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Proper 26A 1st Reading

Micah 3:5-12

Chris Nafis

The book of Micah repeats the cycle of judgement followed by deliverance and redemption three times. Here, the lection has guided us to a passage of judgment. Judgement passages, of course, can be a little tricky to preach. In the North American context, the church is (rightly) critiqued from both the outside and the inside for being too judgmental. As a culture, we don’t like to judge, and we like it even less when others judge us. Judgement seems like bad news. We prefer to skip right over to deliverance and redemption.

But judgement is not always bad news. For those on the underside of society, judgment can be long-awaited, affirming, and even liberating. For those who are already condemned by a harsh and cruel world, judgement from the Lord is, itself, redemptive. I may still be condemned, but so are those who stand in accusation against me.

Of course, if judgment from the Lord is only proclaimed against the lowly, then it doesn’t help much of anything. Too often, people in positions of leadership are tempted to shield themselves from judgement by redirecting the judgement of the Lord toward those who have already been condemned by the world (not unlike the prophets, priests, and chiefs in this passage). Prophetic words of judgment that should call the wealthy and powerful of this world to repentance can easily become yet another means by which those wealthy and powerful folks can condemn and hold down the poor. When someone is under the mistaken impression that they possess the word of the Lord, they can easily use that “word” for their own benefit.

This seems to be part of what has happened here in Micah’s context. The prophets of the Lord have cried “peace” when they have had something to eat, but declared war against those who put nothing into their mouths. The rulers of the house of Jacob have abhorred justice, perverted equity, built Zion with blood and Jerusalem with wrong. “

[Jerusalem’s] rulers give judgement for a bribe,

its priests teach for a price,

its prophets give oracles for money;

yet they lean upon the Lord and say,