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Sermon Sunday January 29, 2023 Fourth Sunday after
Lessons: Micah 6:1-8
Psalm 15
1 Cornithians 1:18-31
Matthew 5:1-12
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit. Amen.
Show the congregation my card which has Micah 6:8 on it.
Have someone from the congregation read: “You have been
told what is good and what the LORD requires of you: only
to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with
your God.” This card was taped to my computer for about
five and a half years as I worked as the Director of
Development for a nonprofit. I would look at and reflect on
this Bible verse every day at my desk. How does it make
you feel? I am not tooting my own horn. I needed to hear
that each and every day. It is my absolute favorite Bible
verse, hands down. The truth is though that we see this verse
all over the place in stickers, cards, buttons, and any manner
of other religious trinkets. It’s a beautiful verse, but my                                                                                                                                 spidey sense makes me ask us this question. “What’s the

The problem seems to be that we take this quote from
today’s O.T. lesson and really use it out of its context. It
becomes something nice, comforting, sweet and sacchariney
when we do that. The point is that using it that way reminds
me of the part of Eucharistic Prayer C that says, “Deliver us
from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace
only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for
renewal.” Taking Micah 6:8 out of context is like that—only
for solace and pardon, and not for strength and renewal.
In today’s lesson from Micah, we see the full context of
verse 8. Micah, one of the minor or lesser prophets lived in
the 8 th century BCE, just like Isaiah and Hosea. Micah is a
minor prophet, not because he was less important than
Isaiah, but due to the length of his prophetic book. Micah
has seven chapters and Isaiah has sixty-six chapters. Micah’s
message is important! It is just said a bit differently than one
of the major prophets like Isaiah or Jeremiah.

Micah is talking about the Assyrians running rampant over
the Jewish people. It can all seem like gloom and doom, and
judgment. But Micah gives us a way out. Let’s see how.
Verses 1-7 in the sixth chapter of Micah take place in what
can only be described as a courtroom. God seems to be the
prosecutor against the people and calls as his witnesses the
mountains, hills, and the foundations of the earth. God then
gives an impassioned opening argument by reminding the
Jewish people of the great things He has done for them, his
The catch is that the Israelites didn’t go searching for God in
his great plan of salvation. God chose them, not because of
any special merit of theirs, but because he chose them, and
He chose them to be a light to all the nations of the world. I
suppose that could become tiresome and seem like a burden,
right? And the Jewish people always had to remember this.
So, we jump to a kind of plea-bargaining phase in the
courtroom. “Okay God, what do we have to do to appease
you?” say the Jewish people. What they propose gets
progressively more outlandish. They say, “we can offer
burnt offerings with year-old calves, thousands of rams, ten
thousand rivers of oil, sacrifice of our first born.”

God rejects all of this in verse 8, and His verdict is, “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?”. Whack! We are hit right
over the head with God’s 2X4. While the sacrifices had their
very important place, what God seeks, what God wants,
what God demands, is a change of our heart and of our
actions. That is the way out from the courtroom judgment.
That’s a mighty big order if anyone asks, and not quite so
sweet an sacchariney, is it? It reminds us of Ezekiel 36:26
where it says, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit
I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the
heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” God asks us for
a way of life, and not just a pretty slogan.
And that is the connection with today’s Gospel lesson from
Matthew which is the famous Sermon on the Mount. While
thousand of pages have been written on this sermon, it is
worth it to mention a few outstanding things about
Matthew’s Gospel. Very important things happen on
mountains in Matthew’s Gospel. Among them we have
Jesus’ Transfiguration and his great commission to the
apostles to go and baptize all nations in the Name of the

Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. So, right off
the bat we know that what Jesus has to say to us in this
passage is really important, because it takes place on a
mountain, just like Moses receiving the ten commandments
on Mt. Sinai. Another clue that what Jesus is about to say to
is that he sat down to proclaim. A rabbi, or teacher, in those
days would sit down to teach his disciples. It was a sign that
y’all had better sit up, listen, and pay attention to what is
about to be said.
Jesus then launches in to what we have come to know as the
Beatitudes. Much has been debated about “Blessed are the
poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”, because
Luke, in his Sermon on the Plain says, “Blessed are you who
are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.”
Let’s take a look at the Kingdom of heaven vs. the Kingdom
of God. Those who heard Jesus preaching the Kingdom of
heaven would have heard it differently than waiting for them
to die and going off into that vision we may have of heave—
angels playing harps on fluffy white clouds and batting their
wings. Jesus’ original listeners would have known that the
Kingdom Jesus spoke of was very different from the Roman
domination or Kingdom they were used to. They would have

heard Kingdom of heaven as a new order from God, brought
about by God’s reign.
Jesus would often talk about himself as the Kingdom of
heaven by proclaiming that The Kingdom of God is at hand,
or that it is near. In other words, this meant that a new order
from God is here made present in the person of Jesus. So,
Kingdom of heaven and Kingdom of God work out to be the
same thing.

Now let’s tackle poor in spirit in Matthew vs. plain old poor
in Luke. In their book Kingdom Ethics, David P. Gushee
and Glen H. Stassen insist that we put too much emphasis on
the virtues that we see in the Beatitudes such as poverty of
spirit, purity of heart, and meekness for example. These are
very important. But, they go on to say that we don’t really
pay attention to what the Beatitudes are really saying with
their emphasis on God’s presence, His active deliverance,
and thus our being blessed by that.
Gushee and Stassen stress that the Beatitudes, the whole
importance of the Beatitudes is what they call “participative
grace” which was a theme expressed by famous theologian
Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Grace is God’s transformative                                                                                                                                        initiative and not done through our achievement. But this
does not mean once we accept God’s grace that we are
passive, sit back, and have no need to do anything else. This
attitude is what Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace.” He insists
that through God’s grace in Christ, we become active
participants in God’s grace. We participate in God’s will in
the world. It is not trying to buy our way to God through
works. God’s grace empowers us to do God’s will, to live in
God’s Kingdom in the here and now and in the not yet
completed Kingdom of God, and to participate in its
construction. It is the point of the Beatitudes and echoes
Micah 6:8, “you have been told what the LORD requires of
you, only to do justice, and to love kindness, and walk
humbly with your God.” It requires a change of heart and a
response from us as individuals and as a community. It is
not for solace and pardon only, but for strength and renewal.
It simply expresses that we love God and love our neighbor.
So, we might ask ourselves, what is our response to this
great outpouring of love and grace from God in our lives
here in the Big Bend? What are we to do as His community?