Shaping Our Identity, Micah 6:1-8

Sermon:        Jesus asks no more from us than he gives of himself
Scripture:     Micah 6:1-8
Preacher:      Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location:      First Presbyterian Church Fort Lauderdale
Date:              February 2, 2020, Communion Sunday

Living in a village west of Jerusalem some 800 years before Jesus was born, lived a minor prophet named Micah. Micah has spent five chapters outlining the specific problems God has with Israel. The people’s living faith has morphed into a dead shell of religion very similar to an empty cicada shell that is left on a tree: The outside shell is pristine but the inside of it is empty and vacuous.

Today’s scene is a courtroom. God is leveling charges against the nation of Israel and is reminding the people of how he saved them from slavery and led them to the Promised Land. It’s there the people turned their back on the Lord. Israel gets defensive against the charges leveled against her and shakes her fist at God in effect crying, “What else do you want us to do for you?” God’s reply is simple and straightforward:  Quit playing at religion and start living a vital faith.  Hear the Word of the Lord!

Micah 6:1-8

6.1Hear 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 the Lord,
and you enduring foundations of the earth;
for the Lord has 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 the Lord.”

6 “With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be 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 the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? [1]

Scholar Carol Dempsey writes, “The people seem to have forgotten their “story” (and identity), and, in doing so, have forgotten their saving God. Thus the people have fallen out of “right” relationship with their God and consequently with one another because of a lack of mindfulness.”[2] Friends, our scripture paints the picture of what a true disciple of God in Christ looks like. Micah answers the central question of “What does it looks like for you and me to live a holy life?”

The answer from today’s courtroom scene is a definitive and hearty “NO!” to the notion of living with an overly developed sense of personal piety; on the contrary, we are told that what is required is both a personal and communal transformation of how we relate with God and with other people and even creation itself.  The people have already demonstrated their inability to live a holy life. A ‘holy life’ is best translated to mean a life that is visibly different and separate from the rest of the world and is intentionally seeking to live according to God’s way at the core of who we are as human beings. It’s not a question of what we do to earn God’s love and attention; the issue is how we have let our lives be transformed and shaped by the Spirit of God in each of us and in this community.

It does not matter how many calves, goats, rams, or bulls we sacrifice to God; that will not prove our love.  It does not matter how many gallons and rivers of oil or sacrificed blood flow before the throne of the Lord; the fruit of another’s life will not prove our love to God. You see, God is telling Israel that it is way too easy for them to sacrifice something else to show their love to God. It’s easy to sacrifice your goat or ram as it doesn’t require you to sacrifice your own blood; it’s easy to throw in what’s in your pocket for an offering and say, “That’s all I got!” instead of developing a heart for radical giving in all aspects of life. God is telling the people, “Remember who you are! Remember how I have rescued you! Remember the price I paid for you! Remember, you are a beloved, chosen children of God!”

You see, beloved, Micah is having them remember their identity as beloved children of God and springing from that sense of identity, emerging from who they are as God’s chosen and beloved, is how they are to live out their life.

Their identity as children of God means they are to intentionally seek out ways to live justly.  Dempsey writes, “Justice is a transformative virtue that seeks to establish or restore the community, while aiming to balance personal good with the common good.”[3]

Their identity as children of God means to love God and others from the center of who they are! Loving-kindness is more than showing affection to God and neighbor, it is an ethical love physically demonstrated to them.

Their identity as children of God means they generously allow God to be God; in other words, the people know their place – they are the created and not the Creator. This humbleness allows them to give themselves, the sum total of their lives, generously to God.

I love what Old Testament professor, Patricia Tull says when she writes, “What God sought from the Israelites, what faith says God still seeks from us, is to cultivate capabilities we have seen in our Maker, capabilities we who are made in God’s image already possess: a warm heart for all, a passion for fairness, and the flexibility to learn as we go in this complex matter of seeking grace alongside justice.”[4]  This is why, my friends, the message title today is, “Jesus asks no more from us than he gives himself.”  Jesus treated people justly. Jesus shared loving kindness to all he met. Jesus walked humbly before His Father and generously gave himself totally so that all might have life.  Isn’t this what the meal before us demonstrates?

Where do you derive your identity, Church? This past May, your Session began crafting its identity of who we are as a church. Your elders believe this church is called by God to share the Good News of Jesus and that we are to be an inspiring Christ-centered presence in this community, transforming Fort Lauderdale and beyond. Did you hear that? Our identity is to be sharing, inspiring, and transforming people. You do, notice don’t you, that this identity of who we are is all “other” directed. It’s all about who we are in sharing, inspiriting, and transforming those “others” out in the larger community. If this is who we are as a congregation, then how are we going to achieve that?

My dream as your pastor is that we will live into our identity as a sharing, inspiring, and transforming congregation by following Jesus’ model for transforming our personal self and this very congregation by

Living intentionally;
Loving unconditionally;
and Giving generously.

Living intentionally is our growing our faith and Christian character through the Thirty Core Competencies; it’s in building micro-Christian communities that are incubators for ministry in the world.

Loving unconditionally means we are to reach out to society’s “Other” whoever they are; we are to be the serving hands and feet of Jesus in and around this place; we are the voice who addresses systems of injustice and intolerance.

Giving generously means we shall give our time for missional work; it means we each use our spiritual gifts for the larger good of the Church; it means we understand that all we have belongs to God and we place it humbly before him to do Kingdom of Heaven work.

Faith comes alive doesn’t cut it. It needs to be fleshed out. How does our faith come alive? Well, by

Living intentionally.  Loving unconditionally.  Giving generously. This, my beloved, is how we shall share the good news, inspire others, and transform our world. This is how we will do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. This is how we are going to live like Jesus has already lived himself.  And all of God’s people say, Amen.

Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

patrickw@firstpres.cc

© 2020 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission.   All rights reserved.

[1] The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Bartlett, David L.; Taylor, Barbara Brown. Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration (Feasting on the Word: Year A volume) (Kindle Locations 10505-10507). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

[3] Bartlett, David L.; Taylor, Barbara Brown. Feasting on the Word: Year A, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration (Feasting on the Word: Year A volume) (Kindle Locations 10526-10532). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

[4] Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship (p. 211). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

About patrick h wrisley

A Mainline Presbyterian Orthodox Evangelical Socially Minded Prophetic Mystic Preacher sharing the Winsome Story of Christ as I try to muddle through as a husband, father, friend, head of staff, colleague, and disciple.
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