Welcome to a new series of posts here at Preacher on the Plaza at the beginning of every week from now until who knows when . . Wresting with how do we live in these days? These very hard days as people of faith. How do we live in these days of discrimination? Of Hate? Of fears realized?
If these aren't questions you resonate with, feel free to stop reading. But for those of us deeply concerned about the tone of our country, our relationships with our muslim brothers and sisters, our inclusion of our brothers and sisters of color and our brothers and sisters who are LGBTQ, and most of all with our relations as an American people with the rest of the world, check back here every Monday for some encouragement. We're in this together. And I want to keep having conversations that matter right now.
Yesterday, I heard a sermon from the Old Testament lectionary text, Micah 6:1-8-- one of my favorite scriptures which contains these words.
"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?"
The sermon challenged us to consider what our religious practice looked like. Is our religion for the sake of doing religion? Or is our religion living out what the Lord requires of us?
Afterwards, I couldn't help but let my mind keep wondering over these verses again and again. I've certainly preached on them many times myself. It's a text that helped form my essays to seminary-- why I felt called to ministry. I even have a re-usable grocery bag with Micah 6:8 on it (A great conversation starter at the grocery bagging table).
But for the first time yesterday, I considered the relationship between the three key words in the verse.
Justice is such a hot button word in Christian communities these days, isn't it?
Church folk speak of "justice" as the reason why their faith seems all the more political.
Justice is what led hundred of thousands to protest a week ago last Saturday at women's marches all over the country. Justice is what moved thousands of people on Saturday to drop everything they were doing and protest at airports all around the country chanting "No hate. No fear. All people are welcome here." Justice is what is leading thousands today to jam up the lines of their Congressional representatives and fill their Senator's boxes with "I need to share with you my concerns . . . " mail.
I am a fan of justice. We need to keep making our voice heard as people who believe that God loves and welcomes us all the same (though America's policies do not right now).
But, next comes kindness. Micah says the Lord asks us to "love kindness."
Some translations of this text insert the word "mercy" instead of kindness. I like mercy too. For living a life of mercy means in acting in compassion or forgiveness toward others. It means looking beyond what a person deserves and loving him or her as a beloved child of God, just the same as you want to be treated.
When I was at the Women's March in DC, this sign was one of my favorites.
Because on a day full of calling our country toward more just policies and relationships-- here was a woman with her heels firmly planted in the ground of kindness. She wants her country to be kind again.
There's a reason I believe that we're called to kindness after our call to justice.
For if we want our messages to have any chance of shining through to hearts who need to hear them, we always must remember to be kind.
Kindness can look like stopping to have a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you in the airport or in a pew at church. It can look like smiling. Opening doors for strangers. Going out of your way to lift someone up who is discouraged. Most of listening (and not posting too quickly on Facebook).
I picture justice and kindness are social activism twins. We can't have one without the other and be effective.
And lastly we are asked to "walk humbly with our God."
In a journey of faith, humility is an essential virtue, we're reminded.
Because after all, God is God and we are not.
And if this is true, sometimes we're going to be wrong. Sometimes we're going to miss the mark. We're going to speak to soon or not soon enough. We're going to make a mountain out of a molehill and cause more damage than the goodness we bring.
So, if our justice wrapped in kindness work is truly going to be what God wants from us-- we've got to walk humbly.
We've got to stay connected to our life-source. We've got to take times out to pray, to think and to re-focus. We've got to move in the spirit of Thomas Merton's famous prayer: "The fact that I think I am following your will doesn't mean that I am actually doing so."
My friends for today: where and how is God calling you to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God?
We've got work to do.