this morning I had the incredible privilege to preach at my home church here in Seattle. I preached on two verses – Micah 6:8 and Luke 18:1-8. Thought I’d share my sermon here too.
When you are given the random opportunity to speak, it kind of means that you get to talk about whatever you want to talk about. So today, we’re going to talk about about the awesomeness of Florida State football! Oh I kid. No, today I want to share with you two of my favorite verses in the Bible. They were read earlier, and you may not have picked up on how they relate. So stayed tuned – its how I plan to keep you awake.
In Micah 6:8 we have the answer to the question, “But really, what does God want from me?” Does God want a brand new baby cow? Or, how about 10,000 rivers of olive oil? No? Okay, how about my first born child. Surely, that’s what God wants from me. I mean, let’s face it, first born children truly are the best! No. All God wants from us is to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. Sounds easy, right? Should be. But let’s think a little about what those three things really mean.
To do what is right: Other translations read, “to do justice.” But what is the work of justice? Doing what is right, doing Justice, means not just preaching, not just clicking like on a Facebook post, or handing out literature on a subject. It means going day after day after day after day. Yes, after day, and doing the tough stuff, even when – no, especially when, others are ignoring you or thwarting your efforts. Its not giving up, not standing down, in the face of fear or power, when you know something is right.
Its like we see with the widow in Luke 18.
“One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. 2 “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ 4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”
6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
Did you hear that? “THIS WOMAN IS DRIVING ME CRAZY!!” And so the unjust judge granted her justice.
This is what my favorite theologian and teacher David Wildman calls “The Ministry of Erosion.” You just keep pushing on, working each day for justice, for what is right. You don’t give up. Even when the struggle for justice seems long, and daunting, and nearly impossible. You don’t give up. You keep showing up, each and every day. So that when the powers that be turn us away, or shut us down yet again, we just keep going. We want to get to the point that someone yells out, “TRINITY UMC IS DRIVING ME CRAZY!! So I will give them justice.” Amen??
And what does our day to day justice look like? It looks like feeding the hungry through our soup kitchen and the sandwich makers. It looks like opening doors, playing games and staying overnight at Julia’s Place so families don’t have to sleep outside. Did you know that over 20 families have been able to stay together as they were work more sustainable housing, because of your efforts at Julia’s Place? Amazing! When coal trains are coming, and Monsanto is conniving – Justice at Trinity looks like Rain Gardens, increased recycling efforts and community forums. When our LGBTQ sisters and brothers have been shunned, Justice at Trinity looks like a spot in the Pride march so our church can be a visible sign of acceptance, and making this a safe and open place of worship.
Trinity – you are doing the work of Justice. One small step at a time.
So we do these things. But why? Because the Lord asks us to LOVE MERCY.
Throughout the Old Testament and particularly the Psalms, when you find mention of mercy it is times that God has shown up, has listened, or has not forgotten those in need. Is that our act of mercy? Loving by listening? Are we loving by showing up?
I’m currently reading this great book that I would highly recommend, called Torn by Justin Lee. The book is Justin’s story of coming out as gay in an very conservative and evangelical community. He chronicles his struggles with his identity and the church’s reaction to his coming out. There was a chapter where he shared about how, each time he would come out to someone, they would immediately start trying to “convert” or “change” him – recommending him to ex-gay therapies and Bible studies. But what Justin needed, was someone to listen to him. He talked about a lunch with a well-meaning campus minister who spent the whole lunch using Bible verses to try to convince Justin “to change his ways.” But that minister left the table knowing nothing about Justin except for the fact that he was gay. People weren’t taking the time to listen to his pain in his own realization that he was gay, and his struggle in reconciling the fact that was gay and a Christian. Justin compares this time in his life with the story of Job – whose world has crashed in on him. While Job loses his family, his land and his health, his friends sit around and say, “Well, what did you do to piss of God?”
“The more Job insists that he is trusting God, the more they argue that that can’t be the case, because God wouldn’t let a righteous man suffer the way he’s suffering. Clearly, they say, God must be punishing him for something, and its only his own arrogance that’s keeping him from acknowledging it. He insists that they’re wrong, and they just use that as more evidence against him. But the story serves as important reminder to all of us that sometimes, when people are hurting, they don’t need our advice and theological theorizing as much as they need our understanding and comfort.”
Sometimes, God needs us just to be that friend that sits in the ashes and just doesn’t say a thing. Sometimes, that’s the act of mercy.
That leaves us with the third edict from Micah. To walk humbly with our God. What does it mean to be humble? It means: To not think too highly of one’s self.
Because you know what? We make mistakes. We don’t always get it right. We aren’t perfect. But that’s not what God is asking for of us. God only asks that this journey be made with a little humility. I think we can do that best when we realize that we don’t have to do it alone. Because nothing keeps us humble like the opinions of others, right?
Trinity – keep doing the work of Justice. Keep loving with mercy. But don’t do these things alone!
Join a committee. (how very Methodist of me, right? Kathleen paid me to say that) Attend a rally. Make a meal. Dig in the rain garden. Participate at Julia’s Place. SHOW UP. Because when we do these things, these little, day to day things, and when we do them TOGETHER we become stronger. At the risk of sounding cheesy and contrite, we make our world just a little bit better, each and every day.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” – Brennan Manning
So walk out of these doors and DO Justice, LOVE Mercy, and most of all – walk HUMBLY with your God. Amen.