The prophet Micah asks: What is it that God requires in order for us to be pleasing? In order to be acceptable? What does God want from us anyway?
Micah answers: This – do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.
Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?
Then why do we humans have such a hard time doing justice, being kind and living our lives with humility and reverance? What is so bent within us that these three simple things trip us up over and over again?
Martin Luther defined sin as “the self bent in upon itself.”
There is a bent-ness inherent about us, I think. There is a bent-ness that permeates the entire world.
Consequently we create societies that are curved in on themselves; a world that is very often unjust and unkind and arrogant.
We see such negative values played out in the news reports everywhere we turn. And we see countless people who are being damaged every single day by society’s injustices, mean spiritedness and hubris.
Many of our Jewish cousins are committed to tikkun olam – “repair of the world.” This has long been a value of Judaism: to intentionally perform caring acts that can help mend the frayed fabric of our shared human life.
- Acts of personal charity.
- Acts of social advocacy for the homeless and the hurting and the hungry.
- Acts that protect and preserve our environment.
Tikkun olam – an effort to repair the world.
This is a tradition rooted in the Scriptures: Micah and Joel and Amos and Isaiah and Jeremiah.
The prophetic call throughout history, the clarion call is to do justice for the widow, for the orphan, for the poor, for the exploited, for the neglected, for the stranger, for the vulnerable.
THIS is the call of the word of the Lord over and over and over again. THESE are biblical values.
How can we not hear that? We have become so bent in on ourselves that we forget the whole reason for our existence is to love our God and to love our neighbor.
I know you know this little story. It’s been around for years but it’s worth repeating.
A child stood at the seashore. Thousands of starfish had been stranded on the sand by the outgoing tide and they were slowly dying. The child was picking them up one by one and tossing them back into the waves.
A grown up came along; someone who had seen a lot of life, was seasoned and experienced and therefore a touch cynical.
“What are you doing?” he asked the child. “I’m saving the starfish,” she replied.
The man watched as she picked up another and tossed it back into the sea. He watched some more as she picked up one, two, three more starfish. But there were thousands; there was no way one little girl could save them all.
“Why do you keep on doing this?” the man asked. “Don’t you know you can’t possibly save them all? There is no way you can make a difference for so many starfish.”
The girl stopped, thought for a minute. Then she stooped over, picked up another starfish and flung it into the water. “It makes a difference for that one,” she said.
Mark tells a story in chapter 2 about a paralyzed man. Like a starfish stranded on a beach, he was stuck, helpless, lifeless.
But this man was fortunate to have a community of friends who cared. They were willing to be inconvenienced, willing to look foolish, willing to risk. So the friends carried hope for the man; and then they literally carried him to the One who can really make a difference in a life.
Maybe they couldn’t repair the entire world, but they did what they could, they did it together and it made a difference for one precious soul.
As you read these little stories Mark tells, you will start noticing that many of them serve as mini-resurrection stories.
Again and again, we meet someone who is down and out, laid low, stuck, helpless, lifeless. And then – they meet Jesus. It is in this Jesus that they encounter God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, God’s healing, God’s kindness, God’s life. And they are raised to new life.
Each one of these stories is the gospel in miniature: good news made tangible, made real. The gospel enfleshed in one person after another.
- We once were lost and now we’re found.
- We once were blind and now we see.
- We once were sick and now we’re whole.
- We once were dead and now we live.
The good news goes on and on.
And this is true because – in real time and in a particular place – Jesus entered into our human condition and shared our brokenness, our lostness, our paralysis. Jesus entered into death. Jesus took it all on.
And in this self-giving, Jesus himself encountered God’s grace, God’s healing, God’s kindness and God’s life.
Because of the generosity and self-giving of Jesus the Christ, because of the faithfulness of God who is life itself, death is in the process of becoming undone.
Because of the gospel, the brokenness of humanity is becoming whole, the lost are being found, the pain is being healed, the sin is being forgiven.
So those of us who are people of the good news of Jesus Christ don’t have to remain paralyzed over the brokenness of our world; we too can choose to enter into the pain of our neighbors; we can work to remove whatever barriers keep them from wholeness; we can bring them to the One who heals and repairs; we can make a difference.
Each one of us doing what we can: tikkun olam.
All of us together – willing to be inconvenienced, to risk, even to look foolish or odd or unusual to those around us.
The people of God committed to doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly.
Living in The Story readings for Week 47
(Don’t be overwhelmed with this list. Reading one of the Minor Prophets each day is very doable.)