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Simple Truths

January 23, 2017

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Sometimes a sermon strikes a chord deep within our souls, and the words spoken stay with us for days, weeks, months, or years. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount[1] was such a sermon. It is one of the best-known and remembered of his teachings–particularly the introduction, called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-12). Dr. Bill Creasy tells us that Jesus undoubtedly gave this sermon or teaching so many times that his followers were able to recall it years later.

The meaning of the words Jesus spoke require some explanation. For example, when he said “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he was referring to the person who has a gaping hole in his or her heart—a hole that can only be filled by God. Recognizing that the heart yearns for and needs God is the first step to loving God. It is the first of a series of verses (Matthew 5:3-6) also blessing those who mourn, who are meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness—these all describe what our posture before God should be. We should recognize that the hole in our hearts that can only be filled by God; we should mourn the absence of God; we should humble ourselves and thirst to be close to God—to see his holiness.

The next three verses (Matthew 5: 7-9) explain what we must do for others: be merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers. We respond to God’s mercy by being merciful to others.   Being pure in heart means that we come to God because of who he is, not for what he can do for us. And we are called to do our best to mediate disputes, to resolve our differences, instead of escalating them.

These simple but profound truths are the stuff of which faith is made. Micah summed it up eloquently: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8.

In the epistle lesson, Paul describes the reaction of the Jews to the idea that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. They expected the Messiah to be a powerful ruler who would sweep them to victory and slay their enemies. The idea that Jesus, born of peasant parents in a stable, was to be their Messiah, was simply unbelievable to them—a foolish idea. But Paul admonishes that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”(1 Corinthians 1: 27-28).

The religious leaders of the day should not have been surprised, because the importance of humility before God is a theme that had been preached for centuries (e.g., Joshua 7:6; 2 Kings 5:9-15; Psalm 8:3,4; Psalm 131:1). God, in the person of Jesus Christ, was the epitome of humility. He loved us so much that he became a man to serve and to save us. He modeled humility throughout his life on earth.

What does God require of you? He asks you to recognize and follow the simple truths of faith: to love justice; to practice kindness and mercy; to be humble before God; to recognize the God-shaped hole in your heart; to seek him with all of your heart, soul and mind; to love others; to live peaceably with your neighbors; to love Him for who he is—all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere, eternal, holy, merciful, sovereign, loving, forgiving–our guide, our Savior.

Diane Cieslikowski Rea

[1] The Scripture texts for the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany are Psalm 15; Micah 6:1-8; 1 Corinthians 1: 18-31; Matthew 5: 1-12.

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