1 Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 2 Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. 3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 5 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
The Bible is the story of the living God. The Bible does not attempt to prove what God is like or give the science on how the earth came into being. It simply tells a story—a long, complex story of God’s love affair with one particular people who become the model of God’s bond with us all. The particular people known as Hebrews or Israelites were given the task of living out that love, not just to those who were like them, but to all God’s people.
In the midst of this amazing story are some well-known summaries about who God is and what God wants from us. One of those is Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.” Peterson’s “The Message” says it like this: “It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love. And don't take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.”
The God whose story is told in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures is the God who defines justice and embodies kindness. To live as God’s people in our world is to be a people shaped by a story. This story begins with a God who, for love and love alone, created the universe; a God who, for love and love alone, keeps calling us back as often as we wander; and a God who, for love and love alone, became one of us, showing us the shape of love by laying down his life for us. This God isn’t just a Sunday God…this God is an every day God.
Ched Myers of Sojourners Magazine says that, "the primary calling of Christian disciples is to encourage each other." The prophet Micah challenged the Hebrews to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. For me there is a deep connection between these two ideals. As a community of faith, St. John is a place that exists to help us live out the ancient call of the prophet as we follow Jesus, and to connect us to one another so we may support one another on this journey we call life.
Today we will gather as a community in our annual meeting—a meeting that can seem like a boring necessity of community life. Let’s see if we can celebrate our “life together” as we prepare to engage in the business of St. John.
First, I want to celebrate all the ways we are a community, all the ways we have made a difference in the lives of each other and our community at large. So get ready to be recognized!
- Let’s start right here—worship is our key time together. Give yourselves a pat on the back for being in worship today.
- If worship has connected you to God or inspired your faith journey in the last year, wave your arms and say, “Amen.”
- For supporting the budget this year, turn to someone you didn’t come to church with and say “thank you.”
- If you invited someone to come to worship this year, please stand up.
- If you brought someone to worship this year, please stand up.
- If you welcomed a newcomer in worship this year, stand up.
- If you were a greeter or put together or gave out a welcome pack or helped with name tags, stand up.
- If you made music with the choir or Praise stand up.
- If you were an usher or an acolyte or shared a story with our young people, stand up.
Okay take a rest for a minute and be seated. Let’s celebrate leadership.
- If you served on the church council or were chair of a committee—stand up.
- If you are on a committee or helped to begin a new committee or ministry, stand up.
- If you are part of the prayer chain, stand up.
- If you prayed for people on the prayer list, stand up.
- If you taught J.A.M. (Jesus and Me) or led the youth group, stand up.
- If you were on Camp staff, went to camp, or gave money so a child could go to camp, stand up.
- If you went to J.A.M. or Bible Study or Sunday Adult Study or Book Club, Craft Club or any of the small groups, stand up.
- If you helped Ginny in the office, helped clean up at some event, came to a work day, cleaned, organized, painted, shoveled snow, or bought supplies to help with clean up please stand up.
Now take a rest and be seated.
- If you gave your money to a mission project or OCWM, wave.
- If you worked on a mission project, like Loaves and Fishes dinners or Back Bay or gifts at Christmas time, wave both arms.
- If you visited someone in the hospital or nursing home or someone visited you or your family while there, say hallelujah.
- If the prayers offered in worship and during the week, helped you get through the week, close your eyes and take a moment to give thanks.
- If your life was enriched by being part of this community called St. John, say “Thanks be to God.”
We’ve had some fun this morning, but the reality is the work of doing justice and loving kindness is ongoing. I am so grateful to have partners like you. In the annual report you will find a snapshot of last year’s partnership. Please take time to read it—I believe you will be inspired and learn more about all that happens because of St. John UCC. Please take the time to stay for the annual meeting today. It is only a brief meeting and we have new people stepping up to leadership and they want and need your support. What will this year bring? We can’t know. But we can continue to build a community so that whatever happens, we know there are people who will be with us. And most especially, God will be with us.
- To be blessed feels like you have someone’s unconditional regard.
- It feels like you are not and will not be alone,
- like you will be accompanied wherever you go.
- Being blessed feels like you have the capacity to rise above present circumstances, like you are more than the sum of your parts or past experiences.
- Being blessed feels like you have worth -- not because of something you did or might do, but simply because of who you are, simply because you deserve it.