have been—always attending worship, always being good, always given to charity, always doing this or that. The Offering to pay for a broken creation has been made once and for all.
God is not demanding these things you can do to pay him off. You can’t. But he does ‘require’ you. “Require” sounds pretty heavy, but it is not. God is not ‘demanding’ these things from you. But he is ‘desiring’ or ‘longing’ for mercy to be your heart, to be our heart; our centre in all that happens in 2020.
How do we be his mercy?
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? (verse 8)
Do justice. We are not merely on about rewarding good and punishing bad. We are about insuring everyone has what they need. We use fair scales when we make decisions and conclusions about others. We put ‘the best construction we can (truthfully) on everything’ (8th Commandment). We be generous with our fairness.
Love kindness. Do kindness more than withhold it because you love its affect. Do kindness when it is not really deserved; so much that your left hand does not know what your right hand has given in word, deed or money.
Walk humbly. This life together is no sprint. It is a long walk in the same direction. We know our weaknesses and failings. We know our battle with the wayward old ways within. We know that this life in Jesus is a daily rhythm of repenting and receiving kindness from him. That’s how we ‘walk’.
To live in his mercy like this comes from one place; from one activity; from one skill: Listening; listening;
Listing to God in his Word,
Listening to each other and
Listening to those to whom we are sent.
2020 is looking good.
God’s restoring justice is ours in Jesus. Kindness is king in all we do at St Petri.
As we listen to Jesus, to each other and to those to whom we are sent, we do kind justice, we love kindness and we walk together into God’s year. It’s a good year!