Skip to content
May 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Micah 6:6

Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning all…welcome!                        The Lord is with you!

As a reminder, we are collecting offerings today for the Novi Community, our friends who are in Ukraine, helping children of war recover from trauma.  Please be generous; in particular, they need funds to buy trauma kits.  You might remember that we saw these backpacks a few months ago when Steve and Jon visited us.  These will go with the trained counselors who use the kits to minister to the children.  Please make your checks to Novi, or to RefleXion is fine too.

I wanted to open with a prayer for them.  I have learned to “Pray the Psalms,” and maybe that would be a way of prayer that you might enjoy.  I know that so many of the Psalms are from King David, his songs, laments, cries for help, his praise.  When I am reading the Psalms, it’s a bit like reading his personal journal.  I ask for the Spirit to reveal what I need to see and feel.  Maybe this is my cry, and so interesting that David wrote this about 3000 years ago, right?  I might not relate to what the psalmist is saying for my own life experience, but someone is experiencing this.  I read it slowly, and someone I love might come to mind and a prayer might be formed.  As I read through Ps. 68 this week, I thought of Ukraine and The Novi Community and found an intersection of psalm and prayer. 

I’m going to read a few verses and then offer my prayer, then read a few more and do the same a few times.  Would that be OK?  This how it came to me.

From Psalm 68, beginning in v. 1:  A Psalm of David. A Song. God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and those who hate him shall flee before him! As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away; as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God! But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!  Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him!

My prayer:  God, you are our God and the God of all people.  You are present to the people of Ukraine.  Rise up, God!  Scatter their enemies, your enemies.  Let the time be now for your people to be glad, even jubilant with joy.  They have suffered so much.  Remember the children.  Give them a song to sing.  Remind them that you are with them and for them.

Verses 5-10:  Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.  God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.  O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.  Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad; you restored your inheritance as it languished; your flock found a dwelling in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

My prayer:  You have provided, Lord.  Thank you for the caregivers, the helpers; remember them.  Provide comfort and strength for them too.  Thank you for the leaders and staff of Novi.  We ask for provision for the kits they need.  Rain an abundance of blessings that they might know the love of God in this way.  Let not their enemies have provision, that they must turn back. Let them be thirsty, thirsty for what matters most.  Let their hearts be broken by what they do and see. 

Verses 28-30:  Summon your power, O God, the power, O God, by which you have worked for us. Because of your temple at Jerusalem kings shall bear gifts to you. Rebuke the beasts that dwell among the reeds, the herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples. Trample underfoot those who lust after tribute; scatter the peoples who delight in war.

My prayer:  Yes, by your authority and power Lord.  Do not let empire, power and greed control this war.  Scatter the people who delight in war.  We will use human power and tools—thank you for them; and what we really need is changed hearts.  Only you can do such a wonderful thing.  Let the leaders and soldiers of Russia realize truth, wisdom, and compassion. Change their hearts, O God. 

Verses 31-35:   Nobles shall come from Egypt; Cush shall hasten to stretch out her hands to God.  O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; sing praises to the Lord, to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.  Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies.  Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel–he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!

My prayer:  Lord, let nations rise up to help the suffering.  Speak to all of us about righteousness. Plant seeds of hope that all people might declare your goodness, might know your mercy and justice.  Grant us power and strength.  Let each of us be a part of something that will bless, will give you glory, for you are an awesome God.  We pray in the name of your son, Jesus. Amen

Morning Talk: Jim Calhoun

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?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, 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.
Micah 6:6-8

⁃ More than 700 years before Jesus there was Micah. Micah was a prophet.
⁃ He came early in the stream of prophets. There had been peace for generations.
⁃ Things seemed to be going well.
⁃ But the people had lost the thread
⁃ They had lost the storyline.
⁃ They had forgotten who they were and what life was all about.
⁃ They were floundering and didn’t know it.

⁃ They were headed for disaster.
⁃ In 734 BCE things began to change.
⁃ The Assyrians went on the march to take Palestine.
⁃ They took aim at the region and began to pound away.
⁃ Each year for the next seven they came and made war.
⁃ In the end Damascus and its kingdom were dissolved and absorbed by the Assyrians.
⁃ Ammon, Moab and Edom were forced to pay tribute to the Assyrians. Tribute isn’t just taxes, but an expression of submission.
⁃ The Philistines, the Kingdom of Israel in the north and the Kingdom of Judah are each made vassal states. The Assyrians controlled the states and territories without having to govern them. Part of the arrangement meant that the wealth of the vassal states would flow toward Assyria.
⁃ The northern Kingdom of Israel was the most prosperous of these three and chafed at this arrangement.
⁃ When the King that conquered them died, the northern kingdom rebelled. Over the next three years Assyria counterattacked and destroyed their capital, Samaria in 721 BCE after a three year siege.
⁃ After the collapses of the northern kingdom about 20 percent of the people were relocated to Mesopotamia (current day Iraq) about 600 miles away.

⁃ Others immigrated south to the Kingdom of Judah.
⁃ Most stayed were they were and became who we know as Samaritans.
⁃ The Assyrians also settled their own people in the region.
⁃ The Northern Kingdom was destroyed and the “ten tribes of Israel” were lost.
Why? Micah addresses the reasons and cites the following:
⁃ Unjust and corrupt leaders
⁃ The use of power for personal gain
⁃ Judges accepted bribes
⁃ Prophets and priests who exploited people for cash
⁃ Micah addresses how the poor were treated and he defends their rights against the rich and powerful
⁃ They wanted the land and homes and inheritances of others and then took them.
⁃ They defrauded them
⁃ They used false scales and weights
⁃ Micah also addresses the problem of idolatry.
⁃ Their pursuit of wealth was idolatry
⁃ And the wealth would be carried away by others and they would no longer enjoy it.
⁃ They had lost the thread

⁃ Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say,
“Is not the Lord among us?
No disaster will come upon us.”

⁃ They were unaware that they had lost the plot
⁃ Disaster came anyway.
⁃ Micah told the people that destruction was coming. First to the northern kingdom in Samaria. It happened in his lifetime.
⁃ Then in Jerusalem in the southern kingdom. It happen in time about 150 years later.

How do we come to lose the thread?
⁃ The answer is found in the human condition
⁃ It is tremendously difficult for some of us to admit that we just don’t know
⁃ Not knowing makes us vulnerable
⁃ Some things don’t work as they should
⁃ We don’t always know when things aren’t working correctly
⁃ Anything that works in our lives may one day not work
⁃ We are easily disrupted
⁃ We are far more dependent than we like to imagine
⁃ The gap between needs and resources
⁃ Chronic stress = guilt, fear, anger, depression
⁃ We will often do anything we can think of to deal with the stress in our lives
⁃ This is one of the ways we lose the thread. We become so focused on what is creating stress in our lives that we turn our focus away from God.
⁃ Some of the ways we try to manage our stress just makes things worse.
⁃ They leave a long trail of hurt in our lives and in the lives of others.
⁃ One approach is we numb ourselves to our stress, our pain, our vulnerability. Unfortunately that means we also numb ourselves to the stress, pain and vulnerability of others, including those closest to us.
⁃ We add to the suffering of others and are unaware or we don’t care or both.
⁃ Things that were once unthinkable become everyday common
⁃ And we can get lost
⁃ We can get lost in our idols.
⁃ All of the substitutes we have for God
⁃ Micah is very plain about this.
⁃ The most powerful of these idols is money and wealth
⁃ It can corrupt our daily lives
⁃ It can corrupt our courts

⁃ It can cause us to treat others miserably, exploiting them, manipulating them, using them, destroying them and the whole fabric of their lives
⁃ It can corrupt even our worship
⁃ And it all seems reasonable, a matter of good practice and prudence since we are serving the idol to pacify our worries
⁃ And we lose the thread
Common good
⁃ The common good is good.
⁃ No need to talk it down or retreat from it. We can and should participate in it. It is our privilege and opportunity.
⁃ We can also get lost in the common good.
⁃ All the work to make life work for our families and our communities.
⁃ All the love, all the truth, all the beauty
⁃ It can fill a whole life. Absolutely consume it. And we forget there is something more.
⁃ We become blind to all that is happening. We congratulate ourselves for our happy families and good communities.
⁃ We forget that there is more to life and we lose the thread.
⁃ We say to ourselves
“Is not the Lord among us?
No disaster will come upon us.”

Micah gives us the path back.
⁃ First he tells us what is not helpful.
⁃ No need for grand gestures
⁃ No call for thousands of rams, ten thousand streets of oil or your first born.
⁃ These things use up all of our energies and we think we are done.
That we have appeased the angry God.
⁃ We don’t need to buy off God to make him love us again. He never stopped.
⁃ This isn’t what God wants at all.
⁃ He wants us to pick up the thread, to remember the story line, to re-engage with him and leave our idols behind and to trust him with our worries and fears and shame and anger and frustration and sadness and loss of hope.
⁃ He wants us to return to the path to remember who we are.
⁃ If you are feeling off the path then the best thing to do, the only thing to do is to return to the path. Not with sacrifices, not with promises to do better and be worthy
⁃ Return to the path to be on the path.
⁃ Return to the path to remember who you are, to refresh your love, to renew the meaning of your life
⁃ And if you wander from the path that is okay. Simply return.
⁃ We hold ourselves with enough compassion to gently encourage and allow ourselves to return to the path.

⁃ We remember that we are finite, flawed and fragile. And that is how it is. And that is okay
⁃ Meditation practice as an example
⁃ First to do justly
⁃ To live justly means to love God wholly and to love our neighbor, all of them, as ourselves.
⁃ I will never grow tired reminding myself and others that Justice and righteousness are relational, not rule based.
⁃ Pick up the thread and commit yourself anew to a life of the golden rule
⁃ Then to love mercy
⁃ Everyone we know is trying to work out their stress just as we are.
⁃ Sometimes they are doing great.
⁃ Sometimes they are making a big fat mess of things.
⁃ Hold them with kindness and gentleness and patience.
⁃ Even when you have to love them with limits and boundaries do so with mercy.
⁃ Just as you would want someone to do for you when you need some limitations
⁃ Pick up the thread anew and commit yourself to a life of compassion
⁃ And then to walk with humility.
⁃ It is terrifyingly easy to see how quickly we can become grandiose.
⁃ To think our thought are the same as God’s thoughts.
⁃ To think God could use a little education and thinking we just might set God right.
⁃ That God needs our help to defend his honor or to make him effective.
⁃ We can act, hold in our heart that God is impotent, ineffectual acting too slow.
⁃ So a business manipulates the books to increase their profits
⁃ So we treat people like garbage do we can climb over them to get ahead to secure what we think we deserve and God has promised.
⁃ So a judge accepts bribes to move the program along.
⁃ So political leaders can justify any excess to win.
⁃ There are political operatives that came out this week claiming they are “soldiers of the Lord” and this is a political battle to the death.
⁃ No it isn’t. And no they aren’t. They are political operatives attempting to manipulate Christian’s by getting them riled up and fearful. They aren’t prophets and they aren’t in charge.
⁃ They lost the thread
⁃ But now we need to pick up the thread
⁃ Remember that we are finite, flawed and fragile.
⁃ Remember that we are creatures of the creator
⁃ That we are here small fish in a small pond.
⁃ And we can act accordingly with gratitude, worship, and communion

⁃ That’s who we are.
⁃ That is our thread
God, I am finite, flawed and fragile. I sometimes wander away. Bring me back. Hold me close. Make me whole day by day. Show me the ways I can live with gratitude for all you do and all you mean to me. Thank you.

Leave a comment