Micah as Tweet and Truth

Micah 6:1-18; Matthew 5:1-12 – The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – for Sunday, January 29, 2017

“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.” (Micah 6:8)

Once, still a young enough pastor, I memorized Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount for my Easter preaching.

Ego influenced me.

Oh, yes, there were other reasons, including using Lent’s forty days of discipline for the endeavor and a desire to share the unvarnished, unfettered good news of Jesus.

Every word. Every verse. Every paragraph.

I proclaimed the opening beatitudes to Jesus’ final warnings to those who built their “house on sand.”

I worked with a local professional actor to perfect my delivery. I prayed. I sweated. I doubted.

I did it.

The three chapters took around twenty minutes to preach. I was pleased as punch (okay, proud) that none of the words during that singular Easter Sunday were mine. I didn’t pick and choose the “good” stuff. I didn’t avoid the difficult sections. On that long-ago day of resurrection, I gave a small congregation an unfiltered dose of Jesus according to Matthew’s Gospel.

One person, a first-time visitor who reluctantly grasped my hand after worship, told me that he’d never come back to this church. How dare I use Easter to make divorced people feel guilty!

. . . and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery . . .

It wasn’t me! It was Jesus! I was only quoting verses 31 and 32 in good old chapter five of Matthew!

Please, blame Jesus!

I even told the perturbed fellow that I planned to explore several of the tougher passages—including Jesus’ harsh comments about divorce—on the following Sunday! I’d soften the blow. I’d be nice. I’d make the Gospels safe and cuddly again!

He didn’t come back.

Lost another one.

Oh how the Bible can be complicated. The so-called beatitudes—happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs—strikes me as equally reassuring and dumbfounding. No wonder those snarky English lads of Monty Python fame had such fun with Jesus’ words in their ribald film, The Life of Brian. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” was heard by the distant fringe of the fake film crowd listening to Jesus as, instead, “Blessed are the cheese makers.”

Hey, what makes the cheese makers so special?

The problem with the Biblical witness is that often it’s not complicated.

With this week’s lectionary lessons, I couldn’t ignore the tug of memory from Matthew 5:1-12. Once I had a prideful, and yes, faithful journey with the exact, exasperating words of Jesus. Then, later in this current week, I read another of the scheduled readings: Micah 6:1-8.

Can the Sermon the Mount be read as an expanded exposition of Micah’s requirements? The Micah passage is simple. Familiar. Intimidating. It climaxes with:

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.

Micah’s requirement is short enough to fit as lettering on top of a cake. It can be a tattoo still leaving ample skin real estate for other inky embellishments. It can be a sign over the door, seen as a reminder before departing the house.

Micah’s verse eight is spare enough, with a smidgen of tweaking and snipping, to tweet.

In this new, odd era of Trumpology—from a man who champions change for our nation—haven’t justice, love, and humility become quaint? Haven’t those values proven weak and trivial? Mr. Trump’s tweets, sound bites, and slogans seem alien when compared to Micah’s longing.

I’ve tried to listen to those advocating for Mr. Trump.

He doesn’t always mean what he tweets.

During the campaign, everyone seeking the Oval Office deceived, exaggerated, and made impossible promises.

Our country’s mortal need for change from self-serving, do-nothing politicians is more important than the immoral one who leads the change.

There are a host of other explanations for trumpeting Trump, some absurd, some reasonable. Nonetheless, my biases cause me to feel flummoxed. What good can come from someone so petulant and think-skinned? (But even President Nixon, the worst Commander-in-Chief in my lifetime, can claim “opening China” and strengthening environmental laws during his Oval Office’s aborted tenure.)

Shouldn’t I wait and see what happens? After all, it’s been only “talk” to this point. Shouldn’t I avoid judging Mr. Trump—or anyone—before they “walk the walk?”

Still, I’m worried. Blame Micah for my unsettledness! I know I have an ego . . . I can recall my pride at preaching the Sermon on the Mount. And yet I also know my pride was and is tempered with humility. In Trumpology, so far, humility doesn’t seem an ingredient in “making America great again.”

I believe the very uncomplicated eighth verse of Micah’s sixth chapter is the best choice for guiding everyone’s words and actions.

Tweets are easy to post, including Micah’s twitter-friendly verse.

And yet it’s demanding, and essential, to actually try to follow the Lord’s requirements on a daily basis.

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2 Comments

  1. Your pivot phrase “Lost another one” could not be better. It is both a rivet and riveting.
    I recall the same sort of thing happening when I was unable (in 30 seconds ) to explain the contradictions etc. I think I am constrained to put a subvocalized “Escaped” in place of “Lost”
    A splendid meditation.

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