Epiphany 5A’22
29 January 2023
Micah 6.1-8; Mt. 5.1-12
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

O God, lead us and empower us to: Do Justice, Love Kindness, and Walk Humbly with you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. – from Micah 6.8


Those of you who have looked at St. Luke’s prayer list recently, are aware that we have been keeping Deacon Richard in our prayers – but do you know why we’ve been praying for him? He’s had heart trouble, and the trouble with his heart was that had contained the heart valve from a Razorback, that’s right a hog. That valve started playing out on him, and no wonder. He is an alum of SMU where their mascot is a mustang, it’s a wonder his heart was able to tolerate a razorback part for as long as he did!

He had a surgery to replace the hog valve with a horse or a bovine valve and he’s now much better. I guess we might say he finally got his heart right! Thanks, Richard for being a good sport and letting me/us rib you  today  – we’re very glad you are on the mend!

When we think of our troubled world and ask ourselves ‘What on earth?’ We scratch our heads and ask ‘How could all this be happening?’ ‘Why is it happening?’ ‘What can I do about any of it?’ ‘All the pain and suffering, the war, the terrorism, the racism, will it never end?’  Perhaps, we have heart trouble…

As we watch the horrors in the aftermath of the recent shooting in California, we see that both perpetrator and the victims killed were both Asian? This wasn’t a crime of racism.

As we have seen the horrible body camera footage of the merciless Memphis Police officers, brutally beating and pepper spraying an unarmed man, causing his senseless death. Both the perpetrators and the victim were African Americans. This wasn’t a crime of racism either – Asian on Asian, Black on Black, the problem that caused these recent deaths is more than skin deep, it goes deeper, to the very hearts of the killers.

In both of these heinous crimes we see that the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. 

The contemporary poet Jibin Joseph in his poem, Selfish Soul diagnoses our condition:

          I am a selfish soul
          I don’t see the sorrows around
          I don’t hear the cries
          I just curse the system to change
          What good did I do to change

          I am a selfish soul
          Am I even worthy to comment
          If I myself refuse to change…

          I am a selfish soul
          Why should I wait for a savior
          Why do I even care for a change
          As long as I am happy in my mask
          Why do I need a change

          I am a selfish soul
          World filled with crooks and lies
          Who cares who cries and who dies
          I don’t have time for anyone
          I am happy in my wicked mask

          I am a selfish soul
          What’s all these diseases and filth
          All the crippled and the sick
          As all day I merry around
          Little I care what’s going around…

          I am a selfish soul.

Jesus, our Great Physician provides a prescription for our heart trouble in the form of his “Beatitudes” and these describe the attitudes of how God intends for us all to be. Rather than take each Be-attitude one at a time and try to describe what they mean I believe Eugene Peterson has done just that in The Message Bible translation:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” [Blessed are the poor in spirit]

“Your blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” [Blessed are those who mourn]

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

[Blessed are the meek]

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” [Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness]

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.” [Blessed are the merciful]

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” [Blessed are the pure in heart]

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”

[Blessed are the peacemakers]

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom…” [Blessed is those who are persecuted for righteousness sake]

Surely these beatitudes are what God’s kingdom on earth looks like, and God invites each of us to embrace them, aspire to them, and to practice them.

You might be saying to yourselves, man those beatitudes are long and hard to remember. Well in today’s Old Testament reading from the poet and prophet Micah we’re given a motto to live by that is both as succinct as it is powerful: 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

In three short phrases the law and the prophets are captured:

Do Justice – Love Kindness – Walk Humbly with your God

Just actions – delivered with kindness – and clothed with humility, sounds like the response our troubled world needs to see more of.

The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart, and we are blessed indeed when we get our inside world – our minds and hearts – put right. Then we’ll surely be what God has intended for us to be.

To be, or not to be, that is the question!