4 Epiphany, Year A: What the Lord Requires

SUNDAY’S READINGS | January 29, 2023

Micah 6:1-8
Ps. 15
1 Cor. 1:18-31
Matt. 5:1-12

The Old Testament prophets tell us again and again that social and economic injustice is an affront to human dignity and a denial of the sovereign claim God makes upon our lives. Listen to the prophet Micah speaking for God: “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam” (6:3-4). God’s people may, to their detriment, forget the mighty works of God in ages past and so come to believe that God is no longer living and true, no longer the one who “governs all things both in heaven and on earth” (collect).

Seemingly untethered from the source of all being and the transcendent ground of moral purpose, human beings easily fall into the most depraved behavior, subjecting one another to vile abuse. The prophet Micah could see the poor exploited everywhere he turned. Speaking out, he gave the world one of its great religious lines: “[W]hat does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:8). In these words of the prophet, we have our social and moral obligation to one another laid bare.

Although this work will never be completed in this life, God requires that we make an effort. God asks us to cooperate with everyone of goodwill to conform this earthly kingdom to the unimpeded will of God in the kingdom of heaven. We can and should do this work, however we may, in the sphere of our influence. Of course, it will not always be clear what justice and kindness and humility require, but often enough, it is perfectly clear. Assessing one’s moral duty demands an unflinching honesty. We might ask, “What does this moment ask of me?”

Psalm 15 reads like a meditation on the prophet Micah. Justice, kindness, and humility look like this: “Lord, who may dwell in our tabernacle? Who may abide upon your holy hill? Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right, who speaks the truth from his heart. There is no guile upon his tongue; he does no evil to his friend; he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor. In his sight the wicked is rejected, but he honors those who fear the LORD. He has sworn to do no wrong and does not take back his word. He does not give his money in hope of gain, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will not be overthrown” (Ps. 15).

We have perhaps said too often in church that faith, and not works, is the means by which we receive the gift of salvation. The truth is, faith without works is dead, and we know this quite well. We are summoned to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. Do we not ask God to help us “do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in” (BCP, p. 339)?

There is work to do, good work, and noble work. What can you do to make the small corner of your life more just and more kind? Be honest. Humble yourself, and walk before your God, knowing that you will stand before the great judgment seat of Christ.

Look It Up: Matthew 5:6-7

Think About It: Hunger and thirst for justice. Be merciful. Humble yourself in the presence of the One who is.

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