Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany
OT: Micah 6:1–8
Psalm: Psalm 15
NT: 1 Corinthians 1:18–31
Gospel: Matthew 5:1–12
Walking has long been a metaphor for living. It is something which nearly everyone does every day without a thought. The book of psalms opens with a picture of walking, standing, and sitting as ways of life. I love the small snapshot that can be seen of this in liturgical gatherings of the church. The service begins and ends with a walking procession in and back out and in between we stand in song, sit for instruction, and kneel for prayer. All the postures are incorporated into this form of worship. And these are all postures of life.
It isn’t sitting. Walking is something that you do. It is not passive. For too many, the christian life is something in the head or heart only. It is something we believe; it is something we feel. These things are certainly part of the christian life, but they are only part of the christian life. These take place in the posture of sitting or kneeling, but until they move us to action—to walking—our life remains only partial.
It isn’t running either. Walking is not passive, but it is not aggressive either. Running is competitive for many and it is impossible for some. Some may be able to sprint a short distance, but walking is sustainable. Running may be for an elite few, but walking is a pace that everyone can keep up with. There are seasons of running—the school years often seemed like a constant jog from semester to semester with occasional moments to pause and catch the breath—but most of life is paced at a steady walk. Waking and sleeping; working and playing. Each activity is another step.
How Should We Walk?
That is what the readings for this week are about. Simple every day living. Walking with God. I’m going to take a moment to reflect primarily on the famed passage from Micah and integrate some of the other passages into it:
Do Justice. The christian life is about justice. Yet we have lost it’s original meaning. When we think of justice today we often think of punishing the guilty. It is true that this is a part of justice, but I do not think it is our part. Romans 12, another great passage about walking, essentially says “Do not take revenge against anyone, God will see to that sort of justice.” Our part in justice is not punishing the guilty but rather protecting the innocent. We are not to beat those who have been violent, but rather tend the wounds of those who have been beaten. In so doing the mercy of God is displayed and may win the heart of the one who was violent. That is what Jesus means when he says “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Our battle against evil is not won by going to war, but rather by making peace. Is this not what Jesus did? When he came he did not destroy the evil powers. He took those evils upon himself and “made peace by the blood of his cross.” This is why Jesus said, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted.” Because in persecution we absorb the evils of the world much like Jesus did on the cross. In doing justice we are to despise the evil that is done in the world and care for those who are hurt by it.
Love Kindness. Kindness is only an arm’s length away. It is how you live with others everyday. We do not slander or do evil to others, but rather we approach people with a pure heart looking to see God in them. Many of us approach others with judgement instead of grace, with bitterness instead of a pure heart. Bitterness toward others robs us of the chance to receive from them and so it blinds us to the activity of God in their life. We are not insensitive to the trials of others but rather mourn with them in their difficulties. Notice the heavy hearts around you and encourage them. Listen to the stories of pain and speak a word of healing. This is kindness. And We don’t use other people for our own gain, charging interest and taking bribes. Instead we are merciful to those in need. This is kindness.
Walk Humbly. This is not even an arm’s length away. It is in your very heart and soul. To walk humbly with God is to be poor in spirit. It is knowing your need and relying on him. It is to live in a meek manner. Not extravagantly using resources to build yourself up, but rather giving them away in humility for others. If justice is facing enemies and kindness is facing friends then humility is facing God and yourself. It is, as the psalm says, walking blamelessly and speaking truth in your heart. It is knowing your place in God’s world and resting on his truth. It is feeding your soul the good food of his word. It is being faithful to him and to those close in your life. Humility is found in the small things of life.
God our deliverer,
you walk with the meek and the poor,
the compassionate and those who mourn,
and you call us to walk humbly with you.
When we are foolish, be our wisdom;
when we are weak, be our strength;
that, as we learn to do justice
and to love mercy,
your rule may come as blessing. Amen.