Sermon – 30 January 2005

I want us to meditate on the first of the readings this morning (Micah 6:1-8) and you might want to keep that text in front of you whilst I am talking.

?Hear what the Lord says:?

Do we believe that we can hear what the Lord says? How easy it is to think that what we want is what the Lord says. Even easier is to think that what we think that we want to give God is what God wants. But no. ?Hear what the Lord says?
The Lord storms into view in this text and demands attention. Before the mountains and the hills of creation ? there is a controversy to be sorted out.
Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord.

There is something akin to a trial going on here. I?ve told you before that I have seen religious leaders acting as judges in the middle east myself. In plenty of places in the Greek texts of our Bible, we hear of God being the judge. Sometimes we hear of a just judge, even more perplexingly we sometimes hear of an unjust judge. So what is going on here? Is the Lord going to judge us again?

The case is being called. This is how these things work a case is called before the local judge. The disputants are named, the judge is named and the case proceeds.

But here, the Lord is not sitting in judgement. The Lord is one of the participants.
The controversy which must be resolved is between the Lord and the people. And the judge is to be the created order ? the mountains and the hills.

Yes, the mountains and the hills are going to sit in judgement.

Now, this is to take all kinds of things out of context, but it might be worth letting that picture roll around your mind for a moment or two. Let us not pretend that the environment has nothing to do with the way we live our faith. Let us not pretend that the mountains and hills are unaffected by the relationships which we have amongst ourselves and let us not pretend that our behaviour is separate from our relationship with God. For what most deeply affects us affects the way we behave.

Our responsibility to the world around us is integral to our being people of faith. And the mountains and the hills sit in judgement against us. Will we manage to be the generation who turn things around so that the generations which follow are sustained within the same delicate eco-system that we live in?
The mountains and the hills are our judges.

But on we go, for the Lord has a controversy with his people.
?O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? answer me!? Here we are taken straight to the liturgy that we keep together here on Good Friday.

O my people. My poor people. What have I done to you, how have I wearied you, answer me.

There are several moments in the church year which I understand as a rector in ways I never understood before attempting to lead a community. One is the singing of the Exultet on Easter Eve. Another is the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday. And, perhaps more significantly than either, the singing of the reproaches on Good Friday.

And the refrain to that lament comes from this passage of the prophet Micah ? O my people, what have I done to you.

For the Lord has done all that can be done. We are situated within a creation which could sustain us all and with more left over. And in the poor, Christ goes hungry. We are placed in a created world which can teach us about beauty in a square inch as much as in the light falling on the mountainside of the greatest hills. Yet we mar the created order and make ugliness so common that we accept it as inevitable.

O my people what have I done to you, how have I hurt you? Answer me!
God has made the earth. Biblical writers have been inspired to teach us of justice, love and peace. And what have we made of it?

The Lord demands an answer in the courtroom. O my people, what have I done to you, how have I hurt you? Answer me!

The accusations fly thick and fast.

The Lord has come to earth. Given of himself. Taught us of love. Taught us of sacrifice. Taught us of justice. Taught us of peace. And what have we done with it?

Oh my people!

You can hear the despair. You can sense the disappointment.

The great human project, the great created world project so often seems to come to nothing.

What must it feel like to be God? He offers to bring us from slavery in Egypt and redeem us and set us up in freedom besides Moses, Aaron and Miriam.
And what do we do with the offer?

What must it feel like to be God? What pain and what sadness come from loving utterly.

And does the Lord walk away. Does the Lord condemn.

The people in the courtroom ask what is to be done? How shall we come before the Lord and bow before God on high?

Shall we come with burnt offerings, with calves to offer, with extravagant oil to offer.

Shall we try to buy the Lord?s favour with our offerings?
Oh my people!

There is no punishment in this court. There is no sentence handed down, except what we know already.

What we are offered is what the Lord has offered us before. The chance to begin again. The chance to do what is good.
The Lord and and the people can walk out of the court together. God and humanity can move on holding hands.

For the Lord has told us over and over again what is good.

And as God offers an outstretched hand, he offers us an invitation.

Will you, O mortal, do what is good?
For what the Lord requires of us is easy.
He has told us what is good.
To do justice.
To love kindness.
And to walk humbly with your God.

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