Narrative Lectionary Reflection for November 9, 2014 (Year 1)
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? Micah 6:8
Once upon a time I was in the habit of asking my confirmation students to choose a verse or short passage of Scripture that could serve as a guide for their discipleship walk. Of course they always asked me to do the same, and Micah 6:8 has been that verse for me. It’s a passage that both keeps on giving and keeps on demanding my attention and focus and time.
In fact, I liken it to something that was quite popular in the 80s and seems to be enjoying something of a resurgence in interest–Amish friendship bread starter. Anyone remember it? If not, you can check it out by clicking here. The thing about friendship bread starter is once you get it going (or better yet, get some as a gift from a friend), you have to keep it up or give it up. You quickly realize that friendship bread involves an investment of time and energy and a willingness to give to others. To keep at it for the long haul you have to be creative because the basic recipe can get old really quickly. You must feed the starter and take its care seriously but not too seriously. Because it is passed on as gift, you most likely have a little bit of kitchen love and lore from many other places. It’s easy to simply trash the bread and get on with life, but it can be rewarding to take on caring for and sharing it. Sound a little like the life of faith?
Of course no analogy is perfect, and some folks would rather watch paint peel than fiddle with a sourdough starter. Of course, the stakes are much higher with Micah’s themes of justice, mercy, and walking with God. But a simple, tangible illustration can often guide us into an exploration of God’s message more effectively than all the highfalutin explanations and instruction we can try to fit on the head of a pin.
Let’s break the verse down by verbs: do, love, and walk. These are three simple one-syllable action verbs, but the actions to which they refer are anything but simple. From these simple “starters” we can find a whole life’s worth of discipleship. Why? Because the objects of the verbs are anything but simple. Justice, kindness (or mercy) and humble/simple walking are a lot tougher to live than to say or write.
Yet these are the very things to which God is calling us. God doesn’t seem to be interested in our buildings, our programs, or our rhetoric. God is clearly calling us to walk wet from baptism into a life that’s fully invested in relationship with Creator and creation (and that includes one another).
If you’re still scratching your head about the friendship bread, consider this: Like the simple ingredients necessary to get a batch of starter going, God gives us some simple ingredients for the life of discipleship. This faith “starter” takes on a life of its own, multiplying, growing, sweetening, and creatively expanding as we share, learn, and walk together. Taste and see that God is good. Show others by your walk, your action, and your love both who you are and whose you are. Go ahead; get started. It doesn’t take much to begin the journey.
What sort of “starter” are you working with? Are you feeding your faith and life of discipleship by actions of mercy and justice? Do you walk daily and simply with God? Are you fully invested in the life of faith, or are you tempted to let your starter die off? How is the faith “fermenting” in your congregation? What recipe for discipleship are you using? Consider the ELCA’s resources for the seven marks of discipleship found here.
What does it mean to walk with God? Is it like following Simon Says or the Pied Piper? Is it a journey hand-in-hand? Is it like playing “follow the leader”? However you understand it, walking with God involves being in relationship. Maybe a good way to illustrate how to walk with God would be to use the “three-legged” walk analogy. Identify two volunteers and using a bandanna or cord, tie one’s left leg to the other’s right leg. The two individuals will have to work together closely to be able to walk smoothly. So it is with us and God–we have to walk with God closely and intentionally. If we try to control the process we’ll end up falling down. Fortunately, with God, we are able to get back up and try again! Thanks be to God. End with a simple prayer.
(Photos: Neil Conway and web4camguy, Creative Commons)