Do. Love. Walk.

January 29, 2017

Micah 6: 1-8 Matthew 5: 1-12

The prophet Micah preached in the 7th century BCE during the time Samaria fell. He was watching Jerusalem being destroyed because of an invasion. Micah prophesied the fall of Jerusalem specifically because of the dishonestly in the marketplace and the corruption in the government. You probably think he would be ranting and railing and calling everybody out, saying how bad everyone was. Instead Micah calls upon the old prophecies of Moses and Abraham and asks the people, “What does the Lord require of you?” It’s not all gloom and doom; it’s a chance for restoration. What does the Lord require of you, but to do three things—do, love, and walk. “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.”

January 29, 2017 Fast forward seven hundred years. Jesus gathers a group on a hillside. Same war, different invaders. Same oppression, different people. Same fears, same cynicism. All of it. He picks up, like Micah, the old truth of how we are to live and to love in our faith. Jesus then preaches the Beatitudes: Blessed are you when you are peacemakers. Blessed are you when you are meek. Blessed are you when you are mourning, when you can still weep for love of those who are oppressed. Blessed are you. Do, love, walk.

It takes him three years to move from those Beatitudes to Jerusalem—a journey he could have made in a week had he been on a warpath. But he was on a peace path. He took three years to make that journey because he saw people hurting, and he loved them. He saw people lost, and he helped them find their way. He saw people mourning, and he comforted them. He saw people in prison, and he took the time to visit and send good words back. All the while—doing, loving, walking. That is our call today. For all the years the world has suffered under powers and principalities that do injustice and harm, we are called to do, love, and walk. We don’t numb out; we don’t freak out. We don’t do anything, but what we have always been called to do. We keep doing it. I believe there are three ways for us to keep doing this—to keep doing, loving, and walking. 

First—we do justice in communal cooperation. We don’t act in silos. We come together to do justice. Recently Thistle Farms welcomed an initiative called Pathfinders for International Justice in Benin, Nigeria, to come and speak. The director shared the statistics that nine out of ten girls who are trafficked in Europe and Eastern Europe are from Nigeria. Specifically, from Benin City where one out of three girls before the age of 13 are approached by traffickers. It’s what happens to people because of the vulnerability and the violence of poverty. They are also working to help free the 276 Chibok girls who were kidnapped from their school by the Boko Haram. About 180 of the girls are still missing more than a 1000 days later. Pathfinders international is working with groups all over the world to work with and share the story of these girls. We all need to work together to do justice on the young girls’ behalf. Helping one another to tell the story is how you do justice.

Second— we love kindness by keeping a proper perspective. No one’s candle is brighter than anybody else’s. We all have a candle. If you think your light is so bright, you are misled or that it is so small that it doesn’t make any difference, you are misled. We all have this beautiful light within us. When we keep that proper perspective, we can appreciate the kindness of someone lighting ours and when we are able to light someone else’s. The proper perspective on this work and kindness is that we are humbled in the right way, that we are courageous in the right way.

I just got off a cruise with Dorris, a powerful survival leader at Thistle Farms. Dorris tells her story of how she was trapped in a ten-block radius for 20 years and not being able to figure out how to get out. She tells the story about touching the ocean for the first time, feeling the tide, and wondering, “Has this been doing this my whole life?” Last week out on the rough, wide-open seas, she stood on the stage and preached with amazing grace about our light in this world. We are not the light. We receive it and we give it. We can move from a trapped unjust system of ten blocks to the rocking, wide-open seas and be grateful all along the journey. Dorris eloquently spreads her message, “We have a lot of work to do. Let’s keep going; there are so many folks who need help.” We keep loving the kindnesses we see and offering love to the very next person.

Finally--to walk humbly is remembering to ground ourselves in the truth that loves lies down for the sake of others. We can do no more than do the same for one another. Nothing we do in justice work is new. It's old and grounded work that is humbling. We are rooted in the most radical way, the humble roots of loving the whole world one person at a time. A community interested in doing justice and loving kindness is humbled enough to keep going back and working harder.

That is how we live. We practice communal cooperation, we have a proper perspective, and we ground our ministry. That’s the way it has been and that’s the way, God willing, it will always be. We all have been given a great tradition.