January 29, 2017
The Rev. Adele I. Langworthy, preaching
If you were a dog and wanted to officially love on people, you could be a therapy dog. But you would need to meet some stiff requirements:
Be at least one year of age
- Be good around other dogs
- Listen to your handler
- Allow strangers to touch you without jumping
- Not mind strange noises and smells
- Be calm for petting
- Not be afraid of people walking unsteadily
- Be current on vaccines and routine tests
- Be clean and well groomed.
If you wanted to be an astronaut pilot, you would need to meet these requirements to even be considered:
- Have a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics from an accredited institution
- Log in at least 1,000 hours in pilot-in-command time in a jet aircraft
Have flight test experience
- Pass a NASA space physical which includes having 20/100 or better uncorrected eye sight, correctable to 20/20 in each eye; blood pressure of 140/90 in a sitting position; and be between 5’2” and 6’3” tall.
Meeting requirements are part of life if we want to make something of our life and be responsible with the life God has given us.
In our scripture passage today, we learn the requirements for how God would like us to come to him and how he would like us to act. The prophet Micah highlights three requirements:
- To do justice
- To love kindness
- To walk humbly with God, himself.
Each of these requirements involve action. To meet them we must be involved in an active way. We can not sit on the sideline while others work around us. We can not check something off the list like a potential astronaut can by saying, “ I meet the height requirement.” We must be connected into life with our heart and soul — doing, loving, and walking. They are intertwined.
Doing justice is to let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream, as the prophet Amos writes in Amos 5:25. Doing justice God’s way means to be filled with loving kindness—not getting so caught up in bringing about justice that the lives needing the justice are forgotten. God isn’t calling us to get caught up in causes for “causes” sake, but for the sake of lives being touched by the cause. And if our involvement becomes about ourselves then we are missing the mark. God calls us to walk humbly with our God, as we love and do justice.
What does God want from each of us? Biblical scholar, James Limburg writes, “a step-by-step living with him [God] and living for others, acting as advocate for the powerless and showing care for those who are hurting and who need help.”
This is doable for each of us, in our own unique way — whether it is standing up for someone who is being bullied, working to change legislation and common practices, helping a neighbor, looking at each person you meet as a valued life, or singing a new song. God wants us to be connected at the heart with each other and with him.
It was an episode of Law & Order that confronted Christian recording artist Natalie Grant with the horrors of child slavery in South Asia. When she turned off the television set, she knew she was being called to do something for the 6 million children who are sold and abused worldwide. Later that evening she discovered two faith-based organizations that rescue these children : Shared Hope and International Justice Mission. In an article for Today’s Christian, Grant tells the story of how this one startling night led to a trip overseas that forever changed her outlook on life and ministry:
“Within a matter of months, my husband, Bernie, and I traveled to Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, with Shared Hope … There we were able to see, firsthand, the tragedy of child slavery and what is being done to stop it.
I will never forget what I saw there. I don’t want to forget.
There I was in broad daylight, walking down the street in Mumbai, when I spotted a precious little girl looking down on us from an upper-story window. She couldn’t have been more than seven. Her piercing, dark eyes stared out at me. Her hand was reaching out from between the bars of a cage, not unlike something people here in the States would keep animals in. My eyes locked on hers, for just a few seconds, and I knew that…there in that cage, that was her life. I knew that every day people walked by on the street below, and they didn’t even notice her.
There was an Indian man named Deveraj who runs a rescue ministry walking with us. He said, “That’s where they hold the new girls. They only let them out to work.” It was all I could do not to throw up. I started sobbing, there in the street.
From there, we were able to travel out from the city to a place they call the Village of Hope. When they are able to rescue girls from the brothels in the cities, they take them to this wonderful place—the first real home many of them have ever had. And they feed them, clothe them, give them an education, and teach them about God.
It was amazing to see these little girls, these pre-teen and teenage girls who had experienced the most unimaginable tragedies and abuses in their young lives, safe and happy. Completely restored. Living, breathing pictures of the peace of God…
The week before we left for India, I ruptured my left vocal chord and was told I couldn’t speak a word for 30 days. At first, I didn’t think I would be able to make the trip. But in my heart, I knew God still wanted me to go. I had no idea my doctor-imposed silence would be a blessing in disguise. So often I speak before I think and verbalize without fully processing everything. Now I wasn’t able to speak a word, and as a result I think I felt deeper and was able to truly listen and understand those I met in a much deeper way.
At the Village of Hope, I met these two little girls, both 5 years of age. One had already been worked hard for a year and the other had AIDS. Both were now safe and happy, living with newfound hope. Those sweet girls wanted to pray for me, for my sore throat. And did they ever. I had never been prayed for like that before in my life. In their heartfelt prayers, I felt a faith and spiritual wisdom that was far beyond their age. It was a moment that will stay with me forever…
When Bernie and I returned home, I reflected on what I’d seen and experienced in India. I knew I couldn’t go back to the status quo. I had never felt more alive, more determined to do something that mattered.
I’d always believed that God had given me a voice to sing and that he had created the opportunities I’d been given to make a career and a living doing what I love. But God used India and those little girls to show me that my work as an artist should be so much bigger than it is. I’m not just here to sing. I’m here to give my life away, to share the knowledge I’ve been given, to tell others about my experience in India, and to do what I can to support the mission efforts there. I want my music to be more than pleasant songs.
I want to inspire people to be instruments of God’s peace and justice in the world. Because when we are open and willing to be used in the lives of others, God can light up even the darkest of places.”
- Doing justice for Natalie meant learning about child slavery first-hand and raising the world’s awareness of this injustice
- Loving kindness for Natalie meant connecting heart-to-heart —breaking down in tears when she became aware of the cruelty done to the little children in Mumbai and celebrating with the girls whose lives had been restored
- Walking humbly with God for Natalie meant allowing 5 year old girls to pray for her passionately and with spiritual wisdom beyond their years
How are you and might you even more do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God?