Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A really good day - beautiful weather. 3 Eucharists (one at home). I wish I had written down what I said this morning (thanks God) but it lead to a really really moving service.

Home communions this afternoon. The this evening the third of three addresses on Micah 6:6-8. Tonight - how do we walk humbly with God. The sermon follows. Again - a really amazing service... Lookig forward to tomorrow :-)


Over these three nights we have been reflecting on this passage from Micah 6:6-8,

6“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? 7Will 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?” 8He 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 asks - how can I/my people renews our relationship with God. Micah asks this aware of the enormous gulf between the people’s lifestyles and the life God longs for them to live. God comes back with this engimatic statement - do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. On Monday we thought about what it meant to do justice, or act justly as some Bibles translate it as. The justice that God speaks of through Micah tonight is yes, seeking to live out the justice of God’s kingdom to the poor, downtrodden, and needy, to side with them and fight their cause - for it is God’s cause. The justice we are called to as a church tonight is, yes. seeking to challenge the unjust political, economic, social and environmental structure in society, for God challenges them too. The justice that Micah challenges us to do as a church is both of those and more.... but....

This Holy Week especially, It centres on the justice we recieve when we seek to renew our relationship with God, knowing that only He can show us justice for our waywardness and sinfulness, a justice that we do not deserve. Only He can call us back when we turn our backs on Him. It is the justice shown to us in Jesus, bridging that gulf between God and us, and offering us a renewed relationship.

Then last night we thought about the call to love kindness or mercy. Through Micah, God calls us to love mercy because that is what we have in fact each been shown by God. The mercy that Micah speaks of is not just compassionate behaviour. The word used in the Hebrew is hesed which is the kindness that one shows another whether a person or God. Moreover acts of hesed lead to other acts of hesed - it flourishes in and builds relationships. Micah here calls to love mercy, to a love in action which is enriches society, builds community and deepens relationships. Loving mercy is an action of setting free those who don’t deserve to be so.

So tonight, what does it mean for us to walk humbly with our God? A good place to begin would be to look back at those in the scriptures who have have learned this for themselves.

Abraham & Sarah, the parents of the Hebrew people, learned that walking humbly with God meant trusting God and walking with God into the unknown.

Moses, the one who led Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness, learned that walking humbly with God meant trusting that God can equip you to do things you could not do on your own.
King David learned that walking humbly with God meant confessing one’s sin
before God. These words are attributed to David: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
Job learned that walking humbly with God meant that he would not understand all the ways and thoughts of God. God was God, and he was not.
Queen Esther learned that walking humbly with God meant that she would be
called upon to risk her life for others.

In the New Testament, the humble walk with God is best exemplified by the life of
Jesus. His life was single-mindedly God-directed. “The central theme in the personal life of Jesus (of Nazareth) was his growing intimacy with, trust in, and
love for his Father. His inner life was centered on God. For him the Father meant

In answer to Micah’s question about renewing their relationship, God says that He is not looking for faithful following of religious traditions - the burnt offerings that Micah refers to, neither is He looking for His people to offer Him new fads or whims of desperation - the offering of the firstborn is a real clutching at straws by God’s people.

Instead God calls Micah, Israel and us to walk humbly with Him. Walking humbly with God is a metaphor for one who is right with God. One who walks with God is someone who has been graced by God’s presence and partnership in life and death. In other words our walk through life becomes humble only when on realises it is due purely to the unearned grace, mercy and call of God.

Now this sounds great, but this Holy Week and indeed always, our walking humbly with God is costly, for God calls for a physical sacrifice from us, but with no animal or oil in sight. For walking humbly with God demands much from us and tonight, God asks, how much are we willing to give up to walk with Him?

It begins with and continues regularly with confession. The disciple of Jesus
realizes that he or she is totally dependent upon God’s love and mercy. We can do nothing in our own strength.

Martin Luther says that the petition in the Lord’s Prayer (“Forgive us our sins as
we forgive those who sin against us”) serves God’s purpose to break our pride and keep us humble. When we pray this petition and examine ourselves, we will be reminded that we are no more righteous than anyone else, “that in the presence of God all people must fall on their knees and be glad that we can come to forgiveness.”

Our humble walk with God: grows through a “stripping away of all self-
sufficiency.” As Jesus set aside his place with God to become human like us, and the role of a servant, so God desires a similar emptying within us.
(Philippians 2:5-8) A daily walk of trusting in and becoming more dependent on God. A dying to self. More of Christ, less of me, said John the Baptist. (John 3:30) A stripping away of all self-sufficiency so that we can be used for God’s purposes.

The third characteristic of a humble walk with God is that the call to follow
Jesus leads us from a self-centered to an God-centered orientation. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4) Jesus, the servant, takes the towel and teaches his followers the values of the kingdom of God.

Here’s where the three mandates of the Micah 6:8 verse come together. The
mandate to walk humbly follows the two previous mandates, to do justice and
move mercy. The three are very much interrelated. When we live justly and show mercy to all people, we are walking humbly with our God. To walk humbly with God involves living justly and mercifully to all people. When we walk humbly with God, our lives take on the cruciform shape of our Lord.

(At the end of the Eucharist, before praying the Post Communion, I talked about how 'walking humbly with God' cashes up in real terms... reiterated the examples of Abraham and Moses and so on. I then linked other real life examples - Maximillian Kolbe, Oscar Romero, and Gee Walker the mother of Anthony Walker who was murdered in Liverpool a few years ago and in the face of his murder she forgave and forgave and forgave...)

Thanks be to God... Amen!

No comments: