â€œHe 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.â€ (Micah 6:8)
Ego influenced me.
Oh, yes, there were other reasons, including using Lentâ€™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 Jesusâ€™ final warnings to those who built their â€œhouse on sand.â€
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 didnâ€™t pick and choose the â€œgoodâ€ stuff. I didnâ€™t avoid the difficult sections. On that long-ago day of resurrection, I gave a small congregation an unfiltered dose of Jesus according to Matthewâ€™s Gospel.
One person, a first-time visitor who reluctantly grasped my hand after worship, told me that heâ€™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 wasnâ€™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 passagesâ€”including Jesusâ€™ harsh comments about divorceâ€”on the following Sunday! Iâ€™d soften the blow. Iâ€™d be nice. Iâ€™d make the Gospels safe and cuddly again!
He didnâ€™t come back.
Lost another one.
Oh how the Bible can be complicated. The so-called beatitudesâ€”happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirsâ€”strikes me as equally reassuring and dumbfounding. No wonder those snarky English lads of Monty Python fame had such fun with Jesusâ€™ words in their ribald film, The Life of Brian. â€œBlessed are the peacemakers,â€ was heard by the distant fringe of the fake film crowd listening to Jesus as, instead, â€œBlessed are the cheese makers.”
Hey, what makes the cheese makers so special?
The problem with the Biblical witness is that often itâ€™s not complicated.
With this weekâ€™s lectionary lessons, I couldnâ€™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 Micahâ€™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.
Micahâ€™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.
Micahâ€™s verse eight is spare enough, with a smidgen of tweaking and snipping, to tweet.
In this new, odd era of Trumpologyâ€”from a man who champions change for our nationâ€”havenâ€™t justice, love, and humility become quaint? Havenâ€™t those values proven weak and trivial? Mr. Trumpâ€™s tweets, sound bites, and slogans seem alien when compared to Micahâ€™s longing.
Iâ€™ve tried to listen to those advocating for Mr. Trump.
He doesnâ€™t always mean what he tweets.
During the campaign, everyone seeking the Oval Office deceived, exaggerated, and made impossible promises.
Our countryâ€™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 â€œopening Chinaâ€ and strengthening environmental laws during his Oval Officeâ€™s aborted tenure.)
Shouldnâ€™t I wait and see what happens? After all, itâ€™s been only â€œtalkâ€ to this point. Shouldnâ€™t I avoid judging Mr. Trumpâ€”or anyoneâ€”before they â€œwalk the walk?â€
Still, Iâ€™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 doesnâ€™t seem an ingredient in â€œmaking America great again.â€
I believe the very uncomplicated eighth verse of Micahâ€™s sixth chapter is the best choice for guiding everyoneâ€™s words and actions.
Tweets are easy to post, including Micahâ€™s twitter-friendly verse.
And yet itâ€™s demanding, and essential, to actually try to follow the Lordâ€™s requirements on a daily basis.