System Requirements – Rev. Henry Brinton (with audio)
February 2, 2014
Do you want to Excel?
Microsoft Excel, that is. Is so, your computer will need to meet certain system requirements. For Excel 2013, you’ll need a processor that is one gigahertz. You’ll also need a certain amount of computer memory and hard disk space.
These are the minimum system requirements. They are printed on the software box, and you need to look at them before you do an installation.
Of course, if you live in certain parts of the country, you have to do a translation. In rural areas, computer terminology has a different meaning. For example:
LOGON means “Make the wood stove hotter.”
LOG OFF: Don’t add no more wood.
DOWNLOAD: Get the firewood off the truck.
MEGA HERTZ: What happens when you’re not careful as you get the firewood.
And finally, LAPTOP: Where the kitty sleeps.
Given the cold snap we’ve just had, I kind of like that approach to life!
But getting back to computer system requirements: Beyond the minimum requirements are recommended requirements. Recommendations for Excel 2013 include a touch-enabled device and a graphics processor.
Now don’t worry — I won’t be testing you on this material. I can see that your eyes are already glazing over. You only need to remember two words: Minimum. Recommended. This is the language of system requirements in the world of computers.
It is also the language of faithful living. If you want to excel as a Christian — not just with Microsoft Excel — you need to know the minimum and recommended requirements.
The minimum Christian system requirement is faith. Paul tells us, in his letter to the Galatians, that a person is made right with God “not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (2:16). This means that we enter into a saving relationship with God through our willingness to trust Jesus, to rely on him, to have faith in him — each in our own way.
Faith. That’s the minimum requirement.
But more is recommended for those who want to excel. In the book of Micah, God says through the prophet: “Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the LORD, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the LORD has a controversy with his people” (6:1-2).
In this passage, God has a controversy with the people of Israel, one that will be settled in an unusual kind of courtroom. God will make his charges and the people will answer. Serving as judge and jury will be not a group of people, but the mountains and the hills.
“O my people, what have I done to you?” asks God. “In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember … what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the LORD” (vv. 3-5).
God reminds his people of all the great things he has done for them: Liberation from Egypt, rescue from slavery, and the gift of leadership by Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. As if these mighty acts are not enough, God asks them to remember what happened along the journey from Shittim to Gilgal, as the people crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
“Isn’t this enough?” asks the LORD. You can almost hear a note of hurt in God’s voice. “Aren’t these enough mighty and amazing acts of salvation?” Not a sound is heard in the courtroom. Not a creature stirs.
“Well, what do you think?” asks God. Someone shuffles their feet. “Answer me!” The mountains and the hills just sit there, listening, like a judge and a jury.
Then the people respond. Feeling convicted of their faithlessness, they say, “With what shall I come before the LORD [?] Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression [?]” (vv. 6-7).
The people are willing to give anything — absolutely anything — to be restored to a right relationship with God.
Thousands of rams. Ten thousands of rivers of oil. Firstborn children. No price is too high.
But these are not God’s requirements — rams, oil, and children. Instead, says the prophet Micah, the LORD requires something else: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (v. 8).
God’s recommended system requirements are these: do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.
What was true for the ancient Israelites is true for us. Yes, God’s minimum requirement is faith. But the recommended requirements go much farther: justice, kindness, and a humble walk with God.
Only then will we excel.
Here’s what I want you to notice about Micah’s answer: It reveals that God is more interested in our daily activities than in our religious observances. Burnt offerings, gifts of oil, even the sacrifice of children — these are actions tied to spiritual ceremonies. What God requires, however, is a life lived with acts of justice, kindness, and humility.
Recommended requirement 1: Do justice. This particular legal requirement does not require attorneys, judges, and juries. Instead, the command to do justice applies to every aspect of life — it means treating others with fairness and equality, and showing concern for people who are weak, powerless and exploited.
We’ll be doing justice this week as we roll up our sleeves and host the homeless here at FPC in our hypothermia prevention program. “Do justice,” says Micah — not simply “support justice.” It’s a high-commitment, hands-on, everyday activity.
Recommended requirement 2: Love kindness. The English word “kindness” is actually a weak translation of the Hebrew word hesed, which means love, loyalty, and faithfulness. It lies at the heart of healthy relationships, whether the bonds are marriages, close friendships, or the relationship between God and his people. To “love kindness” is to keep this loyalty and faithfulness at the heart of all your relationships.
“Hesed is a bone-weary father who drives through the night to bail his drug-addict son out of jail,” writes Lois Tverberg in Our Rabbi Jesus. “Hesed is a mom who spends day after thankless day spoon-feeding and wiping up after a disabled child. … Hesed is love that can be counted on, decade after decade.”
“Love hesed,” demands Micah. Love this steadfast, loyal, rock-solid faithfulness, and keep it at the center of your relationships.
Recommended requirement 3: Walk humbly with your God. If we are going to excel as Christians, we must travel with God over the course of life. Faith matures through a long journey of following God over many ups and downs, through mountaintop experiences and valleys of deep darkness. Along this path, we are challenged to walk humbly, knowing that God is — and must remain — ahead of us, in charge, leading the way.
When Jesus describes himself as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), he is echoing this image of a journey. Jesus is our way, showing us exactly how we are to walk with God. When he first calls his disciples, he doesn’t say, “Agree to these fine points of theology.” Instead, he says, as we heard last week: “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19).
“Walk humbly with your God,” says Micah. Walk with the LORD and with his son Jesus, the one who is the way.
In the life of faith, unlike the world of computers, we should never be satisfied with the bare minimum. To have the strongest possible relationship with God and with each other, it is important to reach for the recommended system requirements: Doing justice, loving hesed, and journeying humbly with God and Jesus.
As Christians, this is the way to excel. Amen.
“Excel 2013.” Microsoft Store, www.microsoftstore.com.
“Love mercy, do justice.” The Evangelical Covenant Church Website, www.covchurch.org.
Simundson, Daniel J. “The Book of Micah.” The New Interpreter’s Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996, 577-583.
Tverberg, Lois. “Hesed: Enduring, eternal, undeserved love.” Our Rabbi Jesus Website, May 2, 2012, www.ourrabbijesus.com.