Micah 1: 3-5; 5: 2-5a; 6: 6-8

November 11, 2018

Sermon: Nan Crary

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I truly am happy to be here with you today, sharing some verses from the Bible that don’t have any hard to pronounce names or cities.  But Micah does give us quite a bit to think about.  First, we learn that the Lord is going out, coming down from the mountain — because the world is a mess.  Maybe not so different from our world today, would you say?  But we are then told that at our spiritual rebirth, the Lord will feed his flock.  He will be our peace.

So …what should be our response?  Should we sacrifice?  What should we give to God?  We often ask ourselves, How can we get ourselves in the right position with God?  What can we give – or give up – so that God will be pleased with us?

Now Micah steps in and spins us around.  He changes the focus.  Rather than trying to get ourselves in a position of favor with God, by making an impressive sacrifice or finding that perfect gift, we are given a new direction.  We are to turn and face the world – everyone and everything we meet by chance or with intention — and then what are we to do?  Micah tells us:

Be fair – do justice.

Love kindness, show mercy.

And walk humbly with God.

I have always liked these words from Micah.  They sound comforting to me.  But actually, putting these sweet-sounding words into practice – oh, that is not as easy as the words sound.

So, let’s start with justice.  How do we learn to do justice?  Some of our first lessons about being fair, doing justice may come as a child when we learn to share with a younger brother or sister.  Do you remember when there was just one last piece of fudge – or one last piece of the favorite dessert your mom makes or used to make for your family?  (German chocolate cake, warm from oven – poke holes – pour condensed milk and caramel sauce – top with cool whip and 3 crushed Heath candy bars….) Yum!

Time out

OK we just need to take a time out here.  One piece of dessert left?  Mom could solve this – Simple!   she could eat it before the kids come home from school.  But Solomon taught us some things recently about a mother’s heart.  Solomon was a wise man.  He knew people change when they become parents.  At least I can say as a mother of three children, I know this to be true that I changed when I became a parent.

First, a mother will find MORE satisfaction in watching her children eat that last piece of delicious dessert — than if she ate it herself.

Second, this Mom knows that she has a chance to teach an important lesson, just because she knows her children’s sweet tooth and what they treasure.

Mom might hand the knife to the older child and instruct – you as big brother or older sister gets to cut this into two pieces so each of you can have some.  You can SHARE this last lovely bite.  That seems fair, doesn’t it? .But then, Mom says … after YOU cut the two pieces, your younger brother or sister gets to pick their piece FIRST.

What did we learn from this experience?  We learned how to be fair.  We learned not to short change the other person who might be smaller, weaker, or less experienced that we are, in a position of less advantage.  Because for just one moment, when we were deciding where to place that knife, we knew what it would feel like if we were left with a crumb while the person deciding, the one holding power with that knife, could walk off with a great, big piece.  And we would be left with just a crumb.

So how well are we doing these days when it comes to justice in the state of Minnesota?  The Progress Report on Poverty in Minnesota gives us information that suggests we have some work to do.  Goals were set in 2009 to end poverty in Minnesota by 2020 with specific goals

  • reduce poverty rates among racial minorities to the national average by 2010
  • reduce poverty rates among children by half by 2014, and
  • eliminate poverty by 2020.

None of these benchmarks have been met.  Here’s are numbers for 2018:

  • 533,276 Minnesotans (including 160,626 children under 18) live in households that are below the federal poverty threshold: $12,140 for a single adult, $20,780 for a family of three
  • 7% of Minnesota children live in poverty
  • 10% of Minnesota households are impacted by hunger
  • 3% of Minnesotans with disabilities live in poverty

I am proud of our community of Hutchinson.  How Common Cup is available to help families with the weekend backpack food program, the winter coat drive, the back to school supply program.  The HOMES group that now has two apartments to help with housing is an effort to provide temporary housing so that barriers can be removed and families in our community can move on to sustainable housing.  The need is big:  Over 200 families with 100 children sought help from the community action agency last year because they either had lost their housing or were on the verge of losing their home.

We need safe, affordable housing for everyone in Minnesota, everyone in Hutchinson.  We need to create pathways out of homelessness.  And we need safe, efficient, affordable transportation throughout Minnesota.  Clearly – there is a lot of work to do!

Be fair, do justice.

Next Micah tells us to love kindness and show mercy.

In today’s world, how do we love kindness and show mercy?  We have just gone through another election cycle.  Do you feel as relieved as I do that the negative ad campaigns are finally over?  This past week I got to spend time with my three siblings:  older brother Paul, younger brother Mark and the youngest in the family, my sister Kristen.  We have considerable differences when it comes to politics. We hold strong opinions and could easily fall into righteous contentiousness and argument over our differences.

The psalmist gives us a vision in the words of Ch. 85, verse 10:  Mercy and truth have met together.  Grim justice and peace have kissed.  (Repeat)  Truth rises from the earth and righteousness smiles down from heaven.

My brother Mark, the one conservative Republican in the family observed:  Doing justice, that sounds like Republicans.  Showing mercy, that sounds like Democrats.  But we all can walk humbly with God.

Which brings us to the last directive from Micah:  walk humbly with God.

It is good every once in awhile to stop and remember that we don’t have all the answers, not collectively and certainly not individually.  In my walk with God, it is not always easy to stay in step.  Most often I have to admit, it feels like I’m straining ahead.  I would like answers to my questions, my problems.  And I really would like the answers NOW, on my timetable.  Maybe you have also had that experience?

But if we stop for just a moment and consider the vastness of the universe, how infinite the wisdom of God, maybe we can stand back and smile at ourselves, take a deep breath, and listen for the PACE of this walk with God.  Maybe we can be open for the calls for help in our everyday life that can be so easily overlooked.  Because not all help is signaled as clearly as an S.O.S. from a sinking ship.

One of my favorite authors is Robert Fulghum who wrote the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”.  Fulghum has done a variety of jobs in his life: he’s been a ditch digger, ranch hand, singing cowboy, taught drawing, painting, art history and philosophy and was a parish minister for 22 years.  I’d like to read you his poem:

All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

by Robert Fulghum

Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

One final thing to say:  I want to remind you that you are a beloved child of God with amazing gifts and potential.  And isn’t it humbling to realize how much God believes in you, stands by each one of us, even when we falter and stumble? God sends us out into this world to share the love of God with every part of this crazy, mixed up, messy world.

Now isn’t that about the best news you’ve ever heard?

And we say – thanks be to God.