This is the Sermon I wrote for Chapel this summer at Camp Cody Saturday 8/15/15.
Theme: Background Check
Scripture: Micah 6:8
Micah was an Old Testament Prophet – who was watching the integrity of God’s people diminish. The people would say that they loved God, but their actions did not reflect those things. They would offer God their earthly offerings, but did not offer God their hearts.
It was simple, all God was asking was for the people to remember to live with a sense of what was right and wrong, to do what was just, to love what was good, to be kind and to turn to Him at all times and in all things…
Maybe in this scripture reading, what Micah is trying to express is that God wants nothing more from us – than our hearts.
God has a way of changing hearts. And it is magnificent. In reflecting on our scripture verse from Micah, I am reminded of a moment in the life of my family that reflected similar sentiments and I would like to share it with you..
I despise that breathe taking moment when you realize that you have made a poor decision. That moment when your conscience has betrayed you – albeit briefly – and you throw caution to the wind, only to make (as we say in our house) “the wrong choice.”
I myself clearly remember a moment as a child when I had made a “wrong choice” while sitting at the table with my sister. The story begins with my Mother making fish sticks for dinner. Blechhh.
The memory of the visceral response I had (and still have) to the smell of fish sticks still clings to my frontal lobe like I was back at home. It was a pungent fishy smell that triggered the understanding that dinner was going to require an extra glass of milk and a good nose plugging to swallow their awfulness down. And, if there were fish sticks on your plate you could most certainly bet they would be accompanied by peas… Oh the tortures of childhood!
My mom always had a dessert ready for such nights. If you ate your meal, you would get your dessert. If not, you sat at the dinner table for a rather long period of time and your food would grow cold, but you would still be required to eat it. No compromising. No wasting. There were children in Ethiopia that were starving; be grateful for the fact that you had such luxuries – even if they were fish sticks.
This particular night, my sister (who was still in a high chair) and I stared at the fish sticks. We had hoped that once our parents had finished dinner, they would not take our dogs with them into the living room that abutted the kitchen.
We regularly held a vigil of hope that our parents would forget to remove our furred friends so that we could feed our pooches what was left of our awful dinner and then tell our parents we had finished.
But, I had smart parents. It never happened.
I remember coming up with a crazy and confusing scheme where I conned my then 3-year-old sister into eating all my fish sticks. I traded her three of my fish sticks for one of hers until I had a mostly clear plate.
I was then excused from the table and allowed to eat my dessert, which was a chocolate bunny lollipop (I think it was around Lent/Easter). I ran into my room, which was directly in view of my little sister at the kitchen table.
I opened the pop and began to enjoy my delicious reward. Then, I heard her – my little sister. Her big brown eyes brimming with tears, her tiny voice quivering in despair as she answered to my mother about why she was not eating, “Momma, I keeps eating them but they won’t go away.”
Flooded with guilt – I immediately realized what I had done. I began to cry. I remember burying my face into the side of my bed, so that no one would hear me. I could not live with such guilt. It was an awful decision. I had to make it right! But making it right would not be easy.
I met my Mom in the kitchen with the licked-clean lollipop stick… and I confessed my sin. I had considered bringing along my most prized possessions, my favorite seashell, my beloved bunny rabbit stuffed animal and a charm bracelet. Maybe if I handed them over to my mother, to pay for the crime I had committed – she would forgive me. I still remember the calm and kind look on her face, as I confessed.
In my reflection upon that moment, I remember what it felt like to desperately seek forgiveness, I feared that I had let her down, I feared that she might love me a little less because of what I had done… I feared that in my selfishness I had changed the relationship forever…
But that was not the case. My Mom, kneeled down to my level, held my hands gently and as I remember, she said to me, “ I am glad you told me. It is important to be kind and honest, and be able to admit when you’re wrong. I love you.”
I will never forget that day – and it shaped my own heart. It helped me to appreciate such mercy – and to seek to do the same.
That moment, albeit small, gave me a glimmer of God’s grace – mirrored in that of my Mother’s face.. We often forget to look for God, in those small details of our lives. We often forget to remember, that he is forgiving, loving and does not want anything more from us than to seek out what is good — to see him in all of it.
There was a consequence. Being truthful and asking for forgiveness stung a little. Doing the right thing did not get me out of eating fish sticks . I had to sit in the high chair and eat the rest of my sister’s cold and ketchup smeared fish stick dinner. But, it was ok….
I wonder if my Mom knew all along… I wonder if she sat in the next room stifling a giggle as I sat in the high chair paying for my crime… delighting that the heart of her child – although not perfect was filled with a longing to be honest, to be good and to do the right thing…
Since then, I too have fallen, and forgotten. Have added things to my resume that make me proud, but have not asked myself – does this make God proud? We all find ourselves seeking to do more, to be more, and to have more. We seek out those things that make us richer, smarter, stronger, faster… It can be exhaustive..
But it is my prayer for you, that the words from Micah will remind you that in turning to God, in loving what is right and true, in being kind to one another, if forgiving and accepting forgiveness – that you are playing the most important role in the building of God’s kingdom.
It is not easy. As a matter of fact, you will be challenged every day of your lives… You will fall – you hopefully will never con your little sister into eating all your fish sticks… But, in cherishing the desire to do good , in bringing your heart before God each day — you will create a resume — like none other…. (No background check needed!)
And as God watches, and listens –Maybe, like my Mother, God sits and giggles with delight – as He reaches into our messy lives and guides us toward what is good, what is just, what is kind….
For God, wants nothing more from us – but our hearts…