Keep Walking – a Sermon on Micah 5:2-4; 6:6-8
While I generally love this time of year – the changing leaves, college football is in full swing, college basketball is right around the corner, ready to provide hope for a lousy football season…
There are some things that I find strange – that make me questions my love of this time of year.
The rush from shops to put out everything Christmas related as soon as humanly possibly.
The temperature fluctuations that make it a constant internal struggle of whether to keep my sweater on or take it off.
The way darkness creeps in before it’s even 5pm.
Sometimes, those strange things can dislocate us from where we feel comfortable. Or sometimes when something seems a little strange we start to think of it in a new way.
Like singing O Little Town of Bethlehem out of season, and to a tune that’s less familiar. With all the decorations, sales, and Christmas commercials that have already begun, I sadly find it not terribly out of place. But how did we get here to Bethlehem already?
We have to go back a couple weeks to Wise King Solomon. When Solomon died in the early 8th century BCE, Israel was still a united country, but there was some tension between the north and south.
When Solomon’s son Rehoboam tried to rule with even more arrogance than previous kings, the northern tribes secede, creating a new kingdom called Israel. And Rehoboam is left with the southern part of the country, including Jerusalem.
The split is definitely bad news – disastrous for many reasons, both spiritual and geopolitical. The once strong, unified nation is weakened and divided and will soon fall prey to the re-emerging empires of Egypt, Assyria, and later, Babylon.
And so begins continues the long cycle of prophets coming to speak works of truth and wisdom to kings and people who need to hear from God.
A couple generations following Rehoboam, we are still in the south, and there are two prophets in the land. One, maybe the more familiar of the two – Isaiah – believes that Jerusalem will remain strong, that rulers will continue to come from where they have always come. The heart of the country and site of the temple.
But the other prophet, Micah, thought a little differently. Micah wasn’t so sure that Jerusalem was going to make it with all the surrounding powers closing in. And that’s where we get this famous Advent text from Micah 5.
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
Micah and friends didn’t have the perspective of knowing about Jesus and seeing this as about a future ruler. For the people of Israel and Judah, this prophecy was about a more current political leader who would solve all their problems. They definitely we’re thinking long term.
And it’s amidst all this talk and prophecy about leadership and where rulers will come from that Micah asks the question…
What does the Lord require of you?
The question seems simple enough when we hear it. What is God asking us to do as followers of Christ.
Do Justice. Love Kindness. – Kindness which is much more than a random act of kindness. Some translations say Love Mercy. But even Mercy doesn’t cover the fullness of this great Hebrew word – Hesed. God’s lovingkindness. So really when we Love Kindness, we are to fully love God’s lovingkindness. And then Walk Humbly with God.
It seems pretty straightforward doesn’t it. But sometimes I think trying to be the perfect example of Micah 6:8 is a little like trying to walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s just too complex.
Which is when this question Micah poses becomes a little bit of a cop out. It starts to sound like the question Martin Thieland asked a couple years ago in his book by the same name, What’s the least I can do and still be Christian?
In a promotional piece for his book, Martin writes,
When I first met Danny, he said, “Preacher, you need to know that I’m an atheist. I don’t believe the Bible. I don’t like organized religion. And I can’t stand self-righteous, judgmental Christians.”
I liked him right away!
In spite of Danny’s avowed atheism and my devout Christian beliefs, we became close friends. Over the next year Danny and I engaged in numerous conversations about faith. During that time Danny softened his stance on atheism. One day he announced with a laugh, “I’ve decided to upgrade from an atheist to an agnostic.” Several months later Danny said, “I’ve had an epiphany. I realize that I don’t reject Christianity. Instead, I reject the way that intolerant Christians package Christianity.” A few weeks after that conversation, Danny said, “Martin, you’ve just about convinced me on this religion stuff. So I want to know–what’s the least I can believe and still be a Christian?”
Sounds a lot like Micah, doesn’t it. What does the Lord require of me? It’s a question that a lot of folks are interested in… What is it that I have to believe, what does God require of me as a disciple of Christ.
Pastor and author Brian McLaren reflects on it in this video – let’s take a look.
Work of the People – We Make the Road by Walking (One) – 3:04
Frank Schaefer in podcast this week said that, “We walk humbly into the future we don’t know because of what we believe about that past we have been through.”
Because of everything we have been through in our lives of faith and service to God he have the strength to move forward in faith. To continue on with acts of justice and loving kindness.
What happens when you’ve had it up to here and don’t think you can do justice, and love mercy any more? You keep walking…
What do you do when you’re trying to learn more about who God has called you to be? You keep walking…
What if you think you’ve got it all figured out, and you’re on the right path? You guessed it. You keep walking…
Micah and the people of Judah didn’t know what kind of world this great leader would be born into. But they knew what they had to do, and what God was requiring of them…
And no matter what, Keep Walking!
 Frank Schaefer in conversation with Eric Elnes on Darkwood Brew talking about Micah 6:8.