Micah, What does the Lord
Require of You?
Epiphany 4A Micah 6:1-8
Requirements? What are requirements?
Requirements are absolute necessities. You have to do them. There is
no way around them. You might as well get used to them because
requirements are part of everyday life.
For example, one of the most
important rituals of American life is getting your driver’s
license. Do you remember when you got your driver’s license for
the first time? Or when you taught your children so they could get
their first license? Yes, that was a great day in my your life.
Freedom. Movement. Big shot. Growing older. A sign of finally
growing up. The first driver’s license.
are requirements to get that first driver’s license here in the
State of Washington. You must be 18 years old. Yes, 18 years old I
said. Unless you are sixteen years old, and have proof that you
passed an approved driver education course that includes both
classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction. Also if you are sixteen,
you must have permission from your parent or guardian.
are the rules of the game. If you are sixteen years old and not
eighteen, you must take an approved driver’s education course that
involves both classroom and behind the wheel instruction. You must
have approval of a parent or guardian.
arguments. No discussion. No wiggle room. These are the requirements
if you want to get a driver’s license in the state of Washington
at sixteen years of age.
if you want to drive the school bus or the 24 passenger van here at
church, you have to have a CDL, a certified driver’s license, a
commercial driver’s license. That is a big deal around this
church. We need to find more drivers who are willing to get their
CDL, their certified driver’s license, their commercial license.
You cannot drive the “church” bus without a CDL. You
cannot drive the 24 passenger van without a CDL.
are no arguments, no discussion, no wiggle room. These are the
if you want to travel internationally to most countries, you must
have a passport and visa. I know, not to the neighboring countries
of Mexico and Canada and some countries in the Caribbean. But if you
go to France, England or German; to Australia, New Zealand or Fiji,
to China, Japan and Taiwan, you MUST have a valid passport and a
valid visa. Those are the requirements. Don’t argue. Don’t fuss.
Don’t wiggle. Don’t try to get around them. These rules are
if you want to be on a team or part of an orchestra or band, there
are usually a set of requirements. You cannot be on this soccer team
unless you make the practices. You can’t be in the band or choir
unless you attend so many practices. There are requirements. Bottom
line. No argument.
are part of everyday life. I am required to pay my federal
taxes by April 15th to avoid a penalty. I am required
to send in my absentee ballot in the state of Washington by 12:00 PM
on the second Tuesday of November of the election. I am required
to purchase an airline tickets 21 days in advance if I want to get
that cheaper rate. Requirements are part of life.
is full of requirements. Get used to it. No arguments. No fuss. No
making a stink about it.
is with this mood that we approach one of the greatest passages in
the Old Testament. It is from the Book of Micah. None of us remember
much about the Book of Micah in the Old Testament except for one
Bible verse. Micah 6:8. There is nobody in our congregation who is
six feet, eight inches tall. Micah 6:8 is like Mount Rainer on our
skyline of the Cascade mountains. Mount Rainer stands apart, stands
alone, stands tall and beautiful. And so do the words of Micah 6:8.
of you learned this verse many years ago. Many of you didn’t, but
should have. Micah 6:8 is one of those highlight verses, one of
those great memory verses, one of those
“stand-apart-from-all-the-rest” Bible verses.
does the Lord require of you. Do justice. Love kindness. And walk
humbly with your God.
you say these words after me:
6:8 The Big Question is this:
does the Lord require of you? (all repeat)
justice. (all repeat)
kindness. (all repeat)
humbly with your God. (all repeat)
us all say those words together: Do justice. Love kindness. And walk
humbly with your God.
words of Micah 6:8 are so simple. The words are clean. The words are
easy to learn and carry with us.
words of Micah 6:8 are similar to the words that are found in
Deuteronomy 10:12-13. But the words in Deuteronomy 10 are more
complex. Deuteronomy 10 is another one of those classic passages in
the Bible where the great leader Moses summarizes what it means to
be a faithful Jew. Type in the word, “requirement,” into your
Bible Soft program and you will find the following:
Moses asks: “What
does the Lord your God require of you.” Moses asks the same
question. But his answer is more complex: “To fear the Lord your
God, to walk in his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep the
commandments and the laws of the Lord this day for your good.”
words are more complex. It’s a mouthful of words. You can’t
easily recite them.
6:8 says the same thing but is much simpler. You know Micah 6:8 by
now. You can say it with me.
does the Lord require of you?
walk humbly with your God.”
you got it. You know it. Take those words home. Stuff them in your
pant pockets with your keys. Slip those words into your shirt pocket
along with all pens and pencils and carry those words with you. Put
those words into your billfold along with the other credit cards and
have them available any time. Put those words into your heart and
mind and easily carry them within. To do justice. Love kindness. And
walk humbly with your God.
us briefly talk about Micah. A very little bit about Micah. Why a
little bit about Micah? That is all we know about him. Just a little
know that he was one of the twelve minor prophets in the Old
Testament. There are twelve “minor” prophets. These are twelve
short-winded prophets. Each prophets is only a few chapters long.
All these twelve shorter prophets could fit on one scroll. Micah is
a little book, only seven chapters long..
know that Micah was a contemporary of Hosea, Isaiah, and Amos and
Micah said similar things that these prophets said.
know that Micah was preaching at what I call, the “end of the good
times” and just before his nation fell apart. There had been forty
years of prosperity and peace. Forty years of prosperity and peace.
During times of prolonged prosperity and peace, people often forget
God, ignore God, drift away from God. People get caught up in “the
good life” for forty years and slowly begin to forget God and his
was just before the end of the good times, just before the fall of
Israel and Judah. In other words, the prophet Micah spoke to the
people of God just before their country and their life began to fall
sometimes worry that we are living at this moment in our own
nations’ history, at the end of the good times, at the apex at
just before our country, the USA, started to fall apart. Sixty years
after WW II and we perhaps are starting to go downhill.
it was with the time of Micah.
words were both simple and eternal. What does the Lord require of
you? What God required of people in those days of Micah are the same
things that God requires of us today.
in this sermon, let us focus on these three words or sentences as
they apply to our life today.
word, mishpat, means judgment. It means God’s wisdom, God’s law,
God’s judgment…that there would be fairness, fair play and
equity within the human family.
are nine words that are associated with the word, “justice,” in
the Bible. Widow, fatherless, orphans, poor, hungry, stranger,
needy, weak and oppressed. In
this list of words, you did not find the word, “rich.” Rich is
often associated with injustice. You don’t have to worry
about the rich, because the rich will be able to afford justice.
Worry about the widows, the fatherless, the orphans, the poor, the
hungry, the strangers, the needy, the weak and the oppressed.
are to work for fairness for the little people of our world.
me share three stories with you.
example, Robbin McFarland in our parish gave birth to a handicapped,
developmentally disabled little girl by the name of Sherri some
fifty-two years ago. Robbin, has been a good and loving mother to
her developmentally disabled daughter. Now, Mother Robbin is an
older member of our parish, and does not want me to reveal her age
but simply tell you that she is “on the short end of the
string.” Robbin has
visited Sherri at Sherri’s group home in Buckley for 34 years now.
The threat is that homes and shelters for handicapped people like
Sherri are being closed up. Mother Robbin, approaching the end of
her string, spends time working for justice, so that she is assured
that daughter will be cared for when she has died. Sherri can’t
take care of herself. The whole world knows that. Robbin says the
language is easy that “no child is to be left behind.” It is
easy to say it but not so easy to do it.
the Old Testament, that is mispah. That is justice. Justice is not
simply being nice to Sherrie or kind to her, as important as that
is. Justice is making sure that Sherri has a roof over hear head,
three meals, people to take care of her today and also in the future
when her mother has died. Mother Robbin is passionate as she works
for justice for her developmentally disabled daughter.
and other people of good will work for justice all the time.
second story. I talked with Karen Keiser the other day. Karen is a
state senator from our parish who sings in our traditional choir at
the 8:30 service. Karen is the chair of the Senate Health and Long
Term Care Committee for our state. The other day she mentioned to me
in the hallway as we walked by each other that she had been working
on restoring health care to 19,000 children in our state who do not
have health care. There are still another 100,000 children who
don’t have health insurance.
past, a Lutheran pastor showed up at my office for a conversation.
He uses my website for pastors, SERMONS FROM SEATTLE. He wanted to
come by and chat. I said OK. He was about fifty years old, two kids,
wife, working part time as a pastor up in northern Washington. He
has been unable to get a fulltime job nor does his wife have a
fulltime job with medical benefits. He told me that he and his wife
don’t have medical coverage but at least his kids do. As this
pastor and I talked, I discovered that his two children were being
cover by medical insurance that Karen Keiser had worked for
People of good will work for justice for poorer children in our
state who do not have medical and pharmaceutical coverage. Poor kids
here in Washington need medical care, just like my children, my
grandchildren, your children, your grandchildren do.
is doing justice. Justice is working for the little people of our
state so that they will receive their “fair share.” Working for
justice is more than having feelings of compassion.
remember that story from Charles Dicken’s England some two hundred
years ago. At that time, many twelve year old boys were working
below in the coal mines, down in the cold mine shafts. Their life
was miserable but that is what was expected of the little boys in
England at that time: a life of work in the coal mines beginning at
age twelve. The church would offer presents at Christmas time to the
little boys working away in the coal mines. The church would offer
charity and tom turkeys for the poor families at holiday time. The
church would offer prayers for the little boys working away in the
coal mines. One day, the law was changed so that little boys could
no longer work in the coal mines and the law insisted that they go
to school instead of go to the coal mines to work. Charity is giving
Christmas presents at Christmas for the disadvantaged boys in the
coal mines and charity is giving tom turkeys away at sacred holidays
and charity is giving prayers for the little hungry boys. Justice is
working to change the laws so that it was illegal for little boys to
work in the coal mines.
is working for the little people of our society and world, working
for the widow, fatherless,
orphans, poor, hungry, stranger, needy, weak and oppressed, so they
get their fair share, that they are treated with fairness.
and his partner prophets in the Old Testament are very clear that a
follower of the Lord does justice. Moses: “Justice and only
justice you shall follow.” The psalmist, “God loves justice and
righteousness and steadfast love.” Amos, “Let justice roll down
like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”
6:8. It is so clear. It is so easy to learn. The question: What does
the Lord require of you?
all know what kindness is. Compassion, sympathy, gentleness,
benevolence, helpfulness. We see it every day and we are grateful.
wasn’t there but my partner John O’Neal told me about it. Debbie
Garrow’s father recently died. He had been painfully sick for the
past five years. Debbie’s mother had died two years ago. And
Debbie and her siblings were there to take care of her father as he
was dying up at a retirement home in Federal Way. There they were in
a circle of love, surrounding her father’s bed, day after day,
night after night, going through that circle of life ritual where
you take care of loved one who is dying. Sisters, brothers,
grandchildren, uncles, aunts: they were all part of the circle of
love taking care of Debbie’s father as he died.
weeks ago, several of our congregational members attended THE LION
KING down at the Paramount Theater. It was one of the best if not
best theatrical production that I have ever seen. Those costumed
people playing animals from Africa were mind blowing as you saw
giraffes, elephants, gazelles, and wildebeests glide across the
stage. The theme song was also terrific. It was “the Circle of
Life,” music by Elton John and words by Tim Rice (from Godspell
and Joseph and the Technicolor Coat).
The circle of life is the circle of love, that circle of a
family that gathers together to take care of a father as he dies,
that circle of love that you and I are part of. In that circle of
love, we learn the essential ingredient of simple kindness to each
remember a story about theological students at Harvard who were
preparing for the ministry. It feels like a preacher’s story, but
I like it anyway. These theological students were taking their final
examination on the topic: Kant’s Moral Imperative. Kant is
spelled, K A N T. Kant was a French moral philosopher. The final
examination for this class gave the students two hours to write
their philosophy with a ten minute break in the middle. The students
wrote furiously for fifty five minutes. Then the bell rang; the
students all took a break and went out into the hallway. There in
the hallway was another student, not part of their class, sitting
humped up on the floor, disheveled, looking like a mess. The
theological students were busy in conversation with each other,
getting a drink of water, taking a bathroom break, and into the
classroom they returned for the second hour of writing their
philosophy of what it meant to be a moral human being. Weeks later,
the theological students received their test results: they had all
failed. That is, all the students thought that their test was what
they wrote for two hours in the classroom. The professor meanwhile
was standing out in the hallway during the ten minute break and
grading them on who approached the man humped down on the floor and
spoke a kind word. Nobody did.
told the story about the Good Samaritan. A man was robbed and left
for dead on the side of the road. Three people passed safely on the
other side of the road. A Jewish priest. A Jewish rabbi. A third
religious mucky-muck. It was only the Samaritan who stopped, knelt
down and offered to help.
Mercy. Gentleness. The ingredient that God requires from his
disciples is fundamental human kindness…to family, friends, work
associates, classmates, and strangers in the hallway.
6:8. You all know it now.
question is this. What does God require of us?
does not mean that you can’t get into heaven if you don’t do the
requirements. Requirement does not mean a person is required to do
these in order to earn God’s love. Hopefully, you are more
sophisticated that thinking such thoughts. Rather, requirements are
those things which are crucially important to God. Such as…
humbly with your God.
on the word, “walk.” Walk implies slow. Walk implies measured.
Walking is the opposite of running. Walking is a slow deliberate
on the word, humbly. Humbly. Not full of yourself. Not preoccupied
said that the greatest person in the kingdom of God was a person who
was humble like a little child. Jesus said that the greatest virtue
of all the virtues was humility. The Apostle Paul, who wrote more
than half of the New Testament, said that Jesus “did not count
equality with God a thing to be grasped, but humbled himself,
becoming obedient onto death.” In the New Testament, the followers
of Jesus were called by the name of Christian only once, but they
were repeatedly called servants. Humble servants were on the
opposite continuum as kings, queens and royalty.
is sacrificing yourself to listen to the needs of others and the
desires of God. Humility is part of the art of listening to another,
whereby you forget yourself for a moment and actually listen to what
another person is saying to you. Humility is the art of listening to
God, whereby you forget the busyness of your own mind for a moment
and actually listen to what God is saying through his Word. Such as
right now. If you are actually listening to my voice right now, and
hearing God’s voice through my own, it is because you have
sacrificed yourself and are listening to another.
other Wednesday night, I was struggling to teach my seventh grade
confirmation class. Like many a seventh grade teacher, I am somewhat
of a failure in keeping the attention of the seventh graders. At the
first of the year, the seventh graders didn’t know each other very
much and I wanted them to talk to one another. Now, I can’t shut
the Bible verse that we were reading was an invitation to give our
sacrifice and praise to God. We were reading the story from I Samuel
about old Eli in the temple and Hannah who came to pray in the
temple. Hannah could not have children and Penninah had so many
children. Hannah came to the temple to pray. I was sharing with the
seventh graders is that to worship God is first to offer a sacrifice
to God, the sacrifice of one’s self in order to focus on God and
listen to God. Hannah gave birth to a son by the name of Samuel, and
Samuel learned to listen to the voice of God.
I told the kids that we needed to give themselves to me in
that moment, to listen to my words, to listen to my spirit and the
spirit of God inside of me. For a
moment, they needed to forget themselves and their
conversations with their friends at the table. Humility is
forgetting yourself and your own needs and focusing on another.
key to worshiping God is to sacrifice your own thoughts, your own
conversations with others, your own business of minds. You need to
sacrifice what is going on in you right now in order to give
yourself in worship to God.
walk humbly with God is to sacrifice your busy and self centered
self and focus on someone other than your self and your pleasures.
walk humbly with and then circle the word, “your.” Your God.
Your God belongs to you. It is not that God is your possession but
that your God is personal to you. Your God, who made you. Your God
who walks with you every step of every day. Your God who walks with
you in the valleys of the shadows of death. Your God who walks with
you when you climb the highest mountains of life. Your God who walks
with you as you walk the circle of life.
need to tell you the truth. I LOVE Micah 6:8. The words are so easy.
The truth is so profound.
also know those words now. They are with you. Never lose them.
Always carry them with you. Put those words in your shirt pocket
with your pens and pencils. Put those words in your wallet with the
other credit cards. Put those words in your hearts and minds and
carry them with you every day.
more time: Micah 6:8. It is soooo easy.
big question is:
What does the Lord require of you?
the answer is:
To do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.