"From the Pulpit" - Reflections on the Weekly Texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church
With the mountains and the foundations of the earth as the jury, God brings a lawsuit against Israel. God has “wearied” Israel with a long history of saving acts. God does not want or expect lavish sacrifices to attempt to earn divine favor. Rather God empowers the people to do justice, to love loyalty to God, and to walk shrewdly in God’s service.
1 Hear what the Lord says:
Rise, plead your case before the mountains,
and let the hills hear your voice.
2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of theLord,
and you enduring foundations of the earth;
for the Lordh as a controversy with his people,
and he will contend with Israel.
3“O my people, what have I done to you?
In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
and redeemed you from the house of slavery;
and I sent before you Moses,
Aaron, and Miriam.
5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,
what Balaam son of Beor answered him,
and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the saving acts of theLord.”
6 “With what shall I come before theLord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will theLordbe pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does theLordrequire of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
This is our first reading for Sunday, from the poetry of the prophet Micah. The beginning of the reading reminds me of the suffrages I often read, as you respond, on Good Friday. "Oh, my people"...we hear God ask rhetorically. "What have I done to you (that you treat me like you do? - I added this last part.) In other words, God laments that Israel, and we, have turned our collective backs on God, and yet God continues to pull us closer to him. Continues to be faithful to us, even though we are not faithful to God. And as you can hear from God's plea, we wear God out. We try God's divine patience, I guess.
So then, the prophet asks, "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?" In other words, it's like the repentant child coming to the parent asking how he or she can "make it up" to the parent. We ask, can I do better at worship? Shall I give my firstborn my transgression? Shall I come before you, God, with burnt offerings? And God's answer? See verse 8 of the text above. You've heard this or some version of it before.
So how does this relate to us, Pastor Greg? In my message for Sunday, I'm going to remind us of our success in eliminating our debt. We are a church that is mortgage free, yay! But then comes the hard question - what then shall we do? Do we sit back and relax? Do we hunker down, fat and happy that we are debt free? While we give thanks to God that we are free of the burden of a mortgage, the hard work of being the church still is ahead of us. God does not want our joyful shouts about being debt free. God wants us to be the church yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God calls us to be faithful to the gospel. To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.
So, yes, we will celebrate this milestone in our congregation's life. We are allowed to feel joy at the work of so many people in our midst who have contributed their time, talents, and treasures. We will have a mortgage burning ceremony of some sort soon. (Think about what that might look like! It may be the only time in your and my history that we can experience such a thing!) But the hard work of being a faithful congregation goes on. The hard work of doing justice, of loving kindness, and of walking humbly with our God goes on.
The good news? There is good news. And you will hear it tomorrow at the congregation meeting following worship. We are crafting a vision for our congregation beyond our mortgage, and it is fun and exciting! I have to say that I don't recall being this excited about our church, ever, as I am now. That's because we have great people, faithful people who are committed to doing this hard work. We have a vision of where we see ourselves in a few years (believe me, most churches do not!) And I believe we have the resources to get there. And with the Holy Spirit behind us, I am confident that a new thing will emerge from this.
So join me in celebrating this moment. Join me in giving thanks to God for God's faithfulness to us as a church. But, put your work shoes on, because we're just getting started! Amen? Amen.