The Message, January 29, 2023: "Walk Gently," Micah 6:1-8; Matthew 5:1-12

The Message, January 29, 2023: "Walk Gently," Micah 6:1-8; Matthew 5:1-12

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
January 29, 2023


“Walk Gently”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Micah 6:1-8; Matthew 5:1-12

            Those of you who have read and/or studied the Old Testament … the Hebrew Scriptures … especially the Five Books of Moses would have encountered a lot of laws. Six hundred and thirteen precepts were communicated to Moses. Three hundred and sixty-five of them were negative … ‘Thou shalt not …’ precepts. There were precepts, rules and laws that governed nearly every aspect of the lives of the early Hebrews. There were precepts about worship, obedience, hospitality, marriage, legal matters, Sabbath, health and bodily functions. Everything.

            Of course, it got even more complicated and convoluted because rabbis took those rules, laws and precepts and expounded upon them and interpreted them. It was very difficult for the ancient Hebrew to learn the thousands of pages of rabbinic interpretation, especially since the rabbi’s interpretations varied from village to village, rabbi to rabbi.

            It is not that dissimilar to those of us living today. How many of you have studied and memorized the legal codes and laws for the State of Maine, as well as the ones for every other one of the United States? Did you learn them as children? Did your parents sit down with you placing the law books on the tray of your highchair?

            Of course not. They kept it simple. They know that toddlers do not need to know the driving laws, or building codes, or laws regarding workplace safety.

            What were the rules or precepts that your parents taught you as children?

            [Allow people to share.]

            Do you remember this book authored by Robert Fulghum? All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Here is the list that he shared:

            Share everything.
            Play fair.
            Don’t hit people.
            Put things back where you found them.
            Clean up your own mess.
            Don’t take things that are not yours.
            Say sorry when you hurt somebody.
            Wash your hands before you eat.
            Warm cookies and milk are good for you.
            Live a balanced live – learn some and think some and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
            Take a nap every afternoon.
            When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
            Be aware of wonder.
            And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

            Moses was given six hundred and thirteen precepts that he handed down to the people. The rabbis turned those six hundred rules into thousands. It was too much for the people to remember, never mind pass down to their children.

            Micah simplified things for the people. He reduced those hundreds and thousands down to three. In this apparent “court” case between God and the People of Israel, Micah asked, “What does the Lord require of us?”

            Simple. Three things:
            Do justice.
            Love goodness.
            Walk humbly with God.

            God reminded the people of all of the good that God had done throughout their history. God reminded them of their freedom from slavery. God reminded them of their leaders that had led them through the wilderness into the Promised Land. God reminded them of the blessings showered upon generation after generation. All of nature could testify to God’s goodness and care.

            God was not concerned with lavish sacrifices. God was not concerned with extravagant rituals. What God desired was something simple, something that everyone could do … moral and upright living. God desires good and righteous living.

            God’s interests are simple. God’s intentions were made clear from the very beginning. God desires relationship. God wants us to live in harmony with God, and with one another. God desires community.

            God spoke to the people through Micah and said, “Listen. This is what I desire. Be humble rather than arrogant. Be giving rather than demanding. Serve rather than expecting to be served.”

            Unfortunately, over the generations, God’s beloved children had lost sight of God’s simple intentions for humanity. The absence of justice in ancient Israel was notable and was an offense to God. It was a mockery of their faith. Justice is a paramount virtue. Without justice human beings cannot live together in the manner that God intends. God’s People … then and still today … are called to work for justice and fairness for all people, especially the weak and the powerless.

            Do Justice. Love goodness. Goodness and Kindness, or more correctly “loving-kindness” is one of the principal attributes of God. God acts toward the people with loving-kindness, and God expects that the people will act with loving-kindness as well. Loving-kindness gives where no giving is required. Loving-kindness acts when no action is demanded or deserved. Loving-kindness is freely given without expecting anything in return. Loving-kindness penetrates our actions and our attitudes.

            No single word in the English language can adequately capture the Hebrew word for loving-kindness, “hesed.” It has to do with love, loyalty, and faithfulness. Hesed is the nature of a relationship.

            Do justice. Love Goodness. And walk humbly with your God. The phrase refers to our daily walk with God. Our walk with God is the relationship that lies at the heart of our faith. The walk is not rushed or frenzied. We walk carefully and thoughtfully with God. It means that we are careful to put God first in our lives and that we strive to live in conformity with God’s will. Our life pilgrimage is compared to a walk with God as our constant companion.

            That is God’s vision for the world. That is God’s intention. It is the purest expression of God’s will. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with God as our constant companion.

            Just like the simple teachings from our childhood get replaced with the complications of adulthood, the simple teachings of our faith get lost in the stress and complexity of life.

            Even with God’s simplified vision communicated through the prophet Micah, the people still struggled. The world was still filled with wickedness and evil. The world was still lacking justice and loving-kindness. God said, “I am going to have to go down their myself and show them how it is supposed to be.”

            God’s Word became flesh and lived among them. Jesus Christ … God’s Love Incarnate. Jesus told the people that he had not come to replace the Law, but rather to fulfill it. Jesus had comer to fulfill God’s will and he would help them fulfill God’s will, God’s vision for humanity.

            Jesus gathered the people together and he taught them. He said, “Listen, I know that it is difficult. I know that you struggle. I know that there is pain and ugliness in the world. I want to tell you, ‘You are blessed.’ Yes, that is right. You are blessed. You are already working towards the Kin-dom of God. Thank you.”

            Many people misinterpret The Beatitudes. They believe that Jesus is giving them yet another set of rules or guidelines to live by. However, that was not the case. He was actually saying to them, “You are already doing the things that God asks of you, and because of that you are blessed.”

            “You have seen what the Kin-dom of God is supposed to look like. You know how people are supposed to live and treat one another. God’s Kin-dom is not far off. The promises of God are starting to come true! You can feel it, right? You can tell that something is starting to happen. That is why you are here today.

            “God’s Way is so simple. God’s will for you is not complicated. It is love.

            “When the world is arrogant and demanding, you are humble. You place your faith and trust in God. You love.

            “When the people of the world take advantage of their positions, and take advantage of their neighbors, you are gentle. You love.

            “When the people of the world are unforgiving and cruel, you show mercy. You are willing to see and feel what the other person is going through. You love.

            “When the people of the world seek to accumulate accolades, power and prestige, you act out of the goodness and genuine concern for others. You focus your hearts and your souls upon God and God alone. You love.

            “When the people of the world are hateful and ugly toward one another; when the people of the world ostracize, and stigmatize and demonize; when the people of the world foment hatred and division, you make peace. You work toward harmony that will provide for the welfare of all people. You love.

            “When the people of the world ridicule you, laugh at you, insult you, diminish you because you work toward and within the Kin-dom of God, you remain faithful. You do not surrender. You do not give up. You do not return hatred for hatred. You do not return ugliness for ugliness. You love.”

            That is God’s will for us. That is God’s Way. It is the same that it has been since God called the universe into existence. It is the foundation and basis of every relationship. Love. If the things that we think, or the things that we say, or the things that we do are not from a place of love, then they are not of God.

            Let us continue to walk the gentle way. Yes, it will be rocky and difficult at times, but know that God is our companion on the walk. Let us continue walking in the Way of Love, and know that God will bless us as we walk. Amen.


Congregational Church