The Rev. Evan Graham Clendenin

What does the Holy One ask of you, but to act justly, love kindly and walk humbly with your God.

If you have flown on a commercial plane, they you will know what a safety briefing is. “Please ensure you are free of distractions while we share a few of the safety features of this boeing aircraft.” Nowadays we watch a light-hearted video that walks us thru the unlikely events of a water landing or a sudden loss of cabin pressure. Ever since I read ‘deep survival’ by laurence gonzales, I read the card and watch the briefing, and locate the nearest exit, which may be behind you. Gonzales is a pilot and journalist, and he says these kinds of practices of preparedness, really of being humbly in touch with reality, can save your life. The briefing, whether to commercial passengers or elite fighter jet pilots, acknowledges reality, rehearses the highlights for a hot situation, and helps you laugh, and laughter, playfulness, can help you keep an open heart and cool head. I wonder if the prophets, or Jesus’s sermon on the mount, aren’t something like a safety briefing. Foolish wisdom to prepare us for travel with God, wise as serpents and gentle as doves, reminding us us keep points-act justly, love kindly, walk humbly with God.

Act justly, Love kindly: how you do what you do makes a difference. Act, work, do with the character someone who listens with an open heart and balanced mind, settles disputes and conflicts, builds elements to make lasting peace. Love with kindness-not tough love, not selfless love at arms length, but love and care for the good of your actual neighbor for starters, offered with heart, compassion, a desire to recognize of being sharers in a common human-kind-ness. Not sacrifice, not infinite confession of social or personal sin. Come on, lighten up! Really! What does God require of you? Act justly, love kindly, live in a more grounded way.

Sr Joan Chittister, a Benedictine religious, political activist and writer from Erie PA, writes in her commentary on the rule of St benedict about humility. If there is a virtue we might learn from today, a virtue to be practiced and inhabited in our time, Sr Joan suggests humility is it. Coming from a woman who spent her life engaged first in prayer and second in advocacy and teaching on behalf of the rights of women, of the poor at home and far away, someone who has acted justly and loved kindly, a call to walk humbly just might get our attention. The Hebrew word in Micah means modest, lowly. The word used to translate the Hebrew in the pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint, translated wonderfully by seventy Jewish elders, is evocative: prepared, ready. Walk preparedly.

A friend and I were walking up in the southern Olympics once, hunting forest grouse on remote logging roads. Mostly just telling stories, some of grief at industrial logging, some in laughter, some in wonder at the beauty of God’s earth. Ravens seemed to laugh at us. We stopped to drink water, but I realized I’d left my water in the car. “Oh, I left my water in the car, I figured we weren’t going that far.” I said with the nonchalance of youth. My friend, long experienced in wilderness travel, paused, looked at me, and said with emphasis: “I like mine with me.” {pause]  As some of us may have learned in scouts, be prepared. (Oh, by the way, did you know that CHS sponsored a sea scout troop back in the 1950’s! Isn’t that cool!) Whether paddling a boat, walking in the wilderness or standing amidst a fight, I have learned that to be prepared is a way to practice to humility, walking humbly. It helps me to keep an open heart, a cool head, my feet on the ground, to know when to flex and when to insist, simple things could save my life and others.

Jesus is giving us a safety briefing, so let’s put own phone down, and hear what he says. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of God. Blessed are the meek, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the pure hearted, those who act in a fashion to make peace. Your gonna run into people who don’t like what you are doing, or that you associate with me, who will surprise you with their rage and vehemence. You think your inviting people to the party, and you learn these people have a laundry list of reasons they don’t like each other! When things heat up, it will be easy to forget, so at least remember the part about making peace, and pure heart, and poverty of spirit. Or as Micah puts it-Act justly, love kindly, and walk…more groundedly, more preparedly…walk humbly with your God.