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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Don't Try This At Home

Finding Your Way
"Don't Try This at Home"
Micah 6:6-8

I want us to spend the month of October doing something unusual. Unusual doesn't mean "strange," or "creepy," it just means, not usual. Out of the ordinary. Maybe other churches do this kind of thing all the time. But it's not ordinary for us and I'm not sure why. It's just unusual.

Do you ever do that? Do you just do ordinary things simply because they're what you ordinarily do? You have to do something un-ordinary and you think, "Oh. That's not ordinary. That's unusual. I don't like unusual." Why don't you like unusual things? I don't know. Probably because they're not usual things. They're un-usual.

Why do you put your pants on right leg first? Why do you take the same way to work? Why do you park in the same place? (Because if you don't won't find your car.)

(Have you ever done that thing when you go to unlock your car and the clicker's broken? So you stand outside the car, pressing and pressing? And you look in the window and wonder, "Who put all that stuff in my car?" And then you realize... it's not your car? That's unusual.)

Why do you and your spouse have the same arguments? Why do your kids drive you nuts doing the same things again and again you ask them so politely not to do? Why do you chew your straw? Why do you sit in the same pew?

Because doing something else would be unusual.

During October, in church, I want us to do something unusual. It's not strange. It's not weird. It's not creepy. It's just not ordinary, for us. I want us to spend the whole month of October reading and studying the same book of the Bible. Together. And if all of us do it, it won't be unusual, because everybody else is be doing it, too. But if everyone doesn't do it then people will see you reading your Bible and say, "That's unusual."

So, everybody, grab one of the Bibles in the pew rack. They're the red books, next to the Hymnals. Don't open it yet. (Does the Choir have Bibles? That's because you have it memorized.) Look on the spine. Some of them say, "Revised Standard Version." Some of them say, "New Revised Standard Version." (It's not better; it's just New.) If you have a "Revised Standard Version," turn to page 816, which is about 3/4 of the way over. In the "New Revised Standard Version," turn to page 861, again about 3/4 of the way over. That's where the Book of Micah starts. (You might have to hunt, because Micah is short. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah... Micah.) Found it?

You know why I had you do it that way? Because not everybody just automatically knows how to turn to the Book of Micah. And I don't want anyone feeling unusual. We're all in this together.

This month, I'll be sending out emails and Facebook postings and Tweets about reading in the Book of Micah, kind of like we did for the prayers during the last month. So it won't be unusual. Just different. If you want to hear the Book of Micah read aloud to you, you can go to our church website, www.lakehillspres.org, and click on Worship. Then click where it says, "Click HERE to hear the Book of Micah," and Alexander Scoursby will read it aloud in a very authoritative voice. If you don't have a computer or Internet, we'll send Michael to your house to stand in your kitchen and read it to you personally.

That would be unusual.

And here's why all of this unusual stuff kind of makes sense. Because the prophet Micah was unusual. In chapter 1, verse 8, he tells the people of God what he's going to do in order to get their attention and get God's message across. Micah says,

"I will lament and wail; I will go barefoot and naked; I will [howl] like a jackal, and I will [moan] like an ostrich." That might get some attention. A naked preacher howling like a dog and walking like an ostrich. That would be unusual. Personally, I'm glad God moved on to other techniques.

But for God to have to use such extreme measures, you'd have to think the people had gotten really, really entrenched in their normal. For God to have to go so far out, you'd have to think God's people had gotten even farther out from God's ways. For God to get so unusual, you'd have to think the people had gotten so used to their own usual that it would take something ridiculously abnormal to get their attention. And, you'd be right. What started off as the golden age of a kingdom blessed by God through the great kings David and his son, Solomon, had been twisted, divided, and broken. This once great nation lost its way. And after a few generations, twisted, divided, and broken became the "new normal." Twisted, divided, and broken was the status quo, and had been as long as anyone could remember. So it didn't look twisted, divided, and broken. It looked normal. That's why it took a naked, howling, unbalanced preacher to disrupt the balance.

(And aren't you glad that's the book we'll be studying?)

But here's where I'm going with this. And I think I can say this in a way that's equally true or equally offensive, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. Whether you're far left, or far right, or just far out, I think this is true. We live in a nation where we don't know what's normal anymore. We live in a world and the world doesn't really know what's normal anymore. We live in a time when maybe ab-normal IS the new normal. And I think that's true no matter what political group, or what social group you're in. I think that's true whether you sit at the cool kids' table or the nerds' lunch table. Whether you're varsity football or chess club. The boundaries of normal are getting squeezed tighter and tighter, and people who think each other are normal are squeezing closer and closer together, and all the different little groups and cliques and neighborhoods and political action committees are pressing up closer to themselves and the pressure is building. And we don't know for sure how it's going to shake out, or if it's going to shake out. Because we're not sure how "normal" is supposed to look anymore.

Wouldn't it be great if all it took to straighten things out was a naked preacher, barking like a dog and strutting like an ostrich?

I think what it's going to take is for a lot of people to stop being normal. What I mean by that is I think it's going to take a lot of people who are willing to break from whatever quo defines their status, to shed the normalcy we clothe ourselves in. I think it's going to take a lot of people speaking in un-usual tones and walking in un-usual steps. I think redefining normal will require us to stop hiding in our individual homes and stop hiding behind personal preferences. We've got to say, "We" - not You, not I - "We need to work as one."

And I think we need to relearn how to work as one, not because it's patriotic, not because it's more efficient, and not because it sounds really cool to say. We need to relearn how to work as one because that's what Jesus told us to do. Jesus prayed for his disciples, right before he died, he prayed for his disciples that they would be one. Not because it's expedient, not because it's effective, but because it's Jesus' way that we be as one.

It's Micah's way, too. Micah looked at God's way. And then he looked at his people's way. And he saw what his people were doing and he said, "This is not normal." Micah looked at his people, looked at God's people, and he said, "This may be the status quo, but this is not right. This is ab-normal behavior for the people of God the Father Almighty."

So we're going to do some things this month that by our own standards, and by the world's standards, are unusual. You can try them at home, but they really work best when we start doing them together, as one.

We're going to do a study of Micah. We're going to read Micah. We're going to pray Micah. And we're going to do it together, as one. And we're going to be guided, we're going to be given direction by the one verse that is probably Micah's most famous, one that I hope we all have incised upon our hearts when this series is over. It's Micah, chapter six, verse 8.

"What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"


Will you pray with me?

Most holy God, we pray that we would be one, just as Jesus prayed that we and all his disciples would be. Help us to hear the prophet Micah speaking to us in our world, in our time. Lord, we're not sure what's normal anymore. Right and wrong seem to be blurred together. Where we've deluded ourselves into thinking our way is always right, forgive us, and help us to see clearly. Where we've let ourselves be embarrassed by our own faith, forgive us, and make us bold. Where we've divided into opposing camps, where we've separated ourselves from our brothers and sisters, where we've hidden from our neighbors and looked suspiciously at people who seem so abnormal, forgive us, and grant us peace of mind, and strength of heart. We pray in the name of Jesus, who prayed that we would be one. Amen.


James McTyre
@jamesmctyre3 (tw)
865.268.9628 (gv)