Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Preaching Micah 5 this Sunday, 4 Advent, Year C (post 2)

We have been working on preparing Micah 5:2-5 for exposition this Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C. For the preceding post in this series, please click here.

According to Micah 5:2-5, God's coming ideal ruler will specifically not come from Jerusalem! He will specifically not derive his authority from a hierarchically organized system of control and "security," and a militarized array of defense.

This, I firmly believe, is exactly what Jesus means when, in John 18:36, he declares that his kingdom is not of this world. Please do not imagine that Jesus wants you to think that his kingdom is purely spiritual and ethereal! Not at all. The reign of God will be very much "this-worldly"! It will fully change real-life economics, politics, and culture here on earth. That it is not "of this world" means that it is not based on human structures of political and military power. It is based on deeper powers and more profound truths.

All this is already clear in Micah 5. Here, in 5:2, Bethlehem is called by its clan name "Ephrathah." Verse 2 goes on to use more language of clans and kinship. It returns us to the world of pre-state, village-period Israel, where folks supported each other as kin, as brothers and sisters.

Bethlehem is "small among the clans of Judah." God can work wonders when folk recognize that they are "small" and get out of God's way.

In Micah 5, the prophet announces that God has had enough with the arrogance and greed of proud capital cities like Jerusalem, and with the cold-hearted, state-systems centered in them. God is turning back to the older, more humble lifestyle of village-period Israel. After all, David's line, "from ancient times" (5:2), first stemmed out of the countryside, as part of a rural, peripheral clan. God's coming, ideal ruler from David's line must turn back to such humble, mild roots. He must not try to usher in a kingdom based on a power-hungry, militaristic approach. His kingdom is "not of this world."

The messiahship of Jesus Christ fits Micah's prophecy to the letter. Christ lived out Micah's message that power-politics and military force can never achieve God's reign. God's reign has to be built up on a lifestyle of friendship, caring, and mutuality---the sort of lifestyle fostered in Israel's old clans such as Ephrathah, where groups of kin constantly loved and looked out for each other. It has to be based on a lifestyle like that of Ruth, one of Bethlehem's most famous inhabitants. Ruth gave up everything and put it all on the line to support her husband's and mother-in-law's family, kin-group, and clan.

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