The Irreducible Minimum

The Irreducible Minimum

A warm welcome to another edition of Brooklands Digital Church.

The message is given by our Pastor Karl Stanfield, and can be listened to as audio using the LISTEN button above. An audio MP3 is also available via the SAVE button.

The Bible readings are taken from Micah 6:1-8 and Matthew 5:1-12.

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Sermon Transcript:

There are some passages in the Bible that just say it like it is. This is one of them. It is plain speaking, no beating around the bush. Micah does not spend time talking around his subject.

Micah was one of the ‘Minor Prophets’ living in the eighth century BC, in a time of uncertainty politically and nationally.

There were a lot of corrupt leaders, and the Assyrian nation held sway over small nations like Judah. Needless to say, many ordinary folks were now poor and downtrodden. The spirituality of the nation was at a low ebb. Then Micah rises to say what needed to be declared.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

Here is the Big Three! We have heard of Jesus summing up 613 Jewish laws in just two; well here is Micah summing up what ‘Good’ looks like in everyday life. I want to call this ‘The irreducible minimum’. He offers us three, easy to remember necessities in order for humanity to show we are created in the image of God.

Micah has a certain way about him. He showed the people of his generation…

1. The Right Way

Rev John Sentamu once made the statement, “There is no division between the secular and the sacred”. Clement of Alexandria said a similar thing when he wrote, ‘The Christian must live as if all life was a sacred assembly.’ I think Micah is saying exactly that.

When someone does something the right way, they are going God’s way. I have met some people who do lots of things that Christians are meant to be doing, yet they are not Christians by commitment. Perhaps you know a few people like that.

Similarly, over the years I have met people claiming to be thoroughly Christian who do things that are not right, even by average standards. I think it is great when people come to faith in the Lord and commit their way to Him.

This is good and right, but it is also a wonderful thing when people do by nature those things that are ‘righteous’ (a really important NT concept for Paul).

If we are to ‘care’ for others, which is a pastoral word, we must act that out in everyday things. That is because wherever we as Christians go, or whatever we do, the secular becomes sacred. It is in the everyday things of life that we are to care about others. This is exactly how Jesus lived!

I just love the advice in Micah 8: 1, ‘Listen to what the Lord says… It’s not only the right way but also…

2. The Way of Mercy

It is often summed up in that OT phrase, ‘Loving-kindness’. I think that ‘the way of mercy’ often reveals itself in non-orthodox ways. Let me explain what I mean by that.

We know that the Pharisees and Jesus often clashed. Jesus was often criticized – not for His miracles of compassion and healing, not for His capacity to touch people’s lives in such a way that they came alive, but because He did not wash His hands the way the Pharisees thought was “right”.

Surely showing mercy to a needy person must surpass showing unbending devotion to a mere ‘way of doing something’. This is the weakness of a strict religious ritual – it often puts itself first. One commentator makes the point; Micah gave a prophetic warning – not to wayward Israel but to orthodox Judah!’

Perhaps I can sum up what I have been trying to say so far. The Right Way is always the Way of Mercy. This is where we come to the ‘heart’ of what Micah is saying. He ministered at the same time as the great prophet Isaiah. King Hezekiah also brought about a mini-revival, trusting that God was superior over all threats.

Hezekiah had responded to Micah’s preaching and Jer. 26: 19 confirms that it was in response to Micah that the King ‘in fear’ sought the Lord.

The Assyrians were the dominant world power of the day and were about to flatten little Judah, but God miraculously delivered the whole nation because of the faith of a few. I wanted to tell you that the Way of Mercy can save a whole nation. The Way of Mercy can save the day! The Way of Mercy is the way of blessing.

And I wanted to tell you this morning that the Way of Mercy is …

3. His Way

His way is always the Right Way; His way is always the Way of Mercy because that is the Kind of God He is. His way was shown clearly in the life Jesus lived – it is the way of a Humble walk of a thirty-three-year glorious duration.

You reap what you sow. This is Harvest Season. We want to see a harvest of Righteousness! Sometimes that harvest comes in lots of good provisions from God’s hand. And sometimes it comes in other ways.

Our second reading, from Matthew 5, featured The Beatitudes. One of them speaks of Happiness this way, Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

The first four Beatitudes are primarily about ‘a state of mind’. This Beatitude is about conduct. To be blessed you must show ‘mercy’.

It is the hard side of this that we find Jesus doing. Even when you do not receive ‘mercy’, your conduct in return should always be to show mercy. And sure enough, this is what we find in the life of Jesus.

In closing I need to say, the irreducible minimum you get from Jesus is always Mercy! Jesus is the one who says, ‘Come to me!’ When it comes to ‘loving kindness’, Jesus has it all! Justice, Mercy and Humility, it is all there in Him!

Justice: God is right and will always do Right!

Mercy: offered free, nothing we do is deserving of it!

Humility: God has come to where you are! Take this happy trio with you.