Homily Alissa Kretzmann Feb. 4, 2011 Scripture- Micah 6:1-8 I love the story that the author tells in the beginning of this month’s chapter, Doing Justice, in the On Our Way book. The story is about a misunderstanding between an American student and a student from Namibia, which is located just above South Africa. While at a buffet the American student casually says, “I guess my eyes were bigger than my stomach.” This confuses the Namibian and so the American student asks, “Don’t you have a word that means taking more than you can eat?” and the Namibian responds, “Yes, we call it stealing.” I can identify with the American student in this anecdote in more than one way. First of all, I tend to frequently take more food than I am able to eat. And further more I had the privilege to experience miscommunications similar to this last fall during my semester abroad in Namibia. In our cultural sensitivity training, we had been told that it is indeed rude and disrespectful to not finish food given to you by Namibians. And so when I left for my homestays, I kept this is mind, trying my hardest to finish what I could. But almost always, I would find myself bloated and uncomfortable with food remaining on my plate. At some point I picked up on the fact that not everyone had been served as much as me and so I tried to find creative ways to offer my leftovers to my host mother or siblings. To my surprise my offering of leftovers did not offend or disgrace my family at all. In fact, since I had frequently been served the best and finest cuts of meat, they would accept my offer immediately. I was amazed at how they would finish off food, tearing the ligaments and cartilage from bones, leaving nothing edible on their plates. Needless to say, after this realization, mealtimes were a much more pleasant experience. ---------------------------------In this way and many others, last semester, I frequently found myself saying “I didn’t ask for this.” I became acutely aware of my Privilege, wealth and coveted status as an “American” But unlike the student in the author’s anecdote, I didn’t serve myself these “portions.” That was the portion I received. I didn’t ask for that much food. It wasn’t my fault that I had more than anyone else. Sound familiar? Isn’t that what we are told when we find ourselves with blessings, resources and riches bestowed upon us? Sometimes we start to even get frustrated…saying things like, “Well I didn’t ask to be privileged, I can’t help it, in fact I don’t even want it.” But I think this is where we get ourselves in trouble. We start out saying, “I didn’t ask to be privileged” and we quickly find ourselves saying… -I didn’t make you poor -I didn’t take away your land -I didn’t kill any Jews -I didn’t own any slaves We transfer the blame, forgetting that regardless of if we dished out our portion or not, others have less when we have more. And somewhere deep down inside, I think we feel a bit guilty. Because, for most of us, we are a little bit aware that when we have more, others have less. And so we ask God what we can do, and like the people in today’s passage from Micah, we attempt to offer sacrifices to God For those people the sacrifices were burnt offerings, year-old calves and sheep. What is it for us? --------------------------Regardless, today’s passage reminds us that God does not require these things, but rather requires that we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our Lord. When we hear the word justice, we cringe though, and get defensive, claiming no responsibility for the welfare of others. We assume that justice can only take place in the courtroom, and that is not a place many of us want to willingly go. But this understanding (or rather, misunderstanding) of justice reminds me of what the Jews expected the awaited Messiah to bring. The author of our text reminds us that they, “longed for a messiah who would establish a reign of justice. They had in mind a godlike warrior on a thundering steed who would break the chains of their oppression with a sweep of the sword. What they got was a poor, naked, vulnerable baby, born on straw in a drafty stable to an unwed, impoverished young woman” Instead of bringing about justice on the battle-field or the court room, Christ surprised his people. Instead of punishing the Roman oppressors he offered blessings to the poor, the hungry and the mourning. In fact, these blessings almost seem naïve… in Luke, 12:29-30 Jesus says, “Don’t always think about what you will eat or what you will drink, and don’t keep worrying. All the people in the world are trying to get these things, and your Father knows you need them.” We find ourselves asking… “Come on Jesus, can’t you see the suffering? If you know we are in need, Aren’t you going to do something about this? And so we could write this off as Jesus just trying to offer superficial comfort in the midst of clearly tough times. But I think that Jesus meant what he said. Because Jesus wasn’t talking to one person. He wasn’t consoling an individual, letting them know that there would be enough, for clearly, there were individuals who did not have enough No, Jesus was talking to a crowd. He was urging a community not to worry. He was telling them, all of them, that there would be enough for everyone. It is in nations like Namibia, the country with the highest level of inequality in the entire world, that I think Christ tells us these same things. It is in places where the extreme wealthy and the extreme poor live beside one another that Christ asks us… “Come on…don’t you see the suffering?” Because when Jesus came, he did not come on a thundering steed bringing justice with a sword. And so, like the people of his own day, sometimes we are surprised at Jesus’s approach to justice. Because, we know that God is big enough that he could do this without us but he chooses not to, he sent his son to come and dwell among us to hand deliver the invitation, to invite us to do justice with him. Jesus gathered people from the battle field and the court room and personally invited them to the table. Where he told them, all of them, to take and eat of bread and body, of wine and blood. And then, he leaves…just as unexpectedly as he came. And they were confused…wasn’t Christ supposed to do justice here?” And then 3 days later, Christ rose from the ashes, and in his resurrection he offers grace, that we didn’t expect. A grace we didn’t deserve. Kind of like my moments around the table in Northern Namibia, we are offered grace that we didn’t ask for, a grace we have trouble receiving and a grace that we are hesitant to share. And that’s the defining moment. Christ did not come to earth to establish justice, he came to offer grace. A grace that personally invites us to be seated at a table where we don’t belong. A grace that urges us to take and eat of bread and body that we don’t deserve. And a grace which invites us to offer that same bread and body to others who are just as un-deserving as we are. And so, humbly, we accept the call to do justice, not with a sword or a gavel, but with both hands, beckoning others to the table of the Lord. In the name of the Father, The son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.