November 12, 2017
This past Friday night our family went to opening night of Peter Pan at West Ottawa High School…which is wonderful by the way! It was so cool to see so many Fellowship kids in the production…and people from Fellowship there to cheer them on!
It was wonderful watching our talented students in action…but a close second was watching the looks of pride and love on parent’s faces.
I’ve done a small study over my past decade of being a parent into the strange behavior that can often arise at our children’s performances.
This particular brand of peculiar behavior is groomed over many years…starting with preschool Christmas programs…we vie for the best spots…the crane our necks…we video the whole thing from 45 rows back…my favorite is that we wave “HI!”…look! I see her! I see him!…when the funny thing is, we probably drove them to the event…and see them all the time!
These events…the big games, the performances, graduations, recitals…these are the mountaintop experiences in our lives.
Our lives are marked by these sacred events…as I look back over the photo yearbooks I’ve put together for our family…they are mostly the mountaintops… the vacations, the weddings, the births and birthdays…these are things that make up our stored memory, the things that we dream about for the future.
But there’s also this space in the middle… the mundane…the everyday…the regular. And the mundane vastly outnumbers the mountaintops.
Time marches us through both…at the same pace no matter if we are in our darkest valley or highest mountain.
On our first trip to Paris…a trip I had planned and anticipated for years…Kyle and I sat at an outdoor cafe…I surveyed the bustling Parisian life around me, the wonderful food and appropriate beverage in front of me, the man that I love beside me…and I remember so clearly saying, “I just want to push pause on my life right now.”
We’ve all had those push pause moments…
But of course we know that does not happen…that cafe in Paris was 11 years ago…life moves on through the sacred and the mundane.
In many ways, scripture is the same way. There are mountains and valleys in scripture.
The mountains are the “In the beginning…be still and know…for I know the plans…God so loved the world…Love is patient, love is kind…for the healing of the nations.”
They are the passages that are calligraphied on our walls…attached to our email signatures…adopted as life verses.
Then there are the valleys…the more obscure passages…
The ones about the number of rams to be sacrificed, and genealogies of names we only guess at pronouncing…the kids who call Elijah ‘baldy’ and then are mauled by bears…I’ll let you look that one up later…
These are the ones that do not normally make the Sunday morning round-up or Sunday school lesson…
They are not held up at baseball games…or have churches or non-profits named after them.
And to be fair…most of the Bible is made up of these more obscure verses. We don’t spend a whole lot of time in the book of Naham or Zephania…
But the combination of the two…the mountain and valley passages…come together to make God’s Word…and it is a beautiful combination.
If the Bible were simply one John 3:16 after another…it would dilute its message. Besides…it would never fit on a piece of poster board.
Scripture is a combination of both…and I believe the one highlights the other.
The passage from Micah for this morning in itself is a combination of both the sacred and the mundane.
But it is the mundane verses of this passage that lead us up the mountain to verse 8…arguably one of the most familiar verses in the Bible.
——A verse so important to me that I would call it my life verse…a verse so important to us that our firstborn son bears the name Micah.
But it is the lead up verses that make the mountaintop verse that much more meaningful…
Micah is prophesying in a time where there is no shortage of religious types…In fact, he describes widespread ‘religiosity’…backed by lots of pomp and circumstance. Especially from those shady religious leaders…never trust them.
It was religion-as-usual, but certainly not religion-as-God intended. As so in the opening verses, God lodges a legal case against Israel and asks creation to stand in as the jury.
God states his case: that the people of Israel have failed to be faithful while time after time, God has remained faithful. He reviews the history…much of which we’ve considered this fall: he delivered them from slavery, he gave them leaders such as Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, the list goes on and on.
No matter what…through the sacred and the mundane…God has been faithful.
So the people answer back with a question, “with what shall I come before the Lord? They essentially throw up their hands and say “Guilty as charged! How can we make reparations?”
Sadly, they go on to make a few suggestions…sacrifices, offerings…and we’re right back to where we started…
Its like the only thing they knew to do was go through empty, monotonous motions…and hope those were good enough to appease God.
Micah isn’t buying it…they’re not going to be able to sacrifice their way out of this mess this time…
And so he lays out what God truly wants…and says, “God has told you want he wants…
- Do justice.
- Love kindness.
- and walk humbly with your God. That’s it. That’s what God desires.
Except we know, that’s a lot. Its easy to read and difficult to do. Simple to understand and complicated to enact.
In and of itself, verse 8 is a combination of sacred and mundane.
It begins with the mundane…consider the verbs… Do. Love. Walk.
These are everyday verbs…every single one of us do these things every day… as did people in the time of Micah. Do…love…walk….
I’ve referenced my favorite preacher Anna Carter Florence before…she reminds us that we share the verbs of scripture…the nouns are often different…but the verbs are the same.
Abraham, Ruth, Elijah, Micah…they did, they loved, they walked. God is not asking the people of Israel or us to fly…
He is asking us to do, to love, to walk. Simple shared verbs…
But of course, being action verbs and all…God is also not asking us to SIT.
These verbs are meant to go somewhere…to do something. And that something…that makes all they difference…
We can take these mundane verbs and point them at ourselves…or we can point them at sacred.
Our natural tendency is to point these verbs in our direction…and when I fall prey to this, I find that way too much of what I do is wrapped up in me.
Think about all the time and energy that we spend wrapped up in us…all our self- directed action verbs are in a perpetual cul-de-sac.
Worrying, doubting, grooming, stressing…these are verbs that can so easily drive us further and further into ourselves…
But God shows us another way…he spells out a sacred direction…towards justice, kindness, and humility. Away from ourselves and towards God and neighbor.
These are the words that take the ordinary up the mountain, and put the sacred into the mundane.
We aren’t just to do what we want…we are to do justice.
We aren’t just to love what we want…we are love kindness.
We aren’t just to walk however we want…we are to walk with humility.
Mundane and sacred.
Away from ourselves and towards God…and others.
In the religious tradition that nurtured me, one of the early phrases was “For God’s glory and neighbor’s good.”
This is our call.
Each and every day.
From the mountain to the valley…and everywhere in between.
Our quest for the mountaintop experience is understandable.
And once we’re there…we may wish for the pause button…to stay firmly planted on the mountain.
Coming down the mountain can be tough…the mundane brings with it routine, and drudgery, and anxiety.
But the two do not have to be mutually exclusive…and the question becomes… And so how do we infuse the mundane with the sacred?
I would argue its not about grand strokes that require months of vacation planning…
I’m talking about the simple things:
- how we talk to our children even when we’re exhausted.
- how we treat our loved ones even when we’re angry.
- how we show up to our colleagues even when feel passed over.
- how we pour out small acts of kindness in a world that needs it.
Its taking the mundane…our everyday life…and infusing it with the sacred. One verb at a time.
Smiling…giving…embracing…serving…these are everyday mundane verbs that echo…do…love…walk…and that’s our call.Centuries after the prophet Micah, someone else would echo him…
Jesus loved playing in the realm of both the sacred and mundane…he would take simple things…a loaf of bread, a fish, a seed…and do extraordinary things with them.
Because for Jesus, it really wasn’t one or the other. The two wove themselves together…
He saw the image of God in every face he encountered. He called out the ridiculous Temple practices that religious leaders had mandated.
In other words, he took what we like to call mundane and made it sacred and took the “sacred” and made it mundane.
He showed us how to point our verbs… -always towards justice, kindness, and humility.
I loved seeing the students from Fellowship act their hearts out, be stagehands with fancy headsets and everything, and play the music that kept the show moving along…
But I love even more that my kids knew the students by name…because they are Sunday school teachers, and babysitters, and members of our community.
The sacred is great…its hard to beat the mountaintop…but sometimes the mundane is even better.
After all, the mundane is our primary zip code…its where we live almost each and every day.
And so the question is HOW? How will we do, love, and walk?
What is God putting on your heart?
My prayer is that God would take us out of our self-driven cul-de-sacs, and into a journey of justice, kindness, and humility…