4th Sunday after the Epiphany – A LSB #’s 852, 783, 848
Text – Micah 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good; & what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, & to love kindness, & to walk humbly with your God?
WALKING HUMBLY WITH THE LORD
Parents included their four-year-old son while they were planting an apple tree in the backyard. As soon as it was planted, the boy called his grandparents & explained, “Pop-Pop, we just planted an apple tree & now we’re going to put apples on it.” So, his parents tried to attach apples to the sapling with duct tape, staplers & glue guns.
As humorous as that was, it occurred to the parents that it’s a good illustration of how we at times approach bearing fruit in a spiritual sense. It’s not uncommon to experience a nagging suspicion that we are not producing as much spiritual fruit as God gives us opportunity to yield.
Because of that sense of guilt, yet faced with our usual time crunch, Satan tempts us to artificially ‘tack on’ spiritual fruit to our lives. For example, we tell people that we’ll pray for them, when we don’t really mean it, or do it.
There are millions of lonely people in this country. Certainly, we can’t visit them all, yet we tell some of them we’ll stop by, at their house, in the hospital or nursing homes. Then, the time gets away from us, or more interesting opportunities come along, & we fail to actually produce real fruit.
We tell people we’ll write, or give them a call, but all we’re doing is attempting to “tack on” spiritual fruit to our lives. In a moment of spiritual optimism, we vow to begin reading the Bible, or volunteer at the church & school, maybe even attend Bible study. A few weeks later the fruit that we “attached” to our tree with duct tape begins to fall off the branches.
Yahweh has seen this going on for thousands of years, with literally billions of His
people. He saw it in the days of Micah the prophet & in verse 2, his listeners are surprised when he reveals that Yahweh’s dispute is not with the unbelievers, or pagan nations of the world, but with His own children. Given that God is holy & His people are sinful, we’d expect to hear an accusation against the people.
However, instead of chastising them, instead of hammering them with the Law, He takes a more grace filled approach: “O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? …For I brought you up from the land of Egypt & redeemed you from the house of slavery…” (Micah 6:3-4 ESV)
And God could take the same approach with His people today. How has He wearied us that we no longer live like children of God? If we come to His house, we are bored with hearing His Word. We tire of confessing our sins. We want the sermons & the songs to be entertaining & awe inspiring, yet we certainly do not come here to walk humbly with our God.
On any given Sunday, the majority of members of the church are not in the house of the Lord. This very morning, somewhere around two thirds of all church members are not submitting their time to God’s will. They claim to be Christians, but they’re just “tacking on” spiritual fruit with duct tape & glue guns.
In other words, (Matthew 15:8) they worship God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. Being in their heavenly Father’s house every Sunday is just plain unreasonable & inconvenient. However, the problem is not confined only to this place. In our daily lives, out there, how often do we “love” being kind to others?
Being nice to others, & complaining about it after they are gone, is not what Micah is writing about. We are to emulate God as He takes on human flesh & enters our world to die for the sins of everyone. His kindness has nothing to do with repentance & it covers each of the sins from Adam & Eve all the way down to the youngest child here this morning, & everyone in between. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “…Jesus, the founder & perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” (ESV) That is the love of kindness.
As for justice, how often do our daily lives reflect the justice of God who never slacks off in doing what is pure, right & holy? This morning, it’s easy to point to Memphis, & the five police officers there, & say that what they did is not justice in any way, shape or form. Yet our own lives are filled with times where we too look out for number one.
Justice is something we strive for in the circumstances of our lives so that we get what is right. We spend little time advocating for others, like the widow & the orphan or the unborn. Justice is seeing to it that, even if it costs us, we do right by our neighbor. Martin Luther wrote in his explanation of the 7th commandment for example:
“We should fear & love God so that we… help our [neighbor] to improve & protect his possessions & income.” That is true justice. It’s not enough that we do not steal from him. We are still stealing if we don’t help our [neighbor] to improve & protect his possessions & income.
Ultimately, we should walk humbly with our God because He is the source of all good things, whether that’s justice or kindness, whether it’s salvation & everlasting life. Justice & kindness reflect the character of our heavenly Father & we cannot do that unless we walk humbly with Him. Jesus pictured it so well in John 15:4,
“Abide in me, & I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” I came across this in an old calendar, it’s a Nigerian proverb: “It is the heart that does the giving; the fingers only let go.”
We do bear fruit as we remain in the Vine, Jesus Christ. And as such, we never have to “tack it on” to make ourselves look good. Amen.
Take my life & let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee; take my moments & my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my voice & let me sing always, only for my King; take my lips & let them be filled with messages from Thee. Take my will & make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine; take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne. Amen. LSB 783:1, 3, 5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet