I have been thinking a lot about discipleship these days. It’s not a word that progressive, predominantly white churches are all that comfortable with. Yet, with the lectionary moving from the Magi showing up to pay homage to Jesus to Jesus’ baptism, and to the calling of the first disciples… Discipleship seems a reasonable thing to contemplate. What does it really mean to be a disciple of Christ in the year 2020? This week’s text go a long way toward answering this question.

We start of with what is probably one of the most well-known texts: “God, has told you what is good, O mortal; do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” Nothing else is required. The finest sacrifices don’t matter. The largest donations don’t matter. We cannot purchase God’s heart; it isn’t for sale. Instead of focusing so much on our own lives, why not focus outside of ourselves. Where are we advocating for justice as individuals and as congregations? Where are we responding to our neighbors with loving-kindness? When and how do we walk humbly with God? I wish more people would hear the truth behind this popular verse. We are loved. We are saved. We are valued. Now let’s live in a way that demonstrates, that embodies, this truth for all people, for the whole of Creation. For Micah, discipleship would be what we do with our whole lives, not just with the pieces we offer up to God.

The psalmist emphasizes this point well in answering the question of who lives in God’s house. Who abides with God? The ones who do “what is right,” speak truth, and treat their neighbors with compassion and respect. The psalmist says nothing about those who attend worship regularly, make perfect sacrifices, or sing praises to God (loudly) in public spaces. It’s not about religious rituals performed on schedule; it’s about faithful living all the time, especially when it’s hard.

Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians continues along these lines. When we get caught up in what the world expects and start living that way – seeking wealth and power while ignoring the impact on our neighbors – we end up living very foolishly in God’s eyes. How often do we mistake wisdom for folly? How often to we forget what God requires of us and make it more complex than it needs to be. Imagine a world in which we could live in the wisdom of God’s ways without having to comply with someone’s understanding of “Christian perfection”? What if we left out judgement about who’s in and who’s out and started encouraging each other to be wise in the ways of justice, kindness, and humility?

If we were able to do this, maybe the blessings in the Beatitudes would have more meaning, more depth. It’s hard to know, of course. But what if we started seeing all those folx on the margins, the folx the church has historically kept at a distance, as those who are blessed in the ways Jesus enumerated?

Blessed are those who live with severe and persistent mental illness (and cannot access the care they need), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who have lost loved ones to suicide, gun violence, war, or natural disasters, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the refugees, asylum seekers,and immigrants who survive on the hopes of a better life, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger for justice and stop traffic on our streets with protests, for they will be filled.
Blessed are those who respond to their neighbors with loving-kindness, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are those who actively believe humanity can do better, for they will see God.
Blessed are the ones who risk their safety and well-being to create peace, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed those who are ridiculed and condemned for advocating for those on the margins, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people disrespect, dismiss, and lie about you because of the holy work of reparations, advocacy, and justice-making that you do.

What words do we most need to hear to awaken us to the beauty and simplicity of what God requires of us? We are blessed and we are to be blessings in the broken and forgotten places of the world. How do we let go of the non-essentials of being church and embrace the freedom God lays before us in asking that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God?

What calls to you as you prepare your sermon this week? Please share your thoughts so we can support and pray for one another as we call our congregations to more intentional discipleship.

Photo: CC0 image by qcf-avocat

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is an author and the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. You can find links to her blog, video series, and books at Beachtheology.com.

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9 thoughts on “RCL: Simple (and nearly impossible) Requirements

  1. I am praying, working and hoping for a better world for all of earth’s inhabitants.
    I am praying for my son who lost his wife a few months ago leaving him to raise their 3-year old child. I am praying for my other son and his family as they deal with life’s problems.
    I am praying for my country as we deal with impeachment and the upcoming election and all other issues that seem to divide us.
    Thank you for a wonderful, inspirational post. Lori

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really love your version of the Beatitudes. It seems to me that this week’s lectionary offers an abundance of riches (some weeks, I don’t feel that way at all!). I’m also thinking about that special chamber in Hogwarts, the Room of Requirement, where you can find exactly what you need. What if we reframed Micah’s question to reflect that justice, mercy, and humility are what we need for ourselves, more than what God ‘needs’ from us?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am started out planning to focus on Micah, but as of today have found something compelling about the 1 Corinthians passage, and how, ultimate both the Matthew and Micah passages spell out what living as a fool for Christ will look like/entail. I found this week’s Journey with Jesus reflection to be particularly helpful:

    Prayers for all preachers, that the Spirit moves mightily.
    Prayers for all who grieve and mourn and live with the weight of the challenges of our world, that Christ’s peace may come into the midst of difficulty and challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am being brave or foolish and planning a sermon series on the first three Sundays in February on the lectionary passages from the Sermon on the Mount. Ideal to strive for or impossible goal to remind us just how far we fall short? (The fourth Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday, is known in New Orleans as The Sunday Before Mardi Gras with parades all day and all night long, and we’re doing a very, very abbreviated service that day.)

    Liked by 1 person

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