Site Overlay

The Verdict: Keep Your Pepsi

Micah 6:1-8

Sermon preached by Rev. Donald Ng at the Installation of Rev. Karen Yee as the Senior Pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship, Castro Valley, April 23, 2023, 2:30 PM, Community Alliance Church, Richmond, CA

Hear ye, hear ye, this court is now in session to hear the case: “The Lord vs. Israel.” Micah 6 is a courtroom to hear the lawsuit from the injured plaintiff God for damages done by the defendant Israel. 

Personally, I am not a fan of Judge Judy or the People’s Court or any of the many TV courtrooms. But I think people watch because we find ourselves identifying with the cast of characters. If you lost something, you might sympathize with the plaintiff. If you accidently caused an injury, you might believe it was not my fault. And for perhaps many of us, we identify with the judge! Here’s when we like to pass down the verdict, to get revenge, get even, see justice and to feel that the universe is back in balance.

Micah 6:8b is Karen’s life theme verse. This verse above all others defines who she is and motivates her to be steadfast in ministry. If there was a protest poster, Karen would have Micah 6:8b on it for everyone to see: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” 

But there’s more to see than this one verse. Micah 6 takes place in a courtroom like today’s service is taking place in this room. We are in many ways witnessing “The Case: The Lord vs. Karen Yee.”

Israel

The lawsuit the Lord has against Israel is that Israel broke the covenant. In verses 1-2, Prophet Micah calls the case to order and directs the mountains, the hills and the foundations of the earth to be the jury. 

In verses 3-5, the injured plaintiff, the Lord tells them about how God saved the people with the exodus from Egypt, survived the wilderness period, how God used Balaam to bless Israel with four oracles rather than to follow the plans of Balak, king of Moab to curse them, and finally how God had Joshua lead them crossing the Jordan from Shittim into the promised land at Gilgal. After all these saving acts of God, Israel did not have a right relationship with God.

After admitting to be guilty of these charges of forgetting what the Lord has done, Israel in verses 6-7, offered to pay for the damages. They said, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?”

Israel offered to pay for damages: burnt offerings with increasing exaggeration. How about some one-year-old calves? How about thousands of rams with ten thousand rivers of oil? And finally in a more symbolic than actual offering to prove a point, how about “my firstborn” child. While there are incidents of cultic offering of lives of human beings, there is no evidence of such practice ever existed because it’s an abomination of God’s love for creation. 

In verse 8, the Prophet Micah speaks again serving as the lawyer. He says, “He (Lord) has told you, O mortal (all human beings), what is good; and what does the Lord require of you.” It’s like saying you have known this all along. Now is the time to remember it again. And by remembering and doing what God has asked of us, God will drop all of the charges in this covenant lawsuit and any damages and injuries done against God will be forgiven and forgotten. 

Read Related Sermon  What is Your Verdict?

“The Golden Text”

Like there’s the “Golden Rule” in the New Testament: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Mt. 7:12a), Karen’s life theme verse, Micah 6:8 is referred to as the “Golden Text” in the Old Testament. 

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Today, we ask Karen, “What does the Lord require of you to be officially installed as Senior Pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship in Castro Valley? The Lord is not asking you to compensate for any injuries that you have done. You are not being asked to sacrifice any calves, rams, rivers of oil or any firstborn. To settle this case with any cultic custom or material things would be too easy. God is requiring you, Karen to do three things.

Walk Humbly

Today we live in a world that teaches us to be the head of the class, to be at the top of the corporate ladder, to be the first in line, to be the first to cross the finish line, to get all As because there’s no Bs in Asian!

To reprioritize Micah 6:8, the first thing the Lord requires of you is “to walk humbly with your God.” When we put ourselves first, we have stopped following God. Sometimes when we get so far ahead of God’s plans for us, we can even get lost and lose our ways. Only when God invites you to walk side by side with God recognizing that God’s plan is before you; is when you truly become a humble and faithful servant.

This last requirement is actually the most important one. Only when one walks humbly with God will one come to learn and understand how to do justice and love kindness.

Do Justice

Secondly, the Lord requires you to do justice. I don’t have to tell you how unjust our world is. We need to focus on the injustices between people in their communities. We need to ensure that the inequitable distribution of goods, benefits and burdens of a community is shared by all. We must look at the social order that benefits the few while leaving most everyone behind. 

God wants us to do justice—to be the voice for oppressed persons, unprotected persons, widows, marginalized persons because of their gender identities, immigrants, refugees, migrants, and foreigners, and to fight for the rights of those who are disabled, minorities, elderly persons, poor persons, and every person treated as less than God’s child. 

When you are walking humbly with the Lord, the Lord will not let you forget to do justice.

Love Kindness

Lastly, loving kindness is like saying something important twice. It’s not just “love” or just “be kind.” It’s emphasizing how loving kindness is what the Lord requires of you. 

The Hebrew word hesed means God’s loving-kindness. Not only do we naturally love those whom we like, but God’s loving kindness is the ethical love of neighbor. It’s “The Golden Rule:” “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.” We are to love others in kindness just as we would like others to love us that same way.

Read Related Sermon  ReKINdling Our Courage

God’s loving kindness means loving your enemies like how the discriminated and persecuted Samaritan stopped on the road to help a Jew who was robbed and beaten. It’s like restorative justice, when some form of reparations for African Americans may begin to resolve historic inequities and damages hopefully leading to new beginnings. It’s like Jesus on the Cross who forgives his crucifiers for they didn’t know what they were doing. 

Love kindness is hard but as a pastor, Karen, you will need to have the faith and courage to love everyone because they all have God’s own image. 

The Courtroom

If this service is God’s courtroom, is Karen the only defendant here or are all of us at fault with God that God is filing a lawsuit against us for breaking the covenant?

Have we forgotten what God has done to save us from ourselves? Do we remember the many times when God blessed us and kept us from morning to night and all the days of our lives? Have we only committed the minimum requirements of just coming to church on Sunday morning and giving only our spare change? And even if we are capable of donating calves, thousands of rams, thousands of rivers of oil, and God forbid our firstborns, would that be enough that God requires of us?

In the end, God only requires that we give ourselves. Along with Karen, God is requiring all of us to “walk humbly with the Lord, do justice and to love kindness.”

The Verdict

Now that the plaintiff God has presented the covenant lawsuit to the court and the defendant has confessed to causing the harm, the verdict is announced.

Karen: Do you remember what God has done for you? You don’t owe God any calves, rams or rivers of oil. You get to keep your Pepsi! You don’t need to stop being loud because you are not a noisy cymbal but proclaiming the Lord. You don’t need to apologize for being open-minded, welcoming and inviting, liberal and inclusive because you are only following Jesus’ commandment to love others as he has loved you. For this, Jesus calls you, his friend. 

As you have given your life to the Lord in your Baptism and committed your life to Christian Ministry in your ordination, today in the presence of these in this courtroom sanctuary, we believe God has and continues to forgive you for any injury you may have done against the Lord. 

For today, you have accepted the verdict to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” The Lord told us that this is good.

The court is adjourned. 

Let us pray.

Gracious God, forgive us for our sins and restore us to be your friends. Watch over your faithful servant, Rev. Karen Yee as she proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ in the world. Continue to lead her to walk humbly with you, do justice and love kindness as you call all of us to do this as well. May your verdict for us is that all is well. In Christ, we pray. Amen. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.