“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
Who are the blessed? ( Bless ed)
Our Gospel reading today begins the sermon on the mount with Matthew’s list of who are the blessed. The Greek translation for “blessed” is closest to “happy”. And our 1st reading from the Prophet Micah is a good companion or parallel to the Gospel.
Who are the blessed ones of God?
For Micah, they are those who do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.
For Jesus, they are the poor, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who mourn and those who hunger for righteousness.
Our readings today all describe human life. Micah says we look for shallow and easy ways to placate God. Matthew asks do we believe that we can be counted as the blessed? And each of these texts tell us what God is doing. The Prophet Micah teaches that God brings us away from things that are not live giving. In the Beatitudes Jesus names the human need to repent from looking for happiness in the wrong places.
Micah is not concerned with believing - he is concerned about following the God who walks with us here on earth. Jesus’ 9 blessings in the reading from Matthew is focused on the same promise. When we do not seek to get our own way or oppress another we become compassionate. We can give up judgment and extend love.
Awhile ago a good friend asked me if I was going to get a tattoo of a Bible verse what would it be?
My answer comes from today’s reading from the prophet Micah. Specifically from verse 8: do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.
That is all that is required of me according to the 8th century BCE prophet Micah!
The reading from Micah today is set in an imaginary courtroom. Micah is the narrator and God has brought suit against the people of Israel. They have not lived up to their part of the covenant and God is very very disappointed in them. God reminds them of all that has been done for them - especially the Exodus and the arrival at the promised land.
The response of the defendants is hyperbole. How religious do you want us to be? How much should we sacrifice? What do you expect from us. And they keep uping the ante. Not just one burnt sacrifice - a thousand - rivers of oil and finally the sacrifice of a first born.
But that is not what God wants. God does not want empty words or empty gestures. We cannot put ourselves in a right relationship with God by trying to solve a puzzle of how to worship well enough or properly. The heart of the message, do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God is being in right relationship with God, with humankind and all other communities on earth. The prophet tells us that God wants justice - this means justice measured by how well the most vulnerable fare in the community. God wants justice. This means being a voice for every person treated as less than a child of God.
Justice seems to be missing in many places. Here in Toronto there has been a movement to try to ensure that people who are homeless or inadequately housed will not die on the streets this winter. A call that says we need to increase the number of warming centres across the GTA- make them available 24 hours a day and to keep the shelter hotels open. Winter in Canada is cruel and people are dying from a lack of warmth - a lack of justice.
We are failing our most vulnerable. We are failing to do what is required of us.
Theologically, justice is identified with the nature of God and is an activity of God. This text from Micah challenges us to do justice as a part of our worship experience and to do worship with our acts of justice as part of the liturgy.
The people of Israel are on trial because they appear to have fallen out of a right relationship with God and each other because of a lack of mindfulness. They no longer seem to be centred on or in their God.
Of the three things that are required - walking humbly with God is the most important. Humility is to walk ethically. If you are doing this you can learn and understand how to do justice and love kindness.