Micah 6:8: And what does the Lord require of you, But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?
I have been thinking a lot about this Hebrew scripture text the last month. Micah was a prophet of the 8th Century BC, accompanied by other big names like Amos and Hosea. And though he had quite the contemporaries, prophets were typically the talk of the town for their extravagant behaviors, their wild discontent, and their public debacle. Being prophetic wasn’t necessarily what one aimed for in these times; the big names we now lift up were hardly honored dinner guests, guest speakers, or noted for their Saturday Temple attendance. Speaking the hard truths, the truths that demanded self-critique and intentional cultural shifts, was a tall order – from God, or any other.
This past June, Unitarian Universalists gathered for Justice General Assembly (GA) in Phoenix, Arizona. It was “Justice GA” because the Association at large voted two years ago to show up in mass, to protest the overtly discriminatory immigration laws in Arizona. Unlike other years, workshops on worship, ethical eating or the like would be canceled. Those who could attend were there to work, to witness and to give voice to those who were silenced.
Prophecy is a reluctant vocation for some and can leave a terrible taste at the thought for others. And yet, historically this is what Unitarian Universalism has been known best for. Not just the large, showing up in mass at detention centers and standing in 112 degree dry heat kind of justice, (though we were there for these marks on history), but also what one might
think of as the smaller justice acts: Speaking up when others are silent. Quieting when those that are typically silenced, speak. Paying attention when the thought of it would be a public display of rebellion. Being intentional with our money, our rest, with our habits when this might dampen the fun and ease.
What does the [world] require of you, But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly[?] Micah’s question is simple and yet thick with demands. Does doing justice mean that we will not also love life’s sweetness and kindness? How do we love kindness while making sure not to turn away from life’s hardships? Does doing good works, spreading good news, and speaking hard truths mean that we aren’t also always learning, always knowing there is more to do; always dependent on the ones to come next or those who will walk with us to make great and purposeful life happen?
As we continue in our considerations of a new Mission and Vision statement, I wonder if we could get much better than “Justice, Kindness, Humility.” Could there be a greater calling and service to the world than these three words, offered centuries ago?
Unitarian Universalism has a long legacy of prophetic voices and actions. They began, many of them, with the smaller moments; others grew out of a great and surprising need to stand with others no matter what the consequence. For me, each day, my call to living this faith is asked in Micah’s twenty-two words; simple but demanding. May we each discover how we might live into the legacy of this tradition, its simplicity and its demand.