Click the play button to hear the sermon.
This past Sunday I was given the opportunity to preach at one of the churches in my dad’s association. I happily accepted the invitation, believing that I could finish the deck I’ve been working on for the past week by the middle of the week so that I could get in some good studying and preparation for the engagement. I was sorely mistaken because I didn’t finish the deck until Saturday with the help of my long-time best friend, Elijah. He came down from NW PA to spend time with me. I sought to study at night, but I underestimated the exhaustion from the labor, so I fell asleep in the middle of my reflecting and writing notes. Anyway, I felt a lot of pressure on myself Saturday while I wrote my thoughts down; I didn’t have enough time to reflect back on them so as to edit and refine them the way I’d like. So, I felt the inadequacy of thoughts and wording. Nevertheless, there came a moment when I had to deliver this talk.
In my critical voice, I believed I’m handing nothing fully developed and poetic to these strangers, but I had a humbling moment after preaching. An older woman named Iris stepped right up to me hugged me and stated that this was the word she and the congregation needed to hear. In fact, she mentioned that she wanted me to continue preaching and teaching. Usually, these comments don’t really pass through my guarded nature towards compliments, but it was different with this woman. For some reason, it meant something to me because of how inadequate I found everything I said to what was ruminating in my mind and heart for this passage. Nevertheless, God used it.
I landed on Micah 6:1-8 for multiple reasons, but it came from a reflection on a song by Luke Sital-Singh, “Loving You Well.” From that song, my kept wandering to this passage. Micah 6:8 was my grandmother Whiting’s favorite passage of Scripture. What’s funny in that last sentence was the atheism in my grandmother that believed all of it is bull. Yet, she found this verse to be the most powerful in all of Scripture. She was right; this passage is powerful. Micah 6:1-8 is an imaginative, poetic lawsuit that Micah paints for us. In this section of Scripture, God pleads with a problematic people (Israel) for possible faithfulness (to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God) to establish the point of a special covenant. Yet, as the readers of this passage, I believe the text confronts us with a question that many of us neglect to ask: Do I love you well? Now, I switched the inquiry in the sermon to am I loving you well. Either way, I think the point remains the same.
The question takes courage to answer daily because when we reflect on it and connect it to God and neighbor, we find that our imaginations change and the way Christians speak and act start to change, hopefully falling in line with God’s vision, character, and promises. The question makes us uncomfortable because it asks us about the quality of our love for the other. To do justly and to love mercy are practical actions, not mere frameworks for practical action. Justice and mercy take action and reflection. Additionally, to walk humbly with God is difficult because we have to abdicate promoting ourselves turning our attention to God and believing that God’s promises and desires for the world are not in vain and worthwhile pursuing. As G.K. Chesterton stated, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” Our neighbors need a quality love, not a quantity of love because we all have limited bandwidth. God asks us for a quality love, not quantity because God knows that we are but dust. As we move from loving God and neighbor with this question (Do I love you well?), Christians are confronted with the task of loving foreigner, marginalized, poor, abused, widow, innocent, LGBTQA, trans-gender, and oppressed too. Will you and I love these people well because they too are our neighbor made in God’s Image?
There are many things that I could have and wish I would have said, yet I cannot go back to do any of that. Instead, I choose to learn from this experience and hone this craft of communicating effectively. I invite you to listen to this, maybe it can encourage you as it did at least one person. Perhaps, you’ll critique me and offer me advice. I welcome that, but I think you should email me or private message me. More than anyone, I know the mistakes and gaps in my speaking, yet if God used Balaam’s ass, then maybe God could use an ass like me, haha. 😉