What Does The LORD Require?

Micah 6.8Micah 6:8 is one of my favorite verses in all of scripture. I’m not alone as many writers list it as one of the top 10 due to its focus on doing instead of just thinking about faith. In North America and even in the Vatican these days there is a shift from religion as being something one studies and thinks about, to being faith experienced and lived. Even our own Evangelical Lutheran Church in America uses the tag-line God’s Work. Our Hands. to articulate and encourage this shift in religious life.

Many want religion to be a simple, a bunch of rules to follow, a prayer to say, a formula to happiness, wholeness, and heaven. Just tell me what you want from me, what I need to do… Preachers on television use this model: believe this, don’t do that, act this way and God will bless you, God will give you what you want, what you’ve earned, and your life as a “Christian” will be full of perfection and prosperity. But you and I know that God isn’t a puzzle to be solved or a program to be worked.

God who created us and loves us, pursues us as we wander and wonder about what we need to do. God sent prophets to shape us up and assure us of God’s blessings. And when we ignored them and insisted on our way, God send Jesus to save us from our sins and ourselves. Today we hear from Micah and Matthew Messages to realign us and remind us of what God does for us first, what God dreams and hopes our response is, and both of those are love.

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In my experience as a student, my writing teachers always stressed the importance of using strong verbs to make your point. In Micah that verb is “require”. It’s a word we know well. It focuses us on what one needs to do and serves to focus and direct the verse:

what does the Lord require of you…?

Seems pretty easy to understand, but here is where the nuances of language, particularly the original Hebrew get in the way. Sure it would be easy to tell you to:

do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

THAT is what the Lord requires, wants, and demands.

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Blessed you are, and blessed you will be!

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany + January 30, 2011

Blessed you are, and blessed you will be!

Beatitudes are beautiful words, poetic and majestic.  Found in ancient Greek literature to refer to the blessed state of the gods, praiseworthy children and wisdom, the word is defined as being ‘free from daily cares and worries.’  Beatitudes were also found in Hebrew Scripture, most often linking being blessed with wise decisions or virtuous living. The Psalms have numerous examples that lift up the blessings of attending to God’s law: happy or blessed are they who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread…

The beatitudes are not a literal how to guide to live as Christian that if followed result in a guaranteed first-class ticket to heaven.  They are not…

  • Words of some famous self-help guru, 
  • Words meant to provide hope in a State of the Union Address, 
  • Words of motivation from Oprah or one of her featured guests or recommended books. 

Nor are they found in an inspirational e-mail or ‘how to’ book, but sometimes, sometimes we wish they were…? 

We want easy answers.  We want to be told what we need to do.  We want to hear what we want to hear:

  • Words to free us from our circumstances, 
  • Words to make us feel superior or give us an advantage, 
  • Words to end our suffering, 
  • Words to make life to be easier. 

We long for words to tell us our job is secure, how to make a quick fix, how to get miraculous results, tell us that we hit the jackpot, or won the lottery. 

But most of all… we want to hear the words that we are loved.  The simple, yet beautiful, poetic and majestic words that we are loved.  And it is these words of the beatitudes, the words of Jesus the Christ, the one who lived and suffered and died on a cross.  They are the words of love from our crucified and risen Savior who says to you and me this morning… blessed you are, and blessed you will be!

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