Questions and Reflections

Category: Micah

Upper Pascack Valley Clergy Event: Prayer Rally for Love & Solidarity

Pastor Marc joined clergy from throughout the Upper Pascack Valley for a Prayer Rally for Love and Solidarity. More than 100 people from at least 8 congregations (Christian and Jewish) attended the event at Veteran's Park in Park Ridge. Pastor Marc offered a reading and a reflection during the event.

A Reading from Micah 6:6-8.

With what should I approach the Lord

       and bow down before God on high?

Should I come before [God] with entirely burned offerings,

       with year-old calves?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

       with many torrents of oil?

Should I give my oldest child for my crime;

       the fruit of my body for the sin of my spirit?

[God] has told you, human one, what is good and

       what the Lord requires from you:         

to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.

Was anyone else outside this afternoon watching the solar eclipse? Did anyone else forget to put on sunscreen before they climbed on the roof of their church to watch the moon move in front of the sun? I know I’m going to be a tad sunburnt tomorrow but I'm glad I was able to participate in a celestial event where people from all over this nation posted jokes and memes about it online, ate moonpies and other lunaresque treats, and we all looked a tad dorky wearing those paper sun filters over our eyes. And even though the glasses made us look silly, we needed them. Without them, the UV rays and light from the sun would literally burn our eyes. In the days leading up to today’s event, news articles and tweets and Facebook posts said the same thing over and over again. Don't look directly at the sun. Don't take a #selfie with the eclipse in the background because that won't stop the UV rays from reflecting off your phone and harming your eyes. We needed to get the right kind of NASA recommend polarized shades. And if any of this is news to you right now, just keep the information in your back pocket as preparation for the next eclipse in our neighborhood in 2024. These warnings about observing the eclipse shows us how intense the sun actually is. We needed to do a lot to prepare ourselves to engage and observe and witness such an event. Solar eclipses happen without any input or help from us. They are a product of the dance the moon and earth and sun do together. We witnessed today something that is part of our world and our universe right now. We know eclipses happen - but we have the choice in how to engage with them.

This evening, as we gather together as neighbors and friends, as we unite to say yes to peace and love and unity - and as we say no to hate, anti-semitism, racism, homophobia, nazism - and to anything and anyone that tries to split us apart, I am personally grateful for each and everyone of you. I am grateful for the intensity, the power, and the love and hope each of you brings here tonight. I am grateful for the shared witness my colleagues and friends from the Upper Pascack Valley Clergy Group show by being here in body, mind, and prayer. And I'm eternally grateful for the same Spirit that compels each of us to be here right now. This Spirit, I believe, is embedded in God’s good creation. It’s a Spirit that’s moved over the waters, breathed life into our souls, and is even now, moving among us. It’s the same Spirit that moved the prophet Micah to speak out against those who oppressed the people and it’s same Spirit, I believe, that brought us here together tonight. This Spirit wants us here so that we can speak, with one voice, loudly proclaiming that  the rallies, movements, and groups supporting Nazism, Confederate ideology, white supremacy and terror are not who we are and this isn’t who God wants us to be. The evil lurking in the hearts of those who use cars, trucks, and vehicles to cause death, violence, and destruction is not something God endorses, supports, or believes. Those who drive into crowds, march through college campuses with lit torches, and who shout words that deny the very human diversity that God intended are not living in God’s Spirit. They are trying to make fear and violence the cornerstone of our human community and they hope we will just accept it, as if this kind of evil is part of the universe that we choose not to engage with.

Yet the Spirit that lived in Micah is a Spirit that refuses to let fear win. It’s a Spirit that compels us to engage with this evil forcefully, honestly, and with an intensity that cannot be blocked. As a Lutheran, I am mindful of how communities bearing the Lutheran name worked against the Spirit of God and were part of some of the worst violence in living memory. As an American, I am mindful of the different ways own communities push our neighbors to the margins. I am mindful of the ways Christians throughout history have twisted the true and expansive vision God has for our human community. Yet I also know this Spirit that lived in Micah refuses to give up on us. I know that this Spirit, when she recorded the words “love your neighbors as yourselves, ” truly meant it. I know that this Spirit is active right now, empowering us to uncover the ways we fail to match the unlimited love God has for each of us. And I know that this Spirit helps us do more than just gather together. The Spirit inspires us, strengthens us, and compels us to know what justice is and to seek it; to know what love looks like and to go do it; and to walk faithfully and humbly with the God who will never stop showing us what God’s vision of the world truly looks like. May our love for our neighbors burn with an intensity matched only by the sun. And may the moments we share this evening, moments reflected in anti-hate rallies in Charlottesville, Boston, New Orleans and in vigils and rallies locally and nationwide, reflect that Spirit of hope, love, and unity that God wants everyone to share.

Amen.



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A reflection on Micah, the town of Bethlehem and why a savior comes from there.

Our first reading is Micah 5:1-5

This text from Micah 5 is one of the texts we point to as a prophecy for Jesus Christ. Ever since the early church told stories about Jesus, Micah 5 has mattered. The magi, when they come from the East (see Matthew 2), use this text in their conversation with King Herod. The text talks about a child born in Bethlehem who will become king and who give everyone peace. That's our Jesus.

But the text does more than just name the location where this king will be born. The text is pointing to how "God delights in upsetting human expectations," in the words of Anne Stewart from Princeton Seminary. The prophet Micah lived during a time of extreme change in the land of Judah and Israel. The Assyrian Empire expanded into the land, destroying the kingdom of Israel (Samaria) in 722 BCE/BC and marching to the gates of Jerusalem in 701 BCE/BC. In preparation for the invasion, the king of Judah (Jerusalem) built huge defenses in many different towns. The king of Assyria marched in and destroyed them all. One of the towns that was fortified, and destroyed, was Bethlehem.

Micah's words are more than just foretelling a location of the birth of the Savior. Micah's words tell that God will save the world from a defenseless and destroyed town. God doesn't rely on our walls and defenses to save the world. God, through the unexpected, will bless the nations. As Christmas Eve breaks upon us, let's remember that these familiar Christmas stories describe God acting in unexpected ways. God's promises are certain but God acts in ways we wouldn't and shows up in a manger. 



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