An Old New Way
Not too long ago, I actually saw this last verse printed on a bumper sticker. It read: Be just. Be Kind. Be Humble. One could argue this is Jesus’ ethics in a nutshell.
At Anamesa, we say something similar: Love God. Love Others. Serve Both.
If we love God, we will walk humbly with God. If we love others, we will act mercifully towards them. And if we serve both, we will ensure justice prevails for all. As great as it sounds to profess this truth, there is also great danger in voicing such bold ideas into our lives which give this text meaning.
Read any of the prophetic books in the Bible and you will quickly understand why prophets are never very well liked. Their only purpose is to speak the truth, which is often pointed to those in power. Like his prophetic ancestors, Jesus knows what happens when you speak truth to power. Those in control will always push back.
Unlike priests, prophets are not ordained. They don’t go to school to learn how to prophecy. They’re simply chosen (and often reluctantly) by God to keep the status quo on its toes, by keeping God’s will in the spotlight.
While priests hold the system of religious order together in the traditions, prophets are called to be critical of that system to keep it all balanced and evolving. Without this, religion can become stagnant, or worse, one sided.
My colleague Brett Younger says it like this, “When religious tolerance discourages the honest evaluation of belief and practices, it also discourages commitment.”
So, when we have the priest and prophet working together, “we have a system constantly refining itself and correcting itself from within.” (Rohr)
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Like Moses before him, Jesus was both priest and prophet. Erica Williams writes, “Jesus knew he could not be a chaplain of the Empire but was sent to be a prophet of God – one anointed by God to do the work of love, justice, and liberation.”
Although he would be accused of wanting to destroy the Temple, an accusation that would eventually lead to his death, Jesus, without a doubt, loved the religion of his ancestors, even though he “was lethally critical of hypocrisy, illusion and deceit” within it. (Rohr)
As a prophet, Jesus speaks truth. And as a priest, he constantly lives it out.
In every aspect of his life, Jesus taught us the will of God by being a living example of it. Which brings us to what Micah wrote: God wants us to embrace an ethic of love where justice, mercy and humility are front and center in everything we do. This is what Jesus did. And I think what he meant when he said, “Follow me.”
But as many of us know firsthand, this is not the kind of ethics the world embraces. The world is anything but just, merciful, or humble. In fact, most of humanity tends to despise these qualities. Or make a joke out of them.
Let’s face it, in the wake of the most recent protests and marches against police brutality, justice continues to be elusive for many. Our courts have been stacked by the rich and powerful to preserve the status and wealth of an elite few. So, we shouldn’t be shocked that God wants us, needs us, to speak out.
Jesus has taught us how to do this - by leveling the playing field, to ensure equality is enjoyed by all and not just some. God wants us to be a voice for the oppressed, the stranger, the widows, and the orphans. And, through Jesus, showed us how to fight for minorities, the marginalized, the poor. How to stand up for the weak so that no one is treated less than God’s beloved child.
Sadly, the few who fight for justice are called fools and radicals. And in many places in our own country, laws have been enacted that forbid to offer a caring hand. Take Georgia for example where it’s illegal to hand out water to thirsty people waiting in line to vote. And in some cities it’s illegal to feed the homeless on the streets. I can’t imagine these are ethics Jesus would endorse.
Jesus knows what God wants and does it even when it would threaten his life. He was often mocked and laughed at, but that didn’t stop him from speaking up and showing love, kindness and mercy.
No matter how hard I look in the Bible, I can’t find any reference to Jesus turning away someone because they couldn’t afford a meal, or medical care. In fact, he did the opposite. He took our suffering and pain upon himself.
Jesus showed the strength of God by becoming weak.
Like Paul wrote to the Philippians churches, Jesus set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave! He didn’t claim special privileges but lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless obedient death. (Phil. 2:5-8, MSG)
Who among us dares to follow that level of faith, muchless humility?
It’s hard for me to fathom how a so-called Christian can walk humbly with God while strutting around armed to the hilt, threatening harm to others for what they believe or who they love.
If hearing this makes you upset or agitated, then welcome to the world of prophets. Their words make us uncomfortable because they are a threat to our own false sense of power.
Yet we need them to speak truth to the evil that does exist out there. Remember, the only way evil will succeed is to come to us disguised as good. “And one of the best disguises for evil,” according to Richard Rohr, “is religion.”
He points out how, “Someone can be racist, be against the poor, hate immigrants, and be totally concerned about making money, but still go to church each Sunday and be “justified” in the eyes of religion.”
I think Jesus had plenty to say about that. He tells us that we will be known by the fruit we bear. He asks the religious elites “How can you speak good things when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
God desires more than empty words and empty sacrifices. But who among us will come forward, sacrificing their own position of power to speak the truth?
God desires justice that is measured by how well the most vulnerable fare in the community. But how many more Tyre Nichols or George Floyds will there be before we say enough is enough?
God desires loyal love like the kind of loyal love that has shown towards us through the Christ. But which one of us will pick up his or her cross to actually love God, love others and serve both?
Just as “Prophecy comes to life as love. Jesus…is love manifested. We also can be love manifested.” (Holmes)
When Jesus gathered his disciples, he made them partners in his ministry. This is true for anyone who dares to follow him. Our Lord has entrusted us to reveal the kingdom of heaven which is here in this space, and every space in between.
This kingdom doesn’t belong to the powerful and strong, but to the humble, the meek, the pure in heart. It belongs to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who seek and work for peace over conflict.
As Jesus leads us into Anamesa, on the pilgrim path to God’s heart, we will be called to speak out like him. If this terrifies you, and it should, simply remember that God does not abandon you.
As Micah pointed out, God is faithful even in our faithlessness. And Jesus gives us the hope and assurance that anyone who is just and kind will be rewarded with justice and kindness.
You know what God desires of you. You know what you must do. Go and be a prophetic witness to God’s love. Go and be fair and just to your neighbors and co-workers. Make sure everyone has a seat at the table. And no one is left out in the dark.
Go and be compassionate and loyal; spreading and sharing love so freely that those who are alone or those who have never known love or what a true friend is can get a taste of God’s goodness.
Go and be humble. Don’t be so self-righteous to think you’re better than anyone else. For thanks be to Christ Jesus, are all worthy of God’s love and grace.
As such, each and everyone of us is expected to be obedient to that love and grace, by embracing it, practicing it, living it, and being it.
This is the way of Christ Jesus. It might be a way that is difficult but, ultimately, it leads us to a more fruitful and abundant life. Now and forever, Amen.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A Vol 1. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010).
Holmes, Barbara A. We Shall Also Be Prophets. July 2022, CAC Living School curriculum, not published. (Accessed on January 27, 2023).
Levine, Amy-Jill. The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 3, 110.
Rohr, Richard. “Lots of Priests, Not So Many Prophets,” January 28, 2018 (Accessed on January 27, 2023).
Whitley, Katerina Katsarka. He Has Told You, O Mortal One, What Is Good. January 22, 2023 (Accessed on January 27, 2023).
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An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”