What God Requires
Based on Micah 6:1-8, 1Corinthians 1:20-31, Matthew 5:1-12
Requirements…our lives are bombarded by rules, expectations, laws, job descriptions and other regulations. Most adults are busy getting their income tax information together now as businesses are sending out their W-2 and 1099 forms to employees and contractors; all to meet the requirements associated with paying our governments what they say we owe them. It is not just all the hoops we have to jump through either. What is required of us seems to be constantly changing as our culture shifts and our technology develops. It appears to be impossible to keep up with all that is required of us, and it is fair to say that most of us spend way too much time assuring we are in compliance.
Requirements…the Bible contains a bunch of them too. In the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy you will find requirements for being an upstanding or righteous follower of God. There are 613 requirements (aka mitzvot) that each member of God’s chosen people had to follow…613! There were requirements for offerings, sacrifices, ordination, food choices, purification and purity, atonement for sins, and relations between people just to name a few. Why did God give to Moses all these requirements? Well, God saw that the Hebrew slaves coming out of Egypt needed to be molded into a community of like-acting people, therefore, God handed down all these requirements so that there would be order instead of chaos. However, almost immediately, the people and the leadership realized that there were too many requirements and that the people would not do them. Seeing this, God then gave to Moses the Ten Commandments – requirements for loving God above all other gods and for loving each other in a way that promoted a high functioning and cohesive community.
Our scriptures today talk about what God is actually requires of us, because we humans get confused about what it is that God actually expects. Let us prepare ourselves in prayer to hear again exactly what God requires…
Paul is hitting his stride with his letter to the believers in Corinth. He’s getting to the meat of the first issue that is dividing the congregation. Paul tells the believers that the “wisdom of the world” has been proven to be foolish in terms of what God requires. Paul says that in contrast to the, “…Jews
demand signs (aka miracles) and Greeks [who] desire wisdom…” the cross of the Christ is foolish. What Paul is saying is that no one is his time who didn’t believe in THE God would ever follow a god that let itself be killed by mere mortals – how foolish would that be? In addition, the One true God is wise beyond all human reckoning and therefore seeks out not the worldly powerful, “…But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God….” What does God require of us? The Apostle Paul says that God requires that when we boast about any accomplishment we boast that it was all done by our loving God on our behalf.
Matthew’s version of the “Beatitudes” or the “Sermon on the Mount” is our Gospel reading for today. We have the nine blessings which kick off this sermon and much has been preached about them over the last two thousand years. How do we understand them in light of the sermon topic for today, “What God Requires”? I think the key to unlocking these blessings is to understand them as guidelines for how we are to live. In fact, it is my considered opinion that all we really need to do to live as righteous servants of God is contained in this Gospel in Chapters 5 through 7! I ask you to turn in your bibles to Matthew Chapter 5 during this week and pray about how it is that you will find blessings in your life when you humble yourself before God, when you mourn all the social injustices that exist, when you seek after the good of others before yourself, when you won’t rest until all have the opportunity for righteousness, when you provide mercy to all you meet, when your heart reflects the heart of Jesus and when you seek peace with all instead of division. How will you be blessed when you are inevitably persecuted for such an other-worldly viewpoint and lifestyle? What does God require of us all? The Gospel of Matthew teaches that God requires that we change the way we operate and then God guarantees we will find blessings.
The minor prophet Micah has thundered at the people through the first five chapters of the book named for him. He has reminded them of their need for repentance and that they will be restored as a people of God following the Exile. In the opening to Chapter 6, God rebukes Israel and reminds her of who God has been to their ancestors in the faith. Hearing all this, the people wonder what God requires of them to be satisfied…does God want endless burnt sacrifices, rivers of oil, firstborn children – given on knees with head bowed low? No, the prophet replies, “…He [God] has told you what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?…”
What does God require of us? Pretty straightforward in how it is presented in Micah, isn’t it?! Cuts right through all the other things that are contained in scripture and speaks right to our hearts. God doesn’t require that we spend lots of money on cathedrals and pomp. God doesn’t need the church hierarchies and the doctrines of faith that many of us have memorized over the years. God does not need us to gather in church buildings – in fact, God has stated through Jesus that wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am also!
God tells us once again today that what our LORD requires is that we come into right relationship with God and with all of Creation so that we can both be a blessing and be blessed by those relationships. We do that through our public and private worship, through time spent in undistracted prayer, through sharing of Holy Communion (which we will do shortly) – after we publicly confess our sins to God and to one another, and in fully sharing our lives together. We meet God’s requirements of us when we act kindly and seek justice and mercy for all – especially those that the world believes are disposable, weak, foolish, marginalized: that is…the stranger, the widow, the orphan. Because at one time or another in our lives, we have been or will be the stranger in need of loving kindness and mercy. Meeting God’s requirements will take nothing less than all that we have to give both individually and as a community of faith, but will yield us blessings beyond our wildest imaginings. Amen and amen!