“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 6:1-8)
Here is something that you need to know about me. I am not hard wired to do justice. Humility is not my second nature. I struggle to love kindness. Somehow I think that might be true for you too. So, how can we live into right relations with God and our neighbor? Where do we go from here when here is an often unkind and unjust world? Not sure if this is a good description of “here?” Read the press. Listen to the news. Consider the evidence.
Then listen to the Gospel of Mathew, or any Gospel for that matter, and trust that the disciples were a lot like us. Jesus called them one by one. He took them around; teaching, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing people of sickness. Huge crowds followed him from Galilee to Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. Then something surprising happened. When Jesus saw the crowds following him he took an abrupt turn away. He went to the mountain and he sat down.
This phrase, “he sat down” reminded me of something that was told to a young pastor by the name of Howard Thurman. Howard’s mentor met with him after Howard’s first sermon and said “Howard, I am going to tell you something that was told to me after my first sermon. When you are done preaching – sit down!”
The Sermon on the Mount starts with eight statements, each one beginning with the word blessed. The Greek word for blessed is makarios. Makarios does not pray for a blessing, it affirms a pre-existing condition of being seen and blessed. Jesus faces his disciples. He says “Listen up! I am taking about you!” You are poor in spirit and full of need. You can’t do for yourselves. You are grieving. In your meekness you can use your limited power to serve God and the world. You are hungry to be in right relationship with God and your neighbors. You are filled with mercy. Your heart is open. You are peacemakers in a war weary world. Because of what you stand for some people won’t associate with you. Accept that. Trust that God is with you as God was with the prophet Micah and every other person who sat still and listened and was not afraid to speak and act for justice and mercy. And do this in the company of others. Blessed be the people – all the people.
I was sitting with someone visiting our church last week. We talked about why we come together in faith communities. Why disciples invited their brothers and sisters to follow Jesus on what Kayla McClurg calls “the blessing path.” It is because on our own we cannot do what God requires. It is way too hard. We wander way too much. But with each other we can practice what we preach and step by step we can bless as we are already blessed. Of course it is not easy. Of course we do it wrong much of the time. What matters is that this is the path that Jesus walked. And that is all that we need to know for now. Here is the broken world. Here we are. Step on the path.