“With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow myself before God on high?
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,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
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?
– Micah 6:6-8
Look, God, I’m happier when you are vague,
when there’s some wiggle, some uncertainty,
when I can find a space to justify
the things I want, I’d rather, do.
Or, better, when the clarity shines on
the things that hide the errors of the days behind,
that shield me from their consequence,
excuse me without need to change my course.
Look, God, I’m wise enough to leave the lambs
and rams behind. I’ll make my sacrifices with
my time (and maybe with my treasure; we will see).
I don’t intend to buy your favor, no.
Intend to, no. Attempt to… that’s a yes.
You have told me, God, what things are good,
and I have heard, and taken them to heart,
and held them close, and meditated on them, and…
sometimes I’ve done them. Sometimes I have not.
‘Cause damn it, God, your justice is beyond me,
beyond us, so it seems. Your love of mercy breaks
my heart with all its blinding brightness. How
can I do other than come humbly to you on our walk?
So that is why I pour my time into the almost just,
the near-to-mercy, all the things that don’t quite work.
With all this busyness, how could you notice, God,
that am running round, not walking by your side?
It’s easier, you see, to place my energy
upon the altar as a sacrifice of praise
than to do justice well, to love with steadfast mercy, and
walk humbly with the God of my salvation.
A poem/prayer based on Micah 6:1-8, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The image is “High priest offering incense on the altar, as in Leviticus 16:12,” by Illustrator of Henry Davenport Northrop’s Treasures of the Bible, 1894 – http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Treasures%20of%20the%20Bible%20(Moses)/target20a.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6611903.