the one about Amos' words...
February 3, 2020, 12:00 AM

Sermon from February 2, 2020

Text: Amos 6:1-8

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen.

Our first reading this morning is one that many of us know. At least that final verse. Of course, our gospel is one that we know well too. These words are powerful for us to hear and read. They remind us of God’s ever-present love and commitment to those who live into the life of faith that God has called us in and through.

Yet, here’s the thing. As a pastor, I at times am asked – what must I do to receive God’s love. What sorts of things must I participate in to be closer to God? Pastor, tell me what I need to do.

And, I’m fairly sure that I’m not the only one who has received those questions. I’d be willing to bet that if you outwardly – in any way – show that you live this life of faith – to any degree – someone is going to or has already asked you those sorts of deep questions.

The very first thing I say to folks who ask me this question is this.

Stop. You can’t get closer to God. It is impossible. There is nothing we can do to appease God, placate the Spirit, or make Jesus return any faster. It isn’t possible. Stop twisting and bending yourself in ways that you cannot achieve.

However, even though we cannot do anything to get closer to God, God has already come close to us. God is here. We celebrate and recognize during this season of Epiphany the belief that God is already made known to the world. God is already here. Immanuel has come. Out of divine, over-flowing, never-ending, more than you can imagine love – God has already come close to you.

We already have it. It’s there. There is nothing we can do to remove it. There is nothing that can be done to tear it away. God already loves you. Thankfully, it is the ‘worst kept secret’ of our theology. God’s love has already redeemed you and set you free.

Remove the burden from your shoulders – from your spirit – of have to, of must from your life in regard to receiving God’s love. You’ve done nothing except be a wonderfully, beautifully, and fearfully made child of God. God’s love is already with you.

Now, that you know (and boy do we forget sometimes) that God’s love is already with you, what do we do now?

Well, it is at this point that I love to read this sixth chapter of Micah – our first reading this morning.

Here the prophet is outlying an interesting scenario. Pleading to all of creation to listen in, to be the jury, to hear the cry of the people of God. This back and forth between God and God’s people, Israel.

Where God reminds the people – reminds each of us for we have been grafted into and adopted in this family and people of God through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – what has already been done. That God has already been with them, with us. God has sent word through Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. God’s love has indeed been present and continues to extend through the life of the people of Israel.

Where the people (as spoken through Micah) plead again the refrain that most in scripture approach the Holy with, “What must I do to receive your love?”

It’s like they didn’t even listen! God already loves you. Remember that. There’s nothing you need to do to appease God. God doesn’t work like the idols and mysteries of what others feel with their deities. God doesn’t require sacrifice, offerings, or more. It isn’t how it works with God. It just isn’t.

But… there’s always a but right?

Now that you know that God’s love and presence are already with you, what do we do from here?

God provides that answer to the prophet and to each of us.

Do justice.

Love kindness.

Walk humbly with God.

God’s love frees us to live into this sort of life. Not so that we receive God’s love. But because we already have God’s love and presence with us.

It’s a small distinction in words, but it is an enormous difference in life.

If we feel that we have to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God to be loved by God, we will begin to notice all the ways that we fall short. We’ll see all the ways that we don’t live up to the life in which we want. We then become subject to others poking holes into our life. Showing us where we have strayed, distanced ourselves, were apathetic, unintentionally or even intentionally cruel with our ways and words.

Knowing all that, trying to live up to God seems downright impossible. Because, frankly, I think it is. Oh, the conversations and prayers I’ve heard in my relative short time as a pastor. The cries, the tears, of those who feel that God could never love them because of what they have and have not done.

Yet, when we believe and trust and have faith that God already loves us that work of doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God feel that much more attainable, attractive, enticing. Where we realize we aren’t doing something to receive it, but we are doing something to share in this life that has already been given to us.

And it’s still hard. It’s still difficult. We still fall short. Always.

These past three weeks I was able to attend the Lay School of Religion and took a class entitled Justifying Privilege with Dr. Krista Hughes. I’m thinking about that class as I hear not only Micah’s words of what God ‘requires’ of us, but also hearing Jesus’ words as he begins his sermon on the mount. Where Jesus lifts up those who are blessed. Where Jesus bestows blessings on all those who don’t feel very blessed. Because living that life is difficult. It’s hard.

Yet, the blessing that I held onto in this moment is Jesus’ blessing upon those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

I want to hunger and thirst for what God desires. I want to stand firm against what the culture and society has propped up as ‘right and good and normal’ based on generations of unfair and dangerous rules and laws. I want to do that.

And it’s still hard. Incredibly hard.

I want to do justice. I want to love kindness. I want to walk humbly with God.

I imagine each of y’all do as well. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to do that.

And yet… we continually fail. We fall short. We don’t do enough. We overlook things. We take things – like our privilege – for granted. We assume everyone else gets the same benefit of the doubts that we do.

We fall short.

And yet, God still loves us. And we have to remember that.

We have already been filled. We have already inherited the earth. We are already children of God.

We already have God’s love. We don’t have to earn it.

But, because we already have that love. That love and this life compels us to, draws us towards, bursts through us to do justice, to love kindness, and to humbly walk with our God.

It makes that reality possible because we know we aren’t doing it to receive God’s love. But, instead we get to live into it because God’s love and life are already with us.

Do justice. See people in need. Listen to those around you who speak of their struggles. Stand up for what is right for others. Fight against that urge to only protect yourself and your family. Be stretched to see that those around you are a part of you too.

Love kindness. Live into the radical love that Christ models for us. Eat with those whom others scoff at. Extend mercy and forgiveness in ways that make people uncomfortable. Love in ways that challenge and stand against the thoughts and practices that have subtly shaped our minds and actions for generations.

Humbly walk with God. Know that God is already with you. Live life knowing that God is indeed ever and always present with you now. Not in a way that flaunts or is pious over others. But recognizing that even in spite of our fallings and failings, God still – out of deep love – draws us close and walks with us.

Remember that you are blessed. Jesus has given that to you. Jesus has given that to us. Jesus has given that to the world.

Live into that blessing.

Do justice. Love kindness. Humbly walk with God.


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