ACT JUSTLY

MICAH   6:8       ACT JUSTLY

It is written that the response of a godly heart is      outward (do justice),                inward (love mercy), and          upward (walk humbly).

Micah                                                      – -prophesied during the reigns of kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah. 742 – 696 BC

–He is considered one of the twelve minor prophets of                                   the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and   was a        contemporary of the   prophets IsaiahAmos and Hosea

Micah                                                             –also rebuked Israel because of dishonesty in the marketplace and corruption in government.

–He warned the people, on behalf of God, of pending destruction if ways and hearts were not changed. He told them what the LORD requires of them:

Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God

Israel’s response to Micah’s charges and threats consisted of three parts:

  1. admission of guilt,
  2. a warning of adversaries that Israel will rely on the LORD for deliverance and forgiveness,
  3. and a prayer for forgiveness and deliverance. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micah_(prophet)#cite_note-10

ACT  JUSTLY – Golden rule –

UNJUST LAWS

Some of which are so ridiculous, they should never be enforced…

ALABAMA: The City of Mobile may know how to throw down on Mardi Gras, but the use of confetti is strictly prohibited. To carry, manufacture, sell, or handle the party supply is considered an “offense against public safety.”

A frog that dies during a frog-jumping contest cannot be eaten in the state of California.

INDIANA: Liquor stores can’t sell refrigerated water or soda. The law specifies that a beer and wine store should be in the exclusive business of selling adult beverages.

KENTUCKY: Every legislator, public officer, and lawyer must take an oath stating that they have not fought a duel with deadly weapons.

ARIZONA –Illegal for donkey to sleep in a bathtub

In CONNECTICUT … a pickle must be able to bounce.

In Nebraska … you can’t get married if you have a venereal disease.

In VERMONT … it’s illegal for women to wear fake teeth without their husband’s approval.

___________________

I am talking about UNJUST LAWS –

Like the laws in our past:

       INDIAN REMOVAL ACT (1830)

Passed by Congress and signed by President Andrew Jackson, This law gave Jackson’s administration the ability to “negotiate” with native American tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole), ostensibly forcing them to vacant the lands they held long before the colonies or United States were established

FUGITIVE SLAVE ACT (1850)

Congress, largely controlled by pro-slavery Democrats, passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which required that runaway slaves be returned to their “owners” once they were captured.

CHILD LABOR LAW —The first group to fight for child Labor laws, formed in 1906, and it was over ten years later that a law was finally established.


USA PATRIOT Act (2001)

Passed and signed more than a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the USA PATRIOT Act (an acronym for Uniting Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) gave the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies broad new powers to combat terrorism. Thanks to recent disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Americans have learned that the PATRIOT Act has been used by intelligence agencies, most notably the NSA, to snoop and spy on American citizens, even if they’re not suspected of terrorist activity, by obtaining phone and Internet metadata from third-party businesses. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who authored and introduced the PATRIOT Act, has said that the government’s interpretation of the law is “excessive and un-American” and supports efforts to put better privacy protections in place.

  • Illegal for a black person to marry a white person – finally struck down 1967 by Supreme Court
  • Illegal for American Women to vote until 1920.

TODAY

Ban on Those entering country

Iran   Libya   North Korea   Yemen Somalia   Venezuela   Syria

_____________

RESTRICTIVE VOTING MEASURES           have been enacted by states in recent years. They range from laws demanding that voters produce specific forms of identification to reductions in the number of locations where people can cast their ballot. 

  • California city passed a law banning the charitable act following a massive Hepatitis A outbreak.
  • police officer warned the activists not to give food to the homeless in the park.
  • “It’s okay to give food in public to other people but not homeless people,” he said, referencing the city law, KGTV reports. 
  • “That’s an unfair way of targeting the alleged issue of hepatitis A.”
  • ________________________

Justice is not merely about defending     personal rights and condemning social evils. 

Biblical justice starts in the heart.

It is inseparable from love and humility.

When we choose to walk in the light – to follow the teachings of Jesus – to work to do God’s will… 

We enter a covenant which means both parties have obligations to the other…

Micah was reminding people of their part of the bargain – of what GOD expects of a person who seeks Him. 

God requires three ongoing actions:

  1. Act justly.
  2. Love mercy.
  3. Walk humbly with God.

acting justly

making fair decisions in our business      and personal lives.

Show each person the same respect whether they are rich or poor / young or old / educated or ignorant/ white or one of the million other shades of skin tones….

Do we treat people better who are dressed in a suit and tie than if they are in drag?

However we treat one another is how we treat God.

To Act Justly requires we show others the same attention as we show ourselves.

We are to love justice, not only when it harmonizes with our own interests… but we are to love justice…more than ourselves…

if it ain’t right – and I do nothing,     then I ain’t right.

Pay attention to the word REQUIRES – meaning NOT OPTIONAL

       Eugene Peterson paraphrases in the MESSAGE –                          Do what is fair and just.

And that means, even when life isn’t fair to us…

We are the only Bible some people read… we are the only Christ some people will meet.

We are the only example of a relationship with God, some people will ever experience…

HOW DO OUR ACTIONS DEMONSTRATE OUR LOVE FOR GOD?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu  said this:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

If an elephant has his foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. ~

Samuel, Hannah, Mary, Jesus

41Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Samuel 2:18-26

18Samuel was ministering before the Lord, a boy wearing a linen ephod.19His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the Lord repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the Lord”; and then they would return to their home. 21And the Lord took note of Hannah; she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. 22Now Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.23He said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people. 24No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad. 25If one person sins against another, someone can intercede for the sinner with the Lord; but if someone sins against the Lord, who can make intercession?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father; for it was the will of the Lord to kill them. 26Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

  1. eph·od
  1.  (in ancient Israel) a sleeveless garment worn by Jewish priests.

Two Stories – hundreds of years apart

Hannah –desperately wanted a child

Mary – surprised by a child

Hannah makes covenant with God if she can have a child

Mary – angel announces that God has chosen her and there is a covenant concerning a child.

Each mother has been given a child that is then returned to the service of God.

The similarities between the stories of two women are reflected in the words of their two songs.  

From the miraculous conception of each woman’s son to each woman’s faithful response of praise, we see God’s purpose and plan revealed. 

1)  What the books reveal:  

The books of 1 Samuel and Luke both focus on the birth of a male child who is born to serve God.  

2) Who the women were:

The roles of both Hannah and Mary in Scripture are limited to that of motherhood. 

Neither is a picture of salvation of Israel, of saving the people, like Esther—or of leading the people, like Deborah. 

Their work for God was simply to raise-up the child whom God had given to them.

Hannah’s pain came immediately when she handed Samuel over to Eli to raise in the Temple.

Mary’s pain would come later.

God choses the marginalized or the downtrodden to break-in upon history.

Sarah, like Hannah, was older and barren. Rachel, too, was barren and jealous of her sister Leah. All three women were dealing with “competitors” — either co-wives or servants.

Hannah was taunted by Peninnah, the other wife of Elkanah.

These stories finally parallel that of Elizabeth, also old and barren, who then conceives and gives birth to John, the baptizer, the last and greatest of the prophets.

Then a lowly maiden Mary is selected to birth Jesus –

Through these surprising and unexpected births, a child is set apart as truly “of God,” dedicated to and willing to serve God.

Contrasts

Having noted the similarities of Hannah’s story with Mary’s story and Hannah’s song with Mary’s song, let’s consider several contrasts.

  • Hannah was marked by sterility and shame.
  • Mary was marked by virginity and purity.
  • Hannah prayed for a son, desiring that her shame be removed.
  • Mary did not seek a son, but was graced with this great gift (Luke 1:28) and shame came upon her and her family.
  • Hannah gave birth to the son of Elkanah.
  • Mary gave birth to the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32a).
  • Hannah’s son was one of a long line of prophets.
  • Mary’s Son was the True and Better Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18).

Hannah is a type of Mary primarily in her role as a mother and as a maidservant of God.  In Hannah we see incredible gratitude to God and selflessness in giving her son to God.  Hannah knew that Samuel did not really belong to her, but to God.  Mary knew that Jesus did not really belong to her…He is God.  In each mother’s story, their love for their child is evident and their love for their God is magnified.

1 Samuel 2:21b  …the child Samuel grew before the LORD.

Luke 1:80  So the child [Jesus] grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Luke 2:52  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

__

In both passages, we have nearly identical words at the close o0f the story –

         Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with the people.

Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

It is a theme of growing – of maturing…

Both boys grow physically in STATURE

Both grow in wisdom and in favor with God – and with humanity –

Jesus did not come into this world gifted with knowledge – wisdom and power.

Like us, he came in as a vulnerable baby – a clean slate upon which life would write –

He would have to be taught –

 The same way Samuel – had to be taught –

Samuel began his growth in wisdom along side the Priest Eli –

Jesus began his with Mary and Joseph and his time in the temple.

And when the time came to return home, Jesus was more interested in learning from the priests—he had questions – they had answers – and his understanding amazed the priests.

Both Samuel and Jesus had to prepare for their life of service to God

Samuel’s preparation was through Eli

Jesus’ Preparation included                                          Wisdom: Jesus grew in Intellectually

Stature: Jesus grew in Physically.

with God”: Jesus grew Spiritually.

“with men”: Jesus grew socially.

The priests in the temple were impressed with Jesus because he was at ease and comfortable in His Father’s house.

But he would continue to grow – as he experienced life in new ways-

I never really thought about how Jesus had to grow – into becoming who he was called to be.

But, it speaks volumes that Samuel – and even Jesus had to learn – and grow and mature in their spiritual and social lives, as well as in favor with God —  just as much as their physical lives.

Jesus models that in order to grow intellectually, we must watch – o0bserve – and experience so that we have WISDOM

We must take care of ourselves physically –                            by eating well – resting when                             needed – and consider our                               bodies temples..

Jesus showed us that we are to always study        scripture, pray, reflect and engage in        our relationship with God – to grow spiritually – and find favor with God –

And to find favor with those around us –                  so that we are all one body in God…

These things are accomplished through small ways of treating one another — small acts of kindness – not huge achievements — 

Sometimes God lets us know we have found favor —

Illustration –

Madeleine L’Engle tells one such story.  While speaking at Wheaton College, word came to her that her 9-year old granddaughter, Lena,  had been hit by a truck while she was walking home from swimming.  The news was not good — Lena had two broken legs, broken ribs, her jaw was fractured in two places, her arms and legs had bruises and contusions, and she had a head wound that laid open her scalp to the bone.

She finished her lecture at Wheaton, and asked there for prayer for her granddaughter.  Returning to her room, she tried to call both an Episcopal clergy friend of hers in New York, and the Episcopal Sisters who ran the school her granddaughters attended. Neither of her calls went through.  Finally, after ringing and ringing, one of the sisters answered.  Madeleine told her about Lena, and the sister said that all of New York was blacked out and that she had to feel her way through the dark building to find and answer the phone.  Later, the same sister would tell Madeleine that hers was the only call that came in that night, that afterward the phones quit working altogether.

As was her custom, that night in her hotel room, Madeleine L’Engle reached for the Episcopal Book of Prayer she carried with her.  She always read Evening Prayer.   However, that night when she turned to the Psalm for that evening, a photograph of Lena stood at the page.  Taken only a few days before, L’Engle had stuck it in her prayer book hastily without thinking.

She said she could barely stand to see the photo, but as she held the prayer book, a piece of paper fell from its pages.   Given to her years before by some Catholic nuns, the card contained a quote from St. John of the Cross, a medieval Christian mystic.  The quote read —

“One act of thanksgiving made when things go wrong is worth a thousand when things go well.”

And so she thanked God for Lena’s nine years of life, for their family, and for God’s blessings.  Ten days later, little Lena emerged from her coma.  Among her first words were “Read to me.”  And so they did, night and day, until little Lena recovered. — Walking on Water, p. 184-186.

_______________

Both stories stress the need of growth in faith – growth that is in terms of understanding and practice. We might also call it wisdom in the faith, the beginning of which is, as Proverbs reminds us, the ‘fear of God’.

Not terror but awe and worship;

a sense of God in relation to creation which intimately involves understanding ourselves and those around us.

How much more do we as Jesus’ disciples in every age need to seek to grow in our faith – in favour both with God and humanity.

 Faithful service to God is a slow journey of growth and learning with aspects of loss and vulnerability along the way.

Significance of the Visit of the Magi

Matthew 2:1-12

2In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

__________________________

EPIPHANY

Christians celebrate the feast of Epiphany,

* from the Greek word epiphaneia,

meaning disclosure, manifestation, unveiling or appearance.

* At the simplest level, on Epiphany Christians commemorate the “appearance” of the magi from the east

It is interesting that Matthew was the only biblical writer who recorded their visit.

WISE MEN/KINGS –WHO?

here came wise men—literally, “Magi” or “Magicians,”

*KINGS?

KINGS?  Why would they seek to pay homage to another KING

Asked a KING for directions to KING of Jews?

*Why ask at all, if following the star,   and continued to follow the star?

*Left for their own country… where?

More likely a priestly caste of *Zoroastrianism, noted for their study of the stars as part of their religion. 

Zoroastrianism

  • Possibly the oldest             monotheistic faith
  • pre-Islamic religion of       ancient Persia founded    by Zoroaster in the 6th    century BC.                              3500 YEARS AGO
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy calls Zoroaster

 “the world’s first philsopher

  • echoes of his words in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 
  •  Zoroastrians were also known for their devotion to truth and wisdom.
  •  They place a strong emphasis on protecting the environment.
  • Also within his religion, Zoroaster taught the existence of angels, demons and saviorsideas that can also be found in ChristianityJudaism and  Islam.                                                                 Zoroastrians use the Avesta as their sacred text. The Avesta contains hymnsritualsand spells against demons.

_______________

NAMES

  • Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar,                                                       
  • do not come from the Bible
  • and did not appear in Christian literature until over five hundred years after the birth of Jesus.
  •  Nothing in the Bible says the wise men rode camels (or any other animal);
  • they may have made their journey from the east on foot for all we know.
  •  And despite the familiar lyrics of the Christmas carol “We Three Kings,” no biblical source depicts the three wise men as kings. (They were most likely learned men, perhaps astrologers.)     

probably of the learned class who cultivated astrology and kindred         sciences.

TRADITION

prophesied – a star would come   out of Jacob /  giver of  light

and exercising kingly power  might have come down to them by tradition;

 but nothing definite is known of them.

FROM THE EAST – where

from the east—Arabia, Persia,      (IRAN)  or                                        Mesopotamia

Most popular IRAN

NOT JEWS

Went to Jerusalem—       as the Jewish metropolis.

** In the Revelation of the Magi, by    Landau —  they come from a    land called Shir,

which, because it is located at    the eastern edge of the inhabited         world, is probably equivalent to           China

LOCATION

  • NOT at stable-
  • Some sources say they traveled 6 months to two years
  • Matthew only place of story
  • “until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that   the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child –
  • According to Luke 2, it was shepherds, not wise men, who visited the infant Jesus in the manger.
  • Each GOSPEL writer was writing to a different audience—
  • Shaped stories to be more relatable and relevant.

SIGNIFICANCE of Visit

  • Matthew is the only gospel referencing the arrival of the Magi, specifying that they bring three gifts, not necessarily the number of Magi that arrived.
  •  The importance of their arrival and gifts offered bring great meaning to the story.
  • Matthew was Jewish and possibly a Pharisee, so his inclusion of the Magi was a reference to eastern gentile wisdom, which also included astrology, and was perhaps viewed in a negative light by the Jewish community.
  • Yet this point brings us to the conclusion that gentiles were included in the birth of the Messiah. Upon the Magi’s arrival, their bowing down to the infant offered the respect shown divinity, as did the gift of gold.
  • he other gifts have sparked debate, but I see frankincense representing the presence of God as an incense and myrrh as an anointing oil, both of which have significance throughout Jesus’ messianic journey and our own Christian tradition.
  • Being Southern, I recently learned about a tradition called “chalking of the door.”
  • In a ceremony held around the Epiphany, the letters “C,” “M” and “B” are chalked on a home’s entrance to bless all who live or visit there.
  • It is said:
  •  traditionally, the initials represented names of those Three Wise Men — Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. However, the meaning actually is
  • , Latin for “Christ, bless this house.” Regardless, Christus mansionem benedicat the inclusion of gentiles and recognition of the Christ child as Messiah ultimately point to the clearest meaning of the Three Wise Men.

DETAILS

The Magi are not always given their due –

I read a story about one person who keeps the Wise Men figurines from her nativity – out year round –

She says:

it’s a visual reminder to me. It    reminds me that the truth of the           ages from this part of the             “Christmas” story is, and always           has been, that wise men and      wise women, wise boys and wise         girls, still seek Jesus. Not just at Christmas time, but all through             the year.

  • the magi are a poignant reminder that Jesus welcomes all peoples from all places.
  • he magi, then, “unveil” this mystery and disclose the nature of God’s kingdom announced in Jesus.
  • They remind us that it cannot be limited to the Jews or any other singular people.
  • The magi symbolize the divine promise given to Abraham for “all peoples on earth” in the first book of the Bible (Genesis 12:3), and
  •  John’s vision of heaven with people from “every nation, tribe, people, and language” in the last book of the Bible (Revelation 7:9).

________________________

A couple of weeks ago we talked of Living the Nativity –

Today’s story talks of how wise men met Jesus and returned home by a different path —
Mary and Joseph were warned in a dream to leave Bethlehem –

And they fled pagan Egypt where they found asylum.

  • That symbolic place of Israel’s bondage now became a place of protection.

As we all seek Jesus and to discern the main thing in life –

Once we find it, we too continue on a different path than we came…

Let us pray –

Continue to open our eyes, hearts and minds to the wonders of our walk in the light…

Help us to share our journey with all who wish to join… Amen