“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before the Lord with burnt offerings with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,. with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 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?
Micah is often listed among the minor prophets. It’s time to give him a promotion. This little gem from Chapter six raises him immediately to the top of the podium. It is hard to find a more succinct summary of the meaning of the journey of faith than this. Micah cuts through the trivia of religious dogma and cultic ritual with gentle dynamic power.
First he asks the most basic human question: “OK. How do I put a smile on God’s face?” And the answer?. “OK. human traveller. First stop trying to make it up to God. You can’t merit God’s smile. You can never bring enough gifts and offerings to God in order to merit his favour. Certainly the practice of child-sacrifice is the last thing God wants from you. You need to stop and think. Let God be God. Now, get this into your head. God is already smiling in your direction. All you have to do is get on with God’s agenda not yours.
His agenda is threefold:
First, because God is a God of justice, start rooting out injustice in the world where you live. Take the side of the marginalised and wounded ones. Challenge prejudice. Reach out to the stranger. That is the first thing God wants you to do.
Second, fall in love with love. God is a generous grace-filled loving God so allow your life to be wrapped in steadfast love. The Hebrew word here translated “kindness” is a bit weak. “Chesed” in Hebrew embraces the richness of God’s covenant love. God is totally committed to love us, and that is the quality of love we are asked to embrace.
Third, start a journey of joy. Walk gently and humbly with God as your companion. Keep it simple. Treat God as a close friend not a distant dictator. Remember that worship is not a ritual to get through but a relationship of warmth and thankfulness. It is not duty, but delight. And it is not static or rooted in one place. It involves “walking.” Expect to go somewhere new! Expect God’s surprises. Step out into December.
Thank you, Micah. Not a bad message for Advent from a country boy!
Grace-filled God, remind us once more of the essentials of faith: generosity of spirit, sincerity in devotion, wonder at the gift of life.
As Advent times open up in dark December days, prepare our hearts and lives for new beginnings, birth moments, genesis happenings.
Then may the message of prophets and the words of song writers be fulfilled in us as we seek to act justly to delight in generous love, and to travel with you as our pilgrim friend. Amen,
The Rev’d David Jenkins is a retired minister and member of Marple URC in Cheshire.