Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

How Then Shall We Live?

Micah 6:1-8

We all love a courtroom scene, don't we? Well, at least until the OJ trial started getting old... and more recently... the impeachment trial. I guess we can get too much of anything... but, in fact, a lot of our most popular TV programs take place in a courtroom. Years ago we enjoyed Perry Mason... and more recently there was LA Law. A current series is Law and Order? How many of you watch that program?

There are probably others that I am not even aware of. Oh, yes... I don't want to forget my favorite... Matlock! You know he always proved that his client was innocent... and he always nailed the bad guy! Maybe that's what we find so intriguing about courtroom serials... we want to see the bad guy found guilty... and the innocent go free. Perhaps the big attraction is that we want to see justice done! After all... shouldn't the bad guy get what he deserves?

Our text today begins with a courtroom scene... and we are called to attention...

6:1 Listen to what the LORD says: "Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say.
2 Hear, O mountains, the Lord's accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the LORD has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel.

This courtroom is the whole earth... and all of God's creation is summoned to be the jury... to hear God's case against Israel. This sounds like a courtroom drama we might be willing to tune in to. But we are, in fact, tuning in a little late... the charges have already been laid out in the first five chapters of Micah. (It's a short book... you might want to go home and read it through this afternoon.)

As the drama opens in this episode... we hear the plaintiff asking why?... why have you betrayed me? Didn't I do enough for you? Didn't I do everything for you?

3 "My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me.
4 I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.
5 My people, remember what Balak king of Moab counseled and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the LORD."

You know... this kind of reminds me of what we sometimes feel like saying to our own children... "Look at everything I've done for you! I worked and slaved all these years so that you could have everything you needed and most of what you wanted... and this is how you repay me!" Well... in fact... the Israelites were God's children... and they were... in fact... acting like a bunch of ingrates... doing their own thing... and ignoring what God required of them.

But the Israelites didn't see it that way at all! Their response to God's charges begins in verse 6:

6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? 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 thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

Can't you just hear the kids responding... "Well, just what do you expect of us? We've made our beds... and cleaned our rooms. We've carried out the garbage... and mowed the lawn. What more do you want? Shall I make your bed... or clean the house... or cook the meals... or maybe go to work and earn the living? Hmmm... sounds a little sarcastic doesn't it? Well... kids can be pretty sarcastic at times, can't they?

Finally... in verse 8... Micah tells the people what God really wants from them:

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Isn't that what we all really want for our children? That they should grow up honoring God and being loving and caring adults... people who don't always put themselves first... people who won't demand their own way... people who will see the suffering of others and care enough to do something about it? God only knows we need more people in the world who care!

This courtroom story is not just about Israel and their sins. We ourselves live in a world that... at best... stands by and watches others suffer... at worst... we are the perpetrators. I'm sure you are all aware of some horrendous examples... such as the widespread corporate downsizing which is taking place even as we speak. The wealthy stockholders make more profit which the laborers go without work. When we watch courtroom scenes we want to know the gory details. We want to watch the video tapes... and read the testimony... to satisfy our vulgar interests When we watch courtroom scenes we want to see the bad guy brought to trial... found guilty... and punished appropriately. That kind of justice we understand... and applaud... as long as the bad guy is someone else!

But let's not forget what we read this morning in I Corinthians... about God's wisdom vs. the world's wisdom. God's justice is one where all are cared for and provided for... God's justice wants all people to be in community with one another... no outcasts... no unproductive ones... no homeless ones... no hungry ones... no lonely ones. God demanded merciful treatment of widows, orphans and strangers... all were to be welcomed into the community and their needs were to be met by the community. God's justice demands less for those who have a great deal... and more for those who have nothing. God's justice demands that we "set people on their feet"... and empower them to be productive members of the community.

The Isarelites felt that obeying God's law was sufficient and they had some trouble understanding why that wasn't enough. It's easy for us to pride ourselves on our church attendance... our giving... our good standing in the community. Most of us have done all the right things in our lives... or at lest we have learned something from the wrong things... and we are living decent, upstanding, productive lives. Isn't that enough?

We would rather not think about things like corporate downsizing... or the homeless on the streets of New Orleans... or families without an income... or any number of other blighted ways of life that exist in our world today. These situations are often too overwhelming for us to think about... after all... we are just individuals and what can we do about suffering like this?

Perhaps... we need to be reminded once more that we cannot do anything about the problems of the world in our own strength... we cannot live justly on our own. Perhaps that is the principle thing wrong with our society today... we think we can fix everything with legislation... or with altruism and charity... or by cutting taxes to encourage the "trickle down" notion. None of these concepts... whether proposed by liberals or conservatives... will work without a change of heart.

The whole point of this trial in Micah is that the Israelites had failed to depend on God. They had hardened their hearts against God... and without God's help... they could not possibly live justly with one another! Micah reminded them that they needed to "walk humbly with the Lord." That means... they needed first and foremost to depend on God... not only for all their physical needs but for their sense of compassion as well.

You and I live in a different time and place... but we too have been judged... and found guilty. But we know God's love and compassion for rebellious people... for God in his mercy... grants us pardon in Jesus Christ. We are invited to live in God's community... walking humbly with him... and participating fully in doing justice and loving mercy. Only in and through us can God's kingdom begin to be realized. God's ways may be foolishness to the world... but it is eternal wisdom to those who are being saved. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on January 31, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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