What Does the Lord Require of You?
I always have more books on my shelves than time to read them. That is why I have been grateful for the chance to preach these last few weeks. It has given me an excuse to burn the midnight oil exploring the unknown territory of those pages right in the living room.
With the words of the prophet in mind, "What does the Lord require of you...?" I had picked up one of the titles that seemed appropriate: How, Then, Shall We Live? In it, I found a story that brought back memories. It was the story of native peoples in New Mexico gathering for the Green Corn Dance.
At one point in my life I found myself going to Indian pow-wows all over the state. One of those was our own version of the green corn dance. Being there it is obvious why the people come together. The dancers dance to honor those who have gone before; they dance because the people need food, the earth needs rain.
The men drum and sing for the dancers. The children and folk who are too old to dance form a circle outside the dancers. They are not spectators but are there for support. This is their gift to those who dance. Others are on the outskirts or at home, cooking so that everyone may eat.
The beadworkers and clothing makers give what they make so the dancers will honor their work. What is worn by the dancers is blessed by the dance, the giver receives it in return with a blessing from the dance, from the prayer of the people, to the earth. Everyone has some part in the community. It is hard to tell which is the giver, the receiver, the gift. It all flows together.
What is unique about this sort of gathering is the people's certain awareness of the Creator all around and within. Each step, each act, is done with the knowledge that the earth is God's, and so are the people.
"What does the Lord require of you . . .?"
The story of the Hebrews has a similar cast to it. Philip Yancey, in his book, The Bible That Jesus Read, says that ". . . in the pages of the Old Testament we hear the consistent message that this world revolves around God, not us. The Hebrews had constant reminders built into their culture. They dedicated their firstborn livestock and children to God, wore portions of the law on their heads and wrists, posted visible reminders on their doorways . . . A devout Jew could barely make it through an hour, much less an entire day, without running smack into some reminder that he or she lived in God's world."
That is what Jesus reminds us of as he taught the people with the Beatitudes. On a simple hillside Jesus put our lives into context with the scope and community of God's love and justice. The Beatitudes speak of our relationship with God. Perhaps in the back of his mind were the words from Micah: "What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?"
We, as a community of faith, will be facing quite a bit over the next few months. We will be welcoming and getting to know our interim pastor, Joe Neville in a couple of weeks. The Search Committee for a senior pastor will be forming soon. Their first task, which involves our input, will be to create a church profile - a sort of prospectus - of who we are, what we are about, and where we see ourselves growing into the future.
This evening we will kick off a creative and comprehensive Stewardship campaign. The actors, writers, cooks, organizers - everyone! - has been working behind the scenes for weeks to bring us what will be a wonderful "red carpet" event.
We may not wear constant reminders like the Jews that this is God's world. In all that we do, when we come together, we have each other as a reminder of whose we are. You need only to stop by the church, day or night, to find someone here working or praying, or singing or playing witness the giving and receiving that goes on around here. There are those who stay at home or on the sidelines who cook, bake, create, write, make phone calls.
There are those who do dancing - all those volunteer hours spent in meetings, practices, repairs, you name it. Like the Indians gathered for the green corn dance, we are all connected and it is hard to tell which is the giver, the receiver, the gift.
As we move into the next few months, when we are asked to consider our pledge, when we are asked to consider serving in some way, when we are asked for our thoughts and input, I hope the words will echo in your mind as they have in mine: "What does the Lord require of you . . . ?
Muller, Wayne. How, Then, Shall We Live? Four simple questions that reveal the beauty and meaning of our lives. Bantam, 1996. p. 261
Yancey, Philip. The Bible Jesus Read. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1999. p. 28