Lectionary (4th Sunday after the Epiphany): Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12
Theme: With Blessing Comes Responsibility
“You don’t like me.” Recently, that has been my 5 year-old’s immediate response when my husband or I correct his behavior and he is given a consequence. “That is not true,” we reply. “We not only like you, but we love you. That is why we correct you behavior and try to teach you right and wrong and how to be considerate of others.” He has also recently been assigned daily and weekly chores, for which he can earn a small allowance. We have established rules and chores because we want him to learn responsibility as well as respect and concern for others. I think God has a similar desire for us, which serves as motivation for the Micah passage.
When we see and hear the word “require,” we often think of hoops we have to jump through or just another rule we have to follow. But there is a deeper meaning to the Hebrew word that is often translated “require.” What does the Lord require of you? The Hebrew word carries love and concern as its motivation. God wants us to act justly, love mercy, and be humble because it’s what’s best for us and because God also loves and cares for the rest of creation. We’ve been allowed to partner with God in creating a world that includes and provides for everyone. A primary goal in our discipleship is aligning our heart and desires to the heart and mind of Christ. God is love, and desires God’s children to embody that same love for the world.
Because of our blessings, we have responsibility. Too often churches’ welcome or acceptance is conditional. If you believe like these things, act like us, talk like us, then we will accept you. The Beatitudes open the Sermon on the Mount to remind us that God blesses us before we can say or do anything to merit blessing. This is great news because if our blessings were solely dependent on our actions and “goodness,” most of our blessings would be few and far between. But because we are undeservedly blessed people, we have responsibilities. The Beatitudes teach us that God’s favor and blessing are especially granted to those whom society typically leaves behind and ignores. Maybe in our pursuit of justice, kindness and humility, we can bless others and learn something about God and God’s Kingdom in the process.
Questions to Consider:
Is your relationship with God grounded more in a sense of duty and legalism, or as a response to the love and grace that you have received? Because of the ways you have been blessed, do you desire to partner with God in blessing others?
“O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee”
“What Gift Can We Bring”
“Christ for the World We Sing”
“Open the Eyes of My Heart”
“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”
Newly elected Congressman Evan Baxter reluctantly prays to God to help him follow through on his campaign promise to “change the world.”
When word reaches Col. Shaw and his men that confederate soldiers will shoot on sight any black union soldier or any officer in command of black soldiers, Col. Shaw gives his men the option to retire.
Call to Worship
Come to Christ, that living stone,
rejected by the world, but in God’s sight chosen and precious.
We have responded to Christ’s call,
and seek to be built into a spiritual house,
a living reminder of God’s presence on earth.
Once we were no people, but now we are God’s people.
called out of the darkness into God’s marvelous light.
Therefore we sing with the Church in all ages:
Blessed be your name, O God, our Redeemer.
By your mercy we have been born anew to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
by Ruth Duck
Patient God, you sent your son into our midst to teach us that the things that are valued by the world are not the things on which you would build your Kingdom. We have heard these words time after time, throughout the centuries, and still we follow the world: valuing the bold over the meek, the wealthy over the poor, embracing vengeance over mercy. As we give our gifts this morning, may we affirm for ourselves and to the world what Christ taught us – who is truly blessed in your sight. In Christ’s holy name, we pray. Amen. (Matthew 5:1-12)
by Ken Sloane