Monday, November 5, 2012

My mom keeps writing me emails about things I could blog.  On the other hand, I've been trying to convince her for years to start a blog of her own.  She is a great writer, and I think a lot of people would follow her blog if she had one.  Maybe I'll blog when she does!

In the meantime, here is some of what she wants me to blog.

In the aftermath of the tragedy we suffered this summer, we have spent a lot of time in prayer.  To be honest, it has been tremendously difficult to pray some days.  There has been so much to do, and so much pain and heartache that prayer has not come naturally these last few months.

It seems incomprehensible that the accident happened less than four months ago.  It seems that we have all aged so much.  Our weather here has been so crazy, that it seems we have cycled through summer, fall, winter, and spring many time over these last few months.  Months of putting one foot in front of the other bring you to a different destination, but the journey is usually a blur.

We are slowly beginning to bring our focus back to the journey we are on.  At Pilgrims, we will begin a short sermon series on Micah 6:8.  And the book of Micah is set up as a giant trial.  This young prophet goes to the stone pillars where court was held and he begins a mock trial of the ages.

You can feel the crowd pressing in as he lays out the years and generations that have brought his people to this place.

I volunteer at Ivan Franko National University.  I teach translation studies majors.  It's a tremendous amount of fun, but from time to time I am asked to recite poetry in English.  Reciting poetry is big in Ukraine, and as much as I protest that it's just not something we do so very much - as a native speaker they really do want me up there.  This month I must recite some verses by Lord Byron's poem, "The Destruction of Sennacherib."  The poem feels a bit forced to me, and, honestly, it sounds like something an angsty teenager could have written.

But, theologically, the poem just grinds my gears.  Lord Byron might not have read Micah.  Or, more likely, he didn't read Micah with the knowledge that Micah was from one of the small towns destroyed by the Assyrians.  Byron's triumphant declarations of the destruction the Lord brought about is an odd companion with Micah's desperate, prophetic plea that someday, "They will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they train for war.(4:3).   Micah, who lost his entire town, was able to see beyond the ends of war to see the goodness of God's great vision of the world.  Thousands of years later, Lord Byron is still looking for the wrath of God to defeat his enemies.

And Micah, a small town boy - just a refugee in the big city - stands before all of these important people begins the trial; the trial of his people's faithfulness before God.  And the climax of the trial is the famous verse, "He has shown you, O man, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God."

And this is the great moment in the trial when the prosecutor brings out the bloody knife with perfect matching fingerprints - and at the same time this is the great moment in the trial when the defense attorney grills a witness and gets her to confess to staging the whole thing.  This is that moment that makes court TV so intense, the reason we tune in to Judge Judy every day - this is one of those moments that rarely happen in real life, but always happen in scripted trials.

All of the case is before the jury, and the guilt is overwhelmingly obvious - and then this verse is pronounced.  It is a taste of the grace that Jesus (born in Bethlehem as prophesied by Micah) will come to fulfill.  Micah calls his people to renewed faithfulness to God.

Justice, mercy, humility.  If we lived with these three guiding principles, our churches would be packed each day.  Our gospel would be as irresistible as when Jesus first proclaimed it.  And our churches would be underground, despised, and persecuted.  You can't live this way and expect everything to stay the same.  These ideals - justice, mercy, and humility - they stand in direct contrast to what our world teaches.  In the last election, did you think about which was the most humble candidate before casting your vote?  In a society focused on justice, my home country would be paying for the atrocities of war we have committed for decades.

This is the point in the trial where everyone in the courtroom gasps in shock.

To a crowd of people who have been slaughtering baby lambs for generations to earn God's favor and to keep God's wrath away - the idea that all God requires from us is these three little things is a revelation of gigantic proportions.  To a crowd today who tries so hard to just be good enough for God's favor, for a group of young people trying to figure out what we did wrong to deserve this - these words are also a shock to the system.  They echo the Gospel of Jesus Christ long before he walked the earth.  They foreshadow his vision and his truth.  And to this day - these words continue to instruct us in how we may life.

We are called by our God to go forth into this world.  To act justly.  To love mercy.  To walk humbly with God.

But what do these three things mean?  What do these three things mean for us today? As young people in Lviv?

[Ok.  I went way off the path I had planned for this post.  I started writing my sermon for next week.  But, I think everyone will just be glad I blogged something :) and no one will complain!]    

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