He 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 6:8) The prophet Micah tells us that God does not want our sacrifices—of animals, offerings, or whatever. What the Lord requires of us is to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.
These 3 things God wants us to do—no requires us to do: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
If I asked you: what is simplest for you, what is most comfortable, most familiar to you, what comes easy for you in your daily life, in trying to live out your faith?
I am guessing that love kindness is what most of you would say. That’s what I would say. We know what love and kindness look like, right? We know we should be kind. We know we should love. Even if we don’t always do it, we know what it looks like when we see it. And most of us do it easily.
Kindness: friendly favor, benevolence, humanity, generosity, charity, tenderness. One who loves kindness is one who shows a tendency to be kind and forgiving, warmhearted, considerate, compassionate and sympathetic.
Individual acts of loving kindness: giving flowers, cards, phone calls, hugs, meals, forgiving, reaching out and asking someone how they are, really.
How our church is involved in loving kindness:
· Deacons…and Stephen Ministry: we have a ministry that pairs trained Stephen ministers with those who are experiencing stress, loneliness, confusion or grief. Stephen Ministers listen, support, pray, and care. They practice loving kindness.
I have been out in our community this month, visiting with church members who work in places that are trying to change the world for good, for God:
· North Hills Community Outreach—food pantry in Bellevue. Their motto is “people helping people.” Barb Barcousky and Alice Nadin are weekly volunteers, who sort and pack bags filled with canned goods and pasta, as well as fresh produce. They feed about 150 families/month. By giving food to those who are hungry, volunteers share compassion and sympathy, mercy, kindness and love.
· Hearth—home for women who have been victims of domestic violence and need a safe place to live as they begin their lives over again. Church member Judy Eakin is the director of Hearth. Our church outreach committee does a spring drive for household goods for the women, which shows our generosity, charity, mercy, kindness and love.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
We are good at loving kindness. But there is more than love and kindness. What does the Lord require of you? Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
Justice: the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness. Do justice: to act or treat justly or fairly; to help determine equal rights
Justice is not something we do as well. After all, justice is what confronts injustice. And with most of us being born into white privilege of middle-class Christian families, we may have never known what injustice looks like or feels like. But, actually, we have benefited from others who have fought the battles of justice for us.
Our church and country are founded on it.
· The Protestant Reformation: 500 years ago this year, many sought reform in the Christian church, which had become corrupt and unjust. They were dedicated Christians who listened to God’s word and believed God was at work in the world and in the church to guide Christian disciples into ways of obedience to Jesus Christ. Martin Luther had to stand up to the church authorities and speak truth to the powers and break away from the church that formed him. Because of what he did, we are here today in our Presbyterian church. We can learn about moral righteousness and justice from the Reformation.
· American Revolution was a political upheaval that took place between 1765 and 1783 during which God-loving colonists in the 13 American Colonies rejected the British monarchy and aristocracy, overthrew the authority of Great Britain, and founded the United States of America. Their fight for justice and freedom produced the Declaration of Independence, which says that all people are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with Rights: Life, Liberty, and Happiness.
Protesting what is wrong and unjust; and fighting for what is right and just: that’s what our church and our country are founded on.
This month I visited with two people who are working to do justice in our community:
· ACCAN—Allegheny Co. Clean Air Now is a local grass roots movement that meets at our church. Led by Ted Popovich, the group of concerned citizens lobbied the Allegheny Co. Health Dept. and EPA in order to close the Shenango DTE coke plant on Neville Island that was polluting the air. Jane Angellini and Melanie Holcomb and others fought for justice and for the right for clean air. Their efforts help us all breathe cleaner air today. Let’s pause and take a deep breath….
· Birmingham Free Clinic on the South Side in Pittsburgh—Lyn Robertson works there on Wednesdays. Doctors, nurses, students all volunteer time to help those underserved, people with no insurance. It is open to all races, colors, creeds, ages, pre-existing conditions. No one is turned away. Last year, they served 860 people, who would otherwise not have any medical treatment; they saved lives.
Jesus “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.”
We are not as good at doing justice. It does not come easy. It is harder to do. It means standing up and pushing against the status quo. It means speaking out. It means speaking truth to those in power. It means being with people who are different. It can be uncomfortable. But God calls us—no requires us to do it.
Still, there is more than loving kindness and doing justice. What does the Lord require of you? Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
Walk humbly with God
Walk: don’t stay seated, step out in faith, one at a time, knowing God goes with you.
Humbly: lack of false pride; not proud or arrogant, but courteously respectful.
The Bible does not make transformation dependent on cleverness at all; rather, transformation is found in one of God’s favorite and most effective hiding places: humility.
· The Civil Rights movement changed the world for good by helping us see people of all colors as children of God. It was led by a Christian minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He preached that God’s way to freedom from oppression was to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with God. He preached against violence and practiced non-violent sit-ins and peaceful marches.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, who was elected last year as the first African-American to lead the Presbyterian Church (USA) as Stated Clerk, preached at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, Baltimore's oldest black Presbyterian church. He said many black families in Baltimore still face some of the same challenges and inequality — low wages, disproportionate incarceration, insufficient housing and economic immobility — that King wanted to overcome 50 years ago. He spoke of deep political racial divisions in the nation: "It is a challenging time, when the church must be engaged beyond its doors.” He urged congregations "to come together not as Democrats or Republicans or Independents, to come together not as rich or poor, to come together not just as Presbyterians, but to come together as people of faith who truly believe that transformation can happen."
I have been out in our community this month, visiting with people who are trying to change the world for good, for God. Last Saturday I went all the way to Washington DC:
· The Women’s March on Washington (and throughout the country and world). What I experienced in D.C. was: Peaceful, positive, passionate, college students, families with children, all ages and races, classes and creeds, homosexual, heterosexual, men and women, we the people, walking, singing, cheering, encouraging, hopeful of change, practicing democracy, so that all people might be created equal and have the rights given them in the Declaration of Independence—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone walked humbly—without incident or violence or arrest—expressing their sense of what was right and just and good.
· The hand-made Signs were creative and powerful: “Girls just want to have fun-damental rights.” Two young girls held up a sign: “Shequality.” An Older women: “I lived in the 1950s and I’m not going back.” Rosie the Riveter became Rosie the Resister. A woman carried a baby with a pink blanket: “Future President of US”. Muslims, Christians, Jews, all together holding signs of: “Love your neighbor.” My favorite sign my friend Diane made: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.”
· And so we walked humbly—some more inspired by justice, some more by love.
· I went, in part, out of curiosity. In part, because several people from our church were going and I wanted to support them. And truthfully, my daughter Rebecca was taking a bus from the College of Wooster to D.C. for the march, and, well, I just wanted to be sure she was going to be okay. And unbelievably, with all those people somehow, we managed to find one another. And it was very special.
It was not until I was there that I understood why I was there. I walked for love of country, for love of God, and for love of all God’s people.
· The only negative voices spewing hate I came across all day in the hundreds of thousands of people were a small group holding signs on which were written the words: God and Jesus, sinners, punishment, hate and hell. I thought how sad, how very, very sad. That the God who loved the whole world and everyone in it so much, that God sent Jesus Christ, is being used as a weapon of hate.
Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The question is how do we, who might believe differently on fundamental issues come together as people of faith who truly believe that transformation can happen? How can we unite in one mission to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God?
At a preaching conference I attended in November, one of the preachers told this story he witnessed that gives us an example of how hard it is and at the same time, how easy it is. It starts with baby steps.
In Atlanta, there are two Presbyterian Churches right across the street from each other. In between, on the street, one Sunday, there was a parade, people standing up and marching for the rights of gay and lesbian (LGBTQ) people. On one side of the road, a Presbyterian church protested and called the marchers names and said they were sinners going to hell.
The other Presbyterian church took a different approach. They poured water into dixie paper cups and stood along the route handing out cups of water to those who walked by. An old woman—well into her 80s—diligently filled up cups of water and put them on a tray. She was a little unsteady on her feet, but that did not stop her. She began to walk out into the street, offering cups of water to people as they marched by. But she did not stop there. She continued all the way across the street, to the other side, to where her Presbyterian sisters and brothers were shouting insults at the marchers. She said not a word. She simply lifted up her tray and offered them a drink of water.
What does the Lord require of you? Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.
Anne Frank, who wrote about the power of justice, kindness and walking humbly with God during the Nazi holocaust in her diary, said this:
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
May it be so, for you and for me and for all who believe. Amen.