We will be having a Sunday dinner on Feb. 16th with the meal being prepared and served by all of the men of the church. The women will provide the desserts. Be ready for a Valentine treat!
Next Sunday, there will be meeting of the trustees just after the service. The plans for the new ramp will be discussed and approved.
Pastor Cliff’s message was titled “What does God require of you?” He based the message on the Gospel scripture from Matthew 5:1-12 and the Old Testament reading from Micah 6:1-8.
The following words are from Pastor Cliff.
Several hundred years before Jesus came, God spoke through the prophet Micah. The Temple was crowded. Church attendance was up. Giving was over budget for the first time in many years. God’s People, Israel at the time, had become a bit arrogant and somewhat uncaring. Maybe there was a sense of entitlement or even some hypocrisy. When God’s people get off track, God often speaks through a prophet.
The passage from Micah is a “covenant lawsuit”. God was speaking through Micah to get their attention. Can you imagine being taken to court by God? You know how court works. First a summons to court. There will be witnesses called. The benefits that God (the plaintiff) has conferred onto the defendant (Israel) will be pointed out. And then a judgment is handed down. Do you think they will receive “justice”? Will God give them what they deserve?
The summons comes first. Listen to what the LORD is saying: “Stand up and state your case against me. Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints. And now, O mountains, listen to the LORD’s complaint! He has a case against his people. He will bring charges against Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Testify against me! (Micah 6:1-3)
Next, the trial begins when God testifies to what God has done for the defendant, Israel: “For I brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help you. Don’t you remember, my people, how King Balak of Moab tried to have you cursed and how Balaam son of Beor blessed you instead? And remember your journey from Acacia Grove (the last place before God parted the Jordan River so the people of God could enter the Promised Land) to Gilgal (the first place they stopped and camped once they entered the Promised Land), when I, the LORD, did everything I could to teach you about my faithfulness.”
In the next verse, the defendant (Israel) will ask God: “What do you want from us? The offering plates are full; we have given more than the budget required; what do you want?” Hear how they ask God this question: “What can we bring to the LORD? What kind of offerings should we give him? Should we bow before God with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?” They seem a little offended that God has charged them.
It is NOT what we bring to the Lord. And it is NOT the kind of offering that matters. And it is NOT thousands of rams. And it is NOT ten thousand rivers of olive oil. And it is NOT our firstborn children. IT IS a heart issue with the Lord.
Do you know what God wants? “He has told you, O mortal, 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?” (Verse 8) Justice, kindness, and walking humbly are not about our “personal” spiritual practices. Commitment, growing in wisdom, suffering, prayer, and reconciliation are not about our “personal” baptism covenants. God, you see, wants our hearts.
God wants us to choose to love God, the way that God loves us. No matter what. No matter how many times when we break God’s heart. And when someone whom we have helped and helped and helped, turns their back on us, AGAIN, God wants us to move beyond our own “personal” issues, and love them the way God loves us. And is that humanly possible? That is only possible when we live in covenant with God.
Because when we take stock of all the times we have failed God, and remember that God has NEVER given up on us, well, that changes my heart. So, in the trial, God’s people have gotten arrogant, and forgotten about the poor, and forgotten about how God had rescued them, time and again.
They are expecting God to hand down a sentence of justice. When they are expecting to get what they deserve, instead, God tells them, saying: “What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” God yearns and waits for all God’s people to live this way, in covenant. Covenant that says, I will love you no matter what. Unconditionally. Forever.
Why does God love like this: So that the purpose of the Ten Commandments, all the law and all the prophets can be accomplished. So that the Kingdom of God on earth will be as it is in heaven. This is our prayer.