I struggled this week with our texts in light of our world.
Our gospel text was Matthew 5, Matthew draws some similarities between Moses and Christ. Moses went up the mountain into the presence of God, received the Torah (teaching) and brought it down to the people. In Jesus’ first act of public ministry, he brings the people up the mountain into the presence of God to teach.
He begins his Sermon on the Mount with a beloved text, the Beatitudes. Blessed, Holy, Honored are those who are poor in spirit, meek, peacemakers, and persecuted on my behalf.
I am not meek. I don’t like drama, but I am also known to not compromise simply for the sake of keeping the peace. It got me thinking about how often Christians are criticized for being hypocrites, for not upholding those teachings we profess. This brings me to Micah.
Micah 6, he is my personal favorite of the Old Testament prophets. He doesn’t sugar-coat anything but teaches in alignment with the Torah and the other prophets. He writes a dialogue that is a court case, because God is suing the people. God is suing us for our obsession with worship and how to do worship well. God says that no matter how many burnt offerings are sacrificed in the Temple for him, they are worthless if we neglect the true worship of God. It is summarized in verse 8, which reflects the Torah, the prophets, and is my favorite verse of the entire Bible. Micah 6:8 reads:
He has told you, O Mortal, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (NRSV)
We also think of this as to love and to serve our neighbor.
Friday (January 27) was the Holocaust Memorial Day.
It got me thinking about Martin Luther and his writing Against the Jews and Their Lies, a piece of writing that Lutherans attempted to bury for centuries. But, it was used as propaganda by the Nazi party. It continues to be used today as propaganda by the KKK and other white supremist organizations.
The Lutheran church has acknowledged its existence but has said:
- that Luther, like us all, are flawed.
- That we, as a church, do not accept all of his writing as proper and authoritative teaching.
- In fact, that is one writing that we reject completely.
We [the Lutheran Church] have worked to build bridges with our Jewish brothers and sisters.
It also got me thinking about two German Lutherans during World War II.
- Paul Tillich was a professor and systematic theologian. He lived in Germany and taught at an University. He was very vocal and out-spoken against the Nazis and when Hitler was elected into office, he lost his entire life as he knew it. He lost his job, his home, his family. He moved to the United States, learned English, and taught in our Seminaries.
- Deitrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and theologian, who was living in the United States and received a letter from his homeland to return to Germany for service. He returned to complete his duty. He was part of a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler. He spent much time in prison talking and writing about his efforts, the reason he felt a need to do what he had done, and the cost of true discipleship. One of his most famous quotes is:
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.”
My prayer is that:
Christ, the light to ALL the nations and the greatest teacher of our faith, help us to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with our God, to love and to serve ALL our neighbors in this time and in this place, to uphold the best of our teachings to the best of our ability. Amen.
Scriptures were Micah 6:1-8 and Matthew 5:1-12.
Sermon was originally preached on 29 January 2017.