Sermon – January 29, 2017

Categories: Church,Sermons

Rev. Joe ConnollyGood

by Rev. Joseph Connolly

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“Listen, O mortal: / God has made abundantly clear / what “good” is; / what does Yahweh require from you / but to simply do justice, / to love covenant loyalty, / and to walk humbly with your God?” — Micah 6:8.

Neil Cazares-Thomas is the Pastor at the Cathedral of Hope, a large church, a member church of the United Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas. He and I are Facebook friends and we have an interesting personal, pastoral connection.

On July 10th, 2011 I officiated at a Commitment Ceremony for our niece Phoebe and her partner Rosalie in the State of Maine. Such ceremonies had no legal standing at that time.

As I am sure you know these marriages acquired legal standing on June 26th, 2014 with a ruling by the Supreme Court. Shortly after that, in part because these unions were now legal, Neil, who was at that time in Los Angels and the pastor of Rosalie and Phoebe, officiated at another ceremony for them and signed a legal document.

This happened on July the 10, 2014— the same date as initial ceremony so their anniversary could be the same. Neil also used the same ceremony I had used, making it very special.

In a recent Facebook post, Facebook being a place where Neil and I can maintain our relationship, he said he was participating currently in a creative writing class. This writing came forth from his pen because of that class. (Slight pause.)

In our world today we are often so busy reacting, we have no time to process and to respond to the Spirit’s call on our lives. Listening to Spirit, listening to one another— to hear God— is something Jesus often did.

Jesus took time to pray and to discern God’s direction. We need to listen more deeply amid the noise of the world. The noise heard in this world often portrays a God Who is in stark contrast to the God lived out in the life of Jesus.

So— Neil then wrote— I am here to holler out— I have a God who has been misrepresented, misplaced, here to holler out that the real voice of God is little spoken of in a world so determined to see God in its image. That secular God is a God who appeases misogyny, racism, sexism, homophobia— everything that separates us, moves us away from love.

I am here to holler out about a God who dares us— dares me— to embody, to reclaim, to proclaim the God of the oppressed, the marginalized, the victimized. I am here to holler out and awake in us a God who remakes us, a God who remakes us not in our own image of God but in God’s image in us.

You, me, us— let us holler together and rise again like a phoenix, rise to greet the challenge of a God in us, in me, in you. I am here to holler out, to shout out, to scream out, like a voice in the wilderness, a voice in the darkness, a voice to awaken us from our sleep and from our slumber — words of the Reverend Mr. Neil Cazares-Thomas— perhaps sounding a little like Lin Miranda-Manuel in Hamilton. [1] (Pause.)

We hear these words in the work known as Micah: “Listen, O mortal: / God has made abundantly clear / what “good” is; / what does Yahweh require from you / but to simply do justice, / to love covenant loyalty, / and to walk humbly with your God?” (Slight pause.)

The challenge here is clear: “what is good?” Doing good is not the same as doing well. And we, as the words written by Neil indicate, we live in a society much more concerned with doing well than doing good— God in its image, God in the image of the world— instead of God’s image reflected in us.

To be clear: I am not against doing well. But should doing well be a priority? Or should doing good be a priority? The prophet Micah is clear. God has a priority: do good. Live life in God’s image— humble covenant justice. (Slight pause.)

In a short time we shall look at a budget. I would be the first to say a lot of what we do with that budget does good in many ways. These things are listed and cover all kinds of stuff from the Deacons Fund to Family Counseling Ministry to Hospice.

But I also think we need to follow the imperative of Micah as we consider the budget. We need to be much more concerned with doing good than with doing well.

You see, if doing well becomes our priority as we examine these numbers, then we abandon the imperative God has for the world. We abandon the imperative God has for us. And what is that imperative? Do… good… first. Or as the Prophet Micah says, do justice, love covenant loyalty, walk humbly with your God. Amen.

01/29/2017
United Church of Christ, First Congregational, Norwich, New York
Annual Meeting Sunday [2]

ENDPIECE: It is the practice of the Pastor to speak after the Closing Hymn, but before the Choral Response and Benediction. This is an précis of what was said: “We heard from the Prophet Micah today. We also heard the passage commonly known as the Beatitudes. If I were to sum all of them up in a single sentence I think it would come out something like this: ‘Blessed are those who do good.’ Not once could any of the statements in the Beatitudes be condensed to say ‘Blessed are those who do well.’”

BENEDICTION: Through God’s grace, by being attentive to God’s will, our deeds and our words will change our world for we will discover ways to proclaim release from the bondage of narrowness. Let us seek the God of Joy whose wisdom is our God. Let us go in peace to love and serve God. Amen.

[1] Note: these words are not surrounded by quotation marks because they were slightly edited for this context. Any alteration in meaning is the fault of the one offering the sermon as opposed to the original author.

[2] Since the Annual Budget Meeting of the church happens within the service of worship, this sermon is shorter than many.

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