What We're Supposed to Be About
Micah 6:1-8 and Matthew 5:1-12
Old Testament and Gospel Reading for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany (Year A)
This is a day late, I know.
God has a controversy with the people. God has done a great deal for Israel. They were brought out of Egypt. They were freed from slavery. They had been saved again and again from calamity. Yet the people seem weary of God. How can this relationship be made right? Some sort of religious show should be put on, should it not? Sacrifice upon sacrifice. Calves? Firstborn children? Something to prove that they are a nation of God.
No. The response is that God requires that the people do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
The Son of God walks upon the earth. He gets up and speaks to the people about those who are blessed in the Kingdom of God. The people think they have a pretty good idea about who is blessed. The successful. The powerful. The wealthy. The ones who have it all together religiously. Surely those are the people who are about what God is about because you can see it in the reward of their lives.
No. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness' sake. Blessed are those who are reviled and spoken of untruthfully. God is with those people.
Several hundred years apart, there is a common thread. God asks that we pursue justice and righteousness. God asks that we choose kindness and mercy. God asks that we walk with our Creator with humility.
Something broke in me when Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Or maybe it is better to say, something was finally set right inside of me. Far smarter and better people than I have already said this, but let me add my voice to the chorus.
When people seeking refuge from war-torn countries, men, women, and children who have gone through all the hoops have their hope stolen with the stroke of a pen, this is not right. When families are separated, when elderly grandparents are detained in airports for hours on end, when hard-working students cannot return to their schools, this is not right. When people are told they are not welcome here because of their country or faith, this is antithetical to what we read in Micah and Matthew.
As Christians we come from a long line of caring for the outsider, the refugee, the oppressed. In Leviticus 19:34 it reads: "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."
In Jeremiah 7:5-7: "For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place."
The list could go on. We are called in Matthew to love our perceived enemy, implored to not just welcome the people who are like us, told that when we help the hungry, the poor, the imprisoned, and in need that we are doing it as if for Jesus. We are again and again throughout our scripture commanded to love our neighbor and then Jesus tells stories in which that neighbor is one who his audience would be uncomfortable loving.
The follower of Jesus is supposed to love and care for their neighbor regardless of where they came from. We take care of "our own" first only in the sense that every person on this planet is our own. This is not something that is for a special level of Christian. This is one of the basic things that we are supposed to do. There are people from vulnerable, war-torn countries whose lives have been thrown into chaos. They feel like they are not valued because of their country, their skin color, their faith. This should not be so and those who follow Jesus should be at the forefront of saying so.
Several thousand years later, there is still this common thread. God asks that we pursue justice and righteousness. God asks that we choose kindness and mercy. God asks that we walk with our Creator with humility. Will we do so?