Before I begin my Reflection, I’d like to share with you a list as think about the work of the church on this day of the Annual Meeting. This is a list of things you’re not likely to hear at church… I say not likely because maybe we are different!
– Hey! It’s MY turn to sit on the front pew!
– It was so packed today, I had to sit in the balcony!
– I was so enthralled, I didn’t even notice your sermon went 15 minutes longer than usual.
– Personally, I find evangelism much more enjoyable than golf,
– I’ve decided to give our church the $700.00 a month I used to send to Joel Olsteen
– You know, pastor, since you got here, we’ve forgotten all about the pastors that came before you.
– I volunteer to be the permanent chairperson of the committee of your choosing, pastor.
– I love it when we sing hymns I’ve never heard before!
– Since we’re all here, let’s start the worship service early!
– Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment like our annual stewardship campaign!
– Pastor, this winter we’d like to send you to this church conference in Hawaii for a couple weeks.
Anyway, on to Micah 6…
Hear what the Lord is saying:
Arise, lay out the lawsuit before the mountains;
let the hills hear your voice!
2 Hear, mountains, the lawsuit of the Lord!
Hear, eternal foundations of the earth!
The Lord has a lawsuit against his people;
with Israel he will argue.
3 “My people, what did I ever do to you?
How have I wearied you? Answer me!
4 I brought you up out of the land of Egypt;
I redeemed you from the house of slavery.
I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam before you.
5 My people, remember what Moab’s King Balak had planned,
and how Balaam, Beor’s son, answered him!
Remember everything from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you might learn to recognize the righteous acts of the Lord!”
6 With what should I approach the Lord
and bow down before God on high?
Should I come before him with entirely burned offerings,
with year-old calves?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with many torrents of oil?
Should I give my oldest child for my crime;
the fruit of my body for the sin of my spirit?
8 He has told you, human one, what is good and
what the Lord requires from you:
to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.
God, as Micah describes it, is not happy with Israel. This is a common state for God according to the Prophets. What is God not happy about?
Humans grumbling when they ought to be grateful.
So in Micah 6, God is quoted as saying something to the effect of, “C’mon, people! Didn’t I save you and set you free! How about some gratitude for a change!? Stop complaining its too hot in the summer when in just a few months, you’ll be complaining its too cold.
But in verse 5, the text changes. It turns to say God also doesn’t want the opposite of grumbling. God doesn’t want your appeasement, your seeking to please God with human things – a big donation, hours of volunteering, perfect worship.
God doesn’t want grumbling. God doesn’t want appeasement or obligation either! God wants our hearts.
God wants hearts that act justly, love kindness, and walk in humility with God. Barack Obama had this saying when he’d campaign and folks would start booing. He’d say, don’t boo, vote.
Well, don’t grumble – be just and love compassion.
Don’t appease or seek to please God – walk in humility with God.
Our reading from I CORINTHIANS 1 points to something else God doesn’t desire…
19 It is written in scripture: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will reject the intelligence of the intelligent. 20 Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. 22 Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. 25 This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
26 Look at your situation when you were called, brothers and sisters! By ordinary human standards not many were wise, not many were powerful, not many were from the upper class. 27 But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong. 28 And God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life—what is considered to be nothing—to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing. 29 So no human being can brag in God’s presence. 30 It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us. 31 This is consistent with what was written: The one who brags should brag in the Lord!
Remember when we used floppy discs to run computer programs? Like now, there was Apple and Microsoft. And for a floppy disc to work with a PC, it had to have the right format. Apple-formatted discs wouldn’t work on Microsoft computers, and vice versa. It is kind of similar these days with iPhone apps and Android apps – they are not interchangeable.
Well, Paul in I Corinthians 1 discusses two different wisdom formats. There is the human wisdom format, with its notions of human success and human strength. And there is the godly wisdom format and all that godly wisdom entails. Human wisdom and godly wisdom are two very different formats. They’re not interchangeable.
In other words, God’s got no need for human wisdom. Your wisdom format won’t work when it comes to my kin-dom, God is saying for Paul.
Human wisdom is foolishness to God. Human success is failure to God. Human strength is weakness to God.
But here’s the thing. If we want to walk with God, we need a change in our operating system so it aligns with God. We need a heart change, a godly transformation in order to apply godly wisdom, godly success, godly strength.
A couple months ago, I came across this powerful quote from Henri Nouwen. It is about leadership. He said, “I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love.”
Well, Nouwen is speaking to all of us here. We’re all called to lead others to the Jesus way and to the community that walks that way. That is the great commission Christ gives us. That is the point of the Church – “go into all the world, leading others to the Jesus-way of love.”
But how do we lead?
The how is a godly how, Nouwen reminds us. This godly how defies all the human wisdom found in books on leadership and motivation. It defies all the methods taught in MBA programs. It defies all the self-help programs claiming to create strong, relevant leaders.
Forget worldly relevance. Forget human strength. Be out of step like Jesus was, be out of step with the world’s ways, be out of step with human concepts of success and strength and be vulnerable. As the mandalorians say, “this is the Way.”
Does this mean we don’t do cool stuff? Not at all. I’ll be discussing a cool program I’d like us to pursue at the Annual Meeting. Living joyfully despite the gloom, that is being out of step like Jesus was. The point is the Joy in the Journey, not arriving at some goal.
That brings us to the Good News!
Because our human wisdom and human modes of success don’t apply to the spiritual life, we don’t have to strive so hard. God doesn’t want human perfection. God doesn’t want human wisdom or human success. God doesn’t want our sense of obligation and sacrifice, at least not first and foremost. He simply wants our hearts! To me, that is good news!
God wants you to rest in Him, the one who is Just, who is Love, and who humbly walks with us. God wants you to grow in knowledge of Her and Her wisdom, leaning not on our own understanding, letting the Spirit work through you. That’s why we’re here. To me, that is good news
And for our spreading the Good News, it won’t be the our perfect programs, our innovative plans for growth, or our impressive worship services that spreads the Kin-dom. It will be our sense of justice, our love and compassion, and our humility in walking with God that will spread the kin-dom. To me, that is good news.
And our own spiritual joy and contentment will lead the way, a counterintuitive, subversive contentment born of the Good News will spread the Good News. People will see our contentment and want to join us!
I close with the Good News and with Jesus description of the counterintuitive, subversive contentment born from the Gospel. Matthew 5:1-12:
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. 2 He taught them, saying:
3 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
4 “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
5 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
6 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
7 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
8 “Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
9 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
I’d like to close with a quote that sums up Jesus’ beatitudes well. It is from the Dalai Lama, with small addition:
“The planet does not need more successful people – or churches. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”