January 29, 2023
SERMON: ‘THAT Kind of Silence’ Rev. Jane Courtright
It is NOT the kind of silence that sweeps across
a congregation or any community gathered for worship –
when they feel in their gut…they just KNOW
that somehow they have been touched
and bound together by the SPIRIT OF GOD.
It’s NOT the kind of hush that falls across a group of campers
when they’re standing high on the hill during evening vespers..
looking at the sky blazing with pinks and oranges,
as they watch the sun drop beneath the trees.
And it’s NOT the kind of silence
that we experience after a snowfall,
when there are inches of snow outside,
and the world is (if only for a few hours) profoundly quiet.
THESE kinds of silence are born from knowing
BEAUTY & GOD’S SPIRIT & GOODNESS
& TRUTH & PEACE.
The kind of silence we experience when we read Micah 6 Is NOT that kind of silence.
It’s the kind of silence we feel in a courtroom,
a silence born from the world having gone wrong.
It’s the kind of silence that comes from a world that knows
PAIN & SADNESS, ANGER & DESPAIR, GUILT & CONFUSION.
It’s the kind of silence I feel when I hear of another mass shooting!
Or when I read that children, widows, anyone, is short on food.
Or when I think of children’s education compromised.
Or when I’m informed that another bomb has killed & injured dozens.
It’s the kind of silence I may feel soon in a courtroom, since I received a jury summons last week!
If you’ve had the experience of being present in a courtroom,
You may have felt this kind of silence.
If not, imagine the scene:
As the black robed judge enters the courtroom,
all present are commanded to stand.
The judge takes her place on the bench and all present are seated.
Except for the defendant, who rises, I’m sure as if the whole world is looking at him or her…
the eyes of the whole world are piercing her or his back.
He or she is called into accountability for something allegedly done.
For now, the defendant stands there ALONE. IN SILENCE.
In Micah, it is the entire community of Israel
who is standing there in the SILENT courtroom.
Today, it is each one of us, the congregation of this church,
the community of Rock Island and beyond, our nation
standing there in the SILENT courtroom.
GOD BRINGS THE ACCUSATION. IT IS GOD WHO HAS BEEN HURT,
so a rush of PASSIONATE words come from the mouth of God:
“What did I do to you…ANSWER ME!”
God burst into the silence:
*What did I DO TO YOU
that you should do this to me?
*Don’t you remember that I traveled with you?
*I walked with you from Egypt through the Red Sea,
through the wilderness to a land new to you?
*Don’t you remember how I have always
NESTLED YOU in the palm of my hand?
I LOVED YOU.
I walked with you so that you would know
What kind of God I am…
SO THAT YOU WOULD BE SAVED!”
Can’t you feel the tears in the eyes of God?
The people have NOW chosen NOT to walk with God,
Not to love the God who had saved them.
Now, God’s speech comes to an end,
and there is that kind of silence…an eerie kind of silence.
The people stand there nervously shuffling their feet.
THEY KNOW IT’S TRUE.
They know they’ve done it again.
They have stood in this same courtroom before.
How could they have forgotten the pain of God?!
And they’re wondering, “WHEN did we turn away?”
They (WE) stand there in that EERIE SILENCE.
Finally, one of them cries out, “What do you want from me?”
“What can I do?’ “What should I do?”
“If I came and bowed down before you,
would that be enough?”
“Should I bring an offering to you?”
“I would do that!”
“I’ll bring the RIGHT GIFT, not just an ordinary gift!
I will bring a WONDERFUL GIFT.
A gift greater than any other:
Thousands of rams into the temple,
thousands of rivers of oil!
NO ONE has ever brought a gift THAT LARGE!
I’ll bring you my child. What do you want from me?”
This frantic, desperate outburst is answered
by the Prophet Micah, who is standing nearby.
Micah puts his arm on the shoulder of the one
who has spoken with such frustration to God.
He says to him quietly:
“God wants you to walk with God, live like God,
AND DO JUSTICE.
I wonder if that one who cried out
felt any relief at all at Micah’s words.
NOW, he knew what God wanted.
NO MORE wild and rash and lavish promises.
NO MORE making useless trips to the altar.
NO MORE spending time & energy
finding the biggest & the best.
NO MORE! JUST WALK. LOVE. DO JUSTICE.
Maybe he wasn’t relieved at all,
but instead CONFUSED. VERY CONFUSED
After all, what does it mean to DO JUSTICE?!
And his confusion would have to be ours also…
IF the Prophet Micah had not left us a little clue!
At first it is hidden from us,
but there is a LITTLE CLUE, A LITTLE SECRET…
In the middle of God’s speech
to the people in the courtroom.
Sometimes, people read this story,
and they don’t even know it’s there!
God is there in that courtroom,
naming all the wonderful things
God has done for the people.
REMEMBER THOSE WORDS GOD SPOKE?
“As I walked with you from Egypt, I kept you safe.
I gave you Moses to lead you.”
The people in the courtroom would have nodded their heads,
YES, Moses had their ancestors through THAT wilderness!
And, God said, “I gave you Aaron.”
The people would have nodded their heads.
YES, Aaron had been support for Moses!
“And,” God said, “I gave you Miriam.”
At THIS, the people would NOT immediately nod their heads.
At THIS, the people of God would be puzzled!
Read the books of Exodus & Numbers to meet her:
*Miriam, the sister who stood by & watched the baby Moses
lay dangerously vulnerable in a basket on the river?
*Miriam, who would, after the crossing of the Red Sea,
(tambourine in hand) dance & sing a song of victory?
*The Miriam who dared to speak out against her brother Moses?
*Miriam, who had dared to ask the question: “Couldn’t SHE,
along with her brother, be a spokesperson for God?”
*The same Miriam who was then stricken with leprosy,
and sent for 7 days to stand outside the camp
to bear her shame?
“YES!!!’ God says, “MIRIAM!”
“I sent you Moses and Aaron and Miriam!”
In that one simple sentence, Miriam’s gifts…
that had been ignored, silenced, even punished,
are now acknowledged by her God.
Now, centuries later, Miriam is remembered
as a gift to the people of God.
GOD WAS DOING JUSTICE!
The kind of justice that will prevail on this earth…
when EVERYONE of every gender, ethnic background,
age, place, gender orientation, faith, social & economic status,
Every person will be recognized as GOOD & VALUABLE
and GIFTED in the eyes of God.
THAT KIND OF JUSTICE, Micah is saying,
THAT is what God wants! DO JUSTICE.
It is as if God is saying to us,
“The next time Mother’s Day rolls around,
DON’T go and buy me expensive presents.
Don’t send me a gift wrapped up with shiny ribbons.
DON’T send me dozens of roses. DON’T.
Just sit down with me at the table. SHARE A MEAL.
INVITE MY CHILDREN…ALL of your brothers and sisters.
Invite them to eat WITH US.
THAT is what I want from you.
And when that happens, there will be in this world A GREAT SILENCE.
A SILENCE that comes from the beauty that….
God’s world IS AS IT SHOULD BE.
THAT KIND OF SILENCE.
Together, let’s walk with God and DO JUSTICE!