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Micah 6:6-8
Pam in San Bernardino

Once upon a time, there was a couple named John and Mary Miller.  The Millers lived in a fairly small town, in a fairly small state, in the middle of the United States.   They were both born in that town and had lived there all of their lives.  John and Mary had known each other since they were very small.  They went to school together, began dating in high school, and married at the age of 25. 

John’s father died, not long after John and Mary were married, leaving him the family business—a small market near the center of town.  Mary joined John, working in the market six days a week, and together they raised a small family, two daughters and one son.

Every day, they would rise early, eat a quick breakfast, work together all day in the market and return home for a quiet dinner together.  They had never taken a vacation.   Their days were busy, but not frantic.  They worked hard, but had time to relax at the end of the day, and Sundays were filled with family time and church activities. 

As John and Mary’s 50th wedding anniversary approached, John Jr. approached his sisters with a plan.  Let’s take over running the store for a week, and send Mom and Dad to New York for a vacation.  Martha and Ann readily agreed, and an anniversary party was arranged.

As you can imagine, John and Mary were stunned by this gift.  After a few moments of stammering and stuttering, they found themselves accepting with pleasure.  Oh the plans that they made!  How do you pack for a trip to New York City when you’ve never left home before?  They took the next Sunday afternoon off and did a little clothes shopping and bought luggage, and soon they were on their way.

Ann and Martha had arranged everything for the trip.  Knowing that their parents would be unlikely to make this trip a second time, Martha had purchased tickets and planned an itinerary to make things easier.  What a trip they had!

It was a busy, wonderful week.  They went to the theater twice.  The art museums were incredible.  They took the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.   They even went to Coney Island and rode the double Ferris wheel.  An afternoon was spent shopping for gifts for all their friends and family.  They rode the subway.   They even went to the zoo, where John was thrilled to see giraffes and elephants for the first time.  The smells and sounds of the animals were exotic and terribly exciting. 

On their last morning in New York, John and Mary had planned to spend time walking in Central Park, just across the street from their luxury hotel.  The warmth of the morning and the beauty of the green trees was inviting.  Before long, they found a bench in the shade and sat quietly together.  They began to talk about their life and their love for each other.  Fifty years they had spent together—really together.   They spoke of romance. 

Mary remembered the busiest of days in the market, when there was little time for conversation, but she always knew that if she looked up, there John would be, helping customers, talking to the children who came in for candy, or stocking shelves.  She knew that he was always there if she needed him.  Just a glance was a reminder of all that John meant to her.

John talked about watching Mary with their children, seeing her patience as they learned to walk and to talk, watching her really listen when they shared their troubles with her—everything from scratched knees to broken hearts.

And then they sat quietly for a while and took a little walk—just being together.

When they came home, the kids and grand kids wanted to hear all about the trip to New York.  John told all about the subway and the zoo.   Mary talked about the museums and the plays, and the shopping.  But when Anne asked what they enjoyed the most, John and Mary answered together, “Our morning in the park!”

Exegesis of Micah

Let’s look at Micah now.  You may not be familiar with this whole passage, but I bet vs. 8 is one many of you know.  What does the Lord require of you?  We quoted it this morning in our call to worship.  It seems pretty straightforward, but I want to look at the whole passage with you.

Micah, the prophet, has a strong message for his people.  In this passage, Micah is criticizing the people for putting the forms of religion above their actual relationship with God.  The way he makes his point is a very familiar pattern for the people of his day, but it seems a little strange to us.

The setting is an imagined courtroom.  The Lord is in the role of plaintiff, bringing a lawsuit against Israel.  The prophet acts as attorney.  The defendant, Israel, must listen to the charges and verdict.

The witness to the trial in this passage are the mountains and hills, the heights and depths of the earth.  They listen to the accusation.  The Lord demands to know how he could possibly have done any more for his people.  He tells them to remember his acts of salvation, freeing them from slavery in Egypt and bringing them into the promised land.  Remembering is the way of bringing the past to life in the present in Hebrew thought.  Remembering God’s acts of salvation is at the center of Jewish religious life. 

In light of all that God has done, Israel replies that there is no way to repay God’s loving care through sacrifices.  In vs. 6 and 7 we hear an exaggerated, maybe even sarcastic, list of possible sacrifices.  Thousands of rams and rivers of oil represent wealth beyond our imagination.  Even the sacrifice of one’s own child (forbidden by Jewish law) could not repay God.

Then we hear the prophet’s familiar response.  God has shown what is good.   And these words extend far beyond ancient Israel.  In all of God’s acts we have models for our own action.  And so we are told what God expects in return.

Hear Three, Focus on One

Three things.  Do justice.  Love Kindness, Walk humbly with your God.  It seems as if the first two get plenty of attention.  If I look back over the sermons preached from this pulpit in recent months, by Pastor Norm, John, and myself, I remember quite a bit of focus on doing and loving.  We are often talking about all the things we must do.  Acting on our faith is very important, so don’t think I’m trying to let you off the hook here, but I really just want you to hear the third part of vs. 8 this morning.

Walk humbly with your God.  In fact, I really just want you to hear the last three words of that phrase:  With Your God.

Commentaries tell us that that walking humbly with your God means to live dependently—not alone.  To live in communion, in friendship with God.  There is a relationship implied here.  God is not a distant being, unknowable, unreachable.  God is close, by our side.  With us.

 Word Study:  Com-

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I love dictionaries.  I like seeking out the roots of words, making connections between ideas.  I got my dictionary out this week.  You see, I began to notice that the commentaries were all struggling to help us understand what it might mean to walk “with” our God.

There is a word-part, com-, that comes from the Latin meaning “with” or “together”.   It is related to another word part, “commun-“ which means shared.   It is related then, to words like community, communicate, communion.

Com- is found in companion, a familiar word which comes from two roots, com=together, and panis=bread.  Companions are literally those with whom we eat bread together.   They are those with whom we share the most vital parts of ourselves.  Micah is saying that God wants us to be his companions, to be together with him.

Com- is also found in compassion, com=with and pati=suffer.  Compassion literally means suffering with.  It means sharing the pain of another.  God is described as compassionate.  In fact the word that is translated for us as “Love kindness”, can also be translated as steadfast love, mercy, and compassion.

Micah tells us to follow God’s lead, doing justice, showing compassion, and most importantly to walk humbly with our God.

 23rd Psalm

We’ve read the 23rd Psalm this morning, another piece of familiar scripture, because it reinforces some of what we learn from Micah 6:8.  God is with us.  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me;”  “Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.”

In 19____, on Christmas Eve, my father had a massive stroke.  He died on January first just after midnight.  That was a long week, but it was a time of leaning on those who care about us.  It was a time of closeness with God.  Time spent by my father’s bedside was a time of prayer.  During that week, when Jessie, our Parish Nurse, was concerned about me, she reminded me of the 23rd Psalm.  She said, remember the valley of the shadow of death?  That’s where you are now.  She didn’t need to continue quoting the Psalm.  I knew the rest as well as you do.   Even though I am in that valley, I will not be afraid.  Why?  Because God is with me.

 Visiting the Sick

Since my father’s death, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to be in hospital rooms with those who are dying or quite ill.  At first it was hard.  Each time, it was like being by father’s bedside, and it brought some painful memories with it.   That has changed.

I find now that when I am by the side of someone near death, it still is like being by my father.  The sounds, the smells, the sight is very much the same.  But now I feel as if it is a gift from God that I can be there.  I know that may sound strange, but it is as if I’m spending time with my father again, and I treasure that time of being together.

And God’s presence there with us is so strong

 With Your God

When you love someone, don’t you just want to be with them.  A parent, a child, a lover, a spouse, a dear friend?  It doesn’t matter what you are doing—the being together is what is important, isn’t it?  You can be busy working and not even have time to speak, but just a glance at that one you love warms your heart.

We don’t have to have elaborate plans together in order to appreciate the time we spend WITH each other.  All the museums and plays and boat rides can’t compare to walking together and talking together.

We know this instinctively.  We hold on to memories of time spent with those we love.   Sometimes we’ve been doing things that are very important, but we could just as easily have been riding in a car together, just enjoying the scenery.  It is being together that we need.

Micah tells us that this is what God wants with us.  God expects us to be with Him.   It isn’t in extravagant sacrifices that we please God.  There is no way that we can repay him for all he does for us.  So in return he asks that we be as God-like as we can, as just and kind, as compassionate, as caring, but most of all that we walk with him all of our days.