The Requirements of the Lord

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, The Requirements of the Lord, was given at Mornington Sanctuary Salvation Army on Sunday 5 May, 2013. The Bible reading was Micah 6:1-8. It was recorded, and is available for podcast download through iTunes or directly.

So I’m going to ask a question, and as a bit of warning, If you put your hand up I am going to ask that you prove yourself and answer it – this is not a hypothetical question. So, Who is able to name all ten of the Ten Commandments? No-one? I think we’ve got a bit of work to do here. Ok, so how about something a bit easier – what book and chapter is it found in? Did you know that it’s actually found in two places – in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Anyway, here are the 10 commandments.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water underneath the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house.

And then it goes on to list a few other things that you shall not covet.

What do you notice about the 10 commandments? There’s a lot of “shall nots”! In the New Living Translation of the bible, they actually translate the phrase as “You Must Not” and it appears 10 times in their full text of the ten commandments.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me I find it hard to do something when I am told that I “must” do it, even if I think it’s the right thing to do. I would rather do it my own way, and discover the mistakes myself.

When we’re told that we’re not allowed to do something, or that we shouldn’t do something, it often makes us want to do it more. Tell a child not to touch the kettle because it’s hot, and they’ll want to touch it even more. Tell a teenager that they’re not allowed to go out, and sure as anything they’ll find a way to get out.

god people usOk, let’s try something different? What are the two greatest commandments? We read about them in Matthew 22:34-40.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

As a former Anglican, these two commandments are a lot easier to remember, as they are read in 90% of the Sunday services (the other 10% they read out the full 10 commandments). But they are still easy to remember

They are also easy to apply – Love God, Love Others, Love yourself.

Micah 6 – how have I burdened you?

In Micah 6, the Lord asks his people what he has done to them to burden them. Takes place in a metaphorical court case argument. He asks how he burdened them, and follows that with an account of salvation – He brought them out of Egypt, redeemed them from slavery, highlights the stories of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, Balak and Balaam, and their journey from Shittim to Gilgal.

The Lord has done many wonderful things for us – most of all, he sent Jesus to redeem us from our sin, so that we may live in relationship with him. Yet we often still turn Christianity into a burden. You must not do this. You must not do that. We often do it in the Salvation Army ourselves – When someone asks you about soldiership, what do you say? Well, we’re not allowed to drink, smoke or gamble. Is that really what we want setting us apart – what we’re not allowed to do? We need a paradigm shift – from what we’re not allowed to do, to what we’re required to do.

The Lord Requires us to Do

Now we hear in this passage what the Lord requires of us. Now for some that might be a great word, but the Hebrew word can actually be translated a number of ways. It can also mean to seek, or to ask for, or to practice, study, or seek with application. Basically, what does the Lord ask for us to practice and apply to our daily lives? It’s a much nicer way of putting it, and something that is practical and easy for us to remember, and to put into our daily lives. And there are many who are living out the Micah 6:8 promise who we can turn to for inspiration.

Act Justly

There are a number of examples of people who we can model our lives on who have acted Justly, or fought for justice. You could very well argue that the Salvation Army’s founder, William Booth, was a prime example of someone who acted justly, seeking justice for the oppressed and forgotten of society. Or what about William Wilberforce, who fought against the injustice of slavery.

Martin Luther King, Injustice Abortion The man who comes to my mind when I think about justice is Martin Luther King Jr. The way that he fought against injustice within the American political sphere cemented his place in the American history books, and the hearts of the people. But he deserves our recognition as well, as a Christian man who acted justly. He saw an injustice, and he fought against it in a manner that was completely becoming of a Christian – he did it in a prophetic, non-violent style. What I mean by that is that his protests, and his speeches, presented a vision of what could be, a better way of doing things. In all these things as well, he was non-violent. He did not lift a hand in anger against those who oppressed him, instead he rallied public opinion (as did the organisations that he represented), and forced the politicians hands until there was nothing that they could do but right the wrongs of their nation.

If we were to look at the three men I’ve mentioned, and how they lived their lives, we would see that they have all acted justly through their lives. Yes, on the large-scale, but it is through these men that we can see how to act justly in our own lives – to treat everyone with respect, no matter their background, and to fight for the better treatment of the least, the lost and the last to the best of our abilities.

Love Mercy

mother-teresa-feedingThe second part of Micah 6:8 has also often been translated as to Love Kindness, and when I think of mercy and kindness, I think of Mother Teresa. This wonderful woman of God showed kindness to everyone she met. She practically showed kindness and mercy to “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” Through setting up her order, the Sisters of charity, she founded hospices that cared for the lowest of the low. One of the criticisms leveled against her was that she was friendly to dictators, and while we may say she could have lobbied for justice better, she did show kindness to everyone she met, regardless of their background.

It can be hard, but this is something that is very practical that we can do in our own lives. From things as little as offering your seat on the bus to someone else, or making sure you tip your barista, to inviting your neighbor over for dinner when you know that they’re struggling.

Walk Humbly with your God

When I first started putting together this sermon, I thought that i would put in a joke about how I did a Google search for humble Christians, but it returned no results. How sad it was when i actually did the search, and I got no answers. The thing is that the most well-known Christian figures are anything but humble, due to their being in the spotlight so much. On the flip-side  the truly humble Christians are there doing God’s work often completely unnoticed, and hence don’t show up in Google searches.

I think of one woman from my Church, who is always there willing to work and do whatever is needed, and rarely takes and thanks for the work. I’ve never heard a nasty word from her mouth, instead, the words of someone who is truly humbly walking with God.

Likewise, I think of my good friend, an old retired priest, who continues to serve his church through a prayer and healing ministry, and a wonderful widows and widowers ministry. So humble is his approach, that I’m sure there are many other things that he is doing that i don’t even know about.

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Being humble is probably the thing that we find the hardest as Christians  A lot of that is probably due to us needing to put ourselves apart and put God and others first. It’s not something that we like to do, but it is something that God has asked of us, and as such we need to do something about it.

So tonight, I’m asking you to commit to yourselves living out Micah 6:8, however that looks to you. Commit to acting justly, treating everyone with respect no matter their background. Commit yourself to loving Mercy, showing kindness to everyone. And finally, be humble in your walk with God – make everything you do be to the glory of God, not the glory of you.