Epiphany 4A - Micah 6:1-8

Micah 6:1–8 (NIV)

6 Listen to what the Lord says:

“Stand up, plead My case before the mountains;

let the hills hear what you have to say.

“Hear, you mountains, the Lord’s accusation;

listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.

For the Lord has a case against His people;

He is lodging a charge against Israel.

“My people, what have I done to you?

How have I burdened you? Answer Me.

I brought you up out of Egypt

and redeemed you from the land of slavery.

I sent Moses to lead you,

also Aaron and Miriam.

My people, remember

what Balak king of Moab plotted

and what Balaam son of Beor answered.

Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal,

that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”

With what shall I come before the Lord

and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.

          There are some who’ve grown tired of their loyalty towards God, no longer worshipping, no longer praying and no longer sharing fellowship with the remnant who remain faithful to God’s call and blessing.

          God has been generous with His blessing over the millennia of human history since showing His grace to Adam and Eve, who were the first to rebel against God.

With the promise in Genesis 3:15 when speaking of the fate of the devil (NIV) God gives hope to humanity:

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring  and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

          The hope is in the promise of the One who will be a descendant of the woman, Eve, who will defeat the serpent. This is the “protoevangelium”, the first promise of the Gospel – God promised rescue for His people.  

          The Earth, particularly the hills and mountains are called by God as witnesses to His saving grace given to his people throughout history.

          When God’s people drift away from Him, neglecting to live as the people He called them to be, He has a case against them and there is always an accounting to be done, a call to repentance – to turn back to God.

          God continues to call through His Prophets, Apostles and preachers, teachers and parents holding up the mirror of humanity’s unfaithfulness, His answer to our unfaithfulness and His grace which enables us to move forward, life and rejoice in His presence.

God retells the stories to encourage us to keep our hearts focused on Him and doing His will in the world, especially where we are.

          If the prophet Micah were to share the message of chapter six with us here in the 21st century would it sound something like this?

          Listen to what the Lord says, first to Micah:

“Micah, stand up and be heard. Plead my case to the witness of history – hills and mountains of Aotearoa, you have seen and heard what my chosen people have and haven’t done.”

          Then Micah speaks on behalf of God:

“The Lord has a case against you Kiwis who claim to be Christian.”

          God asks rhetorical questions:

“My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer Me! What is it that causes you to reject Me and flee from me?

          I brought you out of slavery to sin, death and the power of the devil. I freed you, just as I freed my people, Israel, from the bonds of slavery in Egypt. I sent you leaders who listened to Me and spoke My Word to you and your ancestors.

          When others plotted against Israel, like Balak, king of Moab, who wanted God’s people to be cursed, the Holy Spirit protected them – as He does today when we Christians are cursed and rejected because of our faith.

You were brought to this land of New Zealand –blessed with, as some say, ‘God’s own country’ – a land without the formality of Europe – where pagan practices can be put aside. You live in a place where you are free to worship according to your conscience, informed by the Word of God.

In this Word, in the stories of God’s interaction with the people of faith you are brought what is right and good – God’s righteous acts setting people free to enjoy the blessings of the land and relationships which grow to trust and bring new life.”

          And now, you may ask, “With what shall I come before the Lord to bow down and honour Him lifting His name and deeds up high in glory.”

          Are you prepared to bow down, to submit yourself before the exulted God? This is serious stuff. It’s not merely a ritual for Sunday morning. It’s not just a pittance or tithe which appears in the offering bowel or transferred to St Matthew’s account by electronic banking.

The Old Testament sacrifices are no longer demanded or needed. Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed on the cross for you. He died and was buried, three days later He rose from death and invited you, when you were baptized, to rise with Him and live the new life God planned for you from the beginning.

This new life doesn’t call for burnt offerings on an altar or olive oil to dress the meat of the sacrifice. Neither does this new life call for you to sacrifice your children so that you can be materially blessed with what you perceive to be a better or more comfortable lifestyle.

The new life we Christians are called to is to be fair and honest, like God, loyal to Him and His will for the world. This is all revealed in the Bible as we read and study it. Most of you have been taught it all when you studied the Catechism – the basics of the Christian faith.

You all know the chief parts of the Catechism? The Ten Commandments, The Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Holy Communion.

And you all know the other parts of the Catechism? The Authority to Forgive Sins, Private Confession, Morning and Evening Prayers, Prayers at Mealtimes and Christian Responsibilities.

The Catechism is the “road code” for life. Just as it is important for you to keep up to date on road rules and etiquette, it is more important to keep up to date on what is important for life as taught by the Holy Spirit through the Catechism.

The new life we have in Christ is about being steadfast, not giving up when it all seems too difficult – Jesus promised to be with us always.

When I was 15 years old I rolled and flipped a friend’s car while fish tailing on a dirt road. Immediately after the incident I said I would never drive again. Thankfully, my Dad got me back into the driver’s seat to tow the vehicle back to my friends home. I am a much more sensible driver now.

When we mess up as Christians with our selfishness and self-righteousness we have a loving Heavenly Father who wants us back in the driving seat following His code of life so that we can merge our lives with others in constructive ways. He helps us learn from our errors and prepares us through His Word and Sacraments for generous living and sharing.

This new life we have been given in Christ is such that we are to grow in steadfastness, not giving up when it all seems too difficult – Jesus promised to be with us always.

This new life is also about be reverential – that is respecting God, His Word and Sacraments and His creation – taking them seriously and being conscious of our dependence on Him who we confess, “created me and all that exists.”

Our struggle is not failure to know God’s Word and will, it is as Romans 3:23 tells us, that we have sinned and fallen short of God’s expectations. Thanks and praise to God that He showed His steadfast love for us by the sacrifice of His Son so that we don’t have to justify ourselves to Him.

We have this gift of forgiveness through the One who crushed the serpent’s head (that is the devil’s) when He rose from the dead. Now with the Holy Spirit’s guidance we can be led into a wonderful future where we strive to act “justly”, “love mercy” and “walk humbly with” our “God”.

We are called to this new life in our Baptism – to recognise and help those who are unjustly treated (victims of abuse for example), to be merciful to those whose circumstances are less than ideal (the homeless living in motels) and to immerse ourselves in the teachings of Jesus Christ, recognising that it is in them that we will find our way through our personal, family, workplace, community and church challenges and struggles.

And if you are called upon to suffer for your faith remember that Jesus concluded the Beatitudes with Matthew 5:11–12 (ESV) 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

St Paul encourages us too when he says: 1 Corinthians 1:26–31 (ESV)  For consider your calling, brothers: … 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”