The Rev. Keely Franke
January 30, 2011
In the name of the God of justice, and kindness, and love. Amen.
My favorite color is blue. Always has been, always will be. This is an important thing to know about me. My car is blue, my office is blue. My husband jokes that if you make it blue, I’ll buy it. My favorite color is blue and I’ve known this to be true since before I could speak. My parents would set different color balls in front of me. And time and time again I chose the blue one. I really don’t understand how anyone could have any different favorite color. If your favorite color isn’t blue, I’ll pray for you.
Favorite things are important. They tell you something about a person. Just recently we sent essay questions out to our potential rector candidates. One question asked them what their favorite parable is in the Gospels. These answers have been returned and are now playing their part in determining who our next rector will be.
Likewise, around this time a couple years ago, after I had been here for a few months, I was interviewed for the Evangelist on my favorites. Some of them were hard to come up with. Favorite book, I have so many. Favorite hero, I don’t really
have one. But when asked what my favorite verse in scripture was. That one was easy. Micah 6:8 – “For what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
After the Evangelist came out I walked into Frank’s office one day. Frank was our previous rector. He stood there smiling when I entered. And when I asked what was up, he said he had just read the Evangelist. “And,” I asked? “Micah 6:8 is my favorite verse too,” he replied with a big grin. A smile acknowledging we both got it, a sign of another kindred spirit. This verse is in fact a favorite that many hold dear.
My husband and I have a favorite television series as well. We own all the DVDs and every once in a while pull it out when we need a good laugh. It’s Boston Legal. Boston Legal features the relationship between two lawyers. One, an older, founding partner of the firm, Denny Crane, who has the beginnings of Alzheimer’s. The other, a younger, new lawyer to the firm, Alan Shore. The firm is constantly trying to keep Denny out of the courts and Alan from causing too much trouble in them. It’s great fun.
Well, the first show on the first season Alan is sharing with Denny that he’s afraid he’s going to lose in court and he doesn’t like to lose. And Denny says, well then don’t. You don’t have to lose. Listen, Denny says, “All you have to do is pull a rabbit out of your hat.” “A rabbit,” Alan asks? “Sure,” Denny says, “it’s the secret to both trial law and life.”
The setting in Micah 6:1-8 today takes place in God’s divine court of law. God is both plaintiff and judge and calls Israel to the stand. Israel is in trouble yet again and God is not happy, especially with their religious leaders. God calls Israel to court asking: What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you get it right? Haven’t I released you from slavery and sent Miriam, Aaron, and Moses before to show you the way? What more can I do for you? Finally, a representative of Israel says ok ok we’re sorry, what do we have to do? Bring sacrifices before you God? And then the list of sacrifices begins growing bigger and more ridiculous with each one.
We might expect God to say sure. Bring your sacrifices, go to church more often, read the Bible more. All of those “churchy” answers. But God doesn’t. Instead God pulls a rabbit out of a hat in Micah. “God 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?” The answer, for some, shocking. It’s the simplest answer and yet the hardest to do.
I memorized this verse in high school thanks to my psychology teacher who introduced both Micah 6:8 and the Episcopal Church to me. And now our youth are learning it in confirmation class. It’s my favorite verse as I said before because I believe that it’s all God really wants from us. I believe that it’s all that’s really necessary. While I try to live up to this verse, Frank was a person for me who most fully embodied this verse.
When the Bishop Jelinek sent me here to St. John’s he said he wanted me to learn from Frank. He said Frank was unlike any other clergy person he had ever met. For those of you who never met Frank, he truly was unique. He was someone who when you did something wrong, made a mistake in the service, he’d just smile and giggle. He was someone who never used his power and authority to get what he wanted and yet because of it had all of us in the palm of his hand. We would do anything for Frank.
I know I’m talking a lot about Frank this morning, but I am mindful that it was this Sunday a year ago that Frank stood up here and said goodbye to us. I’ve been missing Frank a lot lately. Part of me wishes he had never left and we could just go back to the way things were. But another part of me, perhaps an even bigger part of me, is excited and hopeful and just wishes the new rector would hurry up and get here.
Like an eight hour plane trip over to Europe the last two hours are always the hardest for me. I’ve made it through the first six and now I just want off this plane. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like flying at all. In fact, it’s probably my least favorite thing to do. But the last two hours are especially brutal. Half of me wishes I had never left to make the journey at all and the other can’t wait to see the little green squares of land showing up after we’ve just past the English channel giving hope that we’ll soon be in Amsterdam.
But here we are, so what do we do in the meantime?
If I had really wanted to pull a rabbit out of my hat today, I wouldn’t have preached this sermon at all. I would have walked up here, pointed to the back door, and invited you all to leave. I would have asked you to leave and to come back today when we go to the Episcopal Church Homes to play bingo, or to come back sometime this week to help greet the homeless into our midst. I would have asked you to go find a child to make happy and to teach something to, to go to Africa or to go and do whatever it is you are passionate about and love to do.
Because as Barbara so often reminds us, life is short and we haven’t much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk this way with us. We never know when a rector is going to retire, when a parent is going to die, or when anyone really that we love is going to leave us.
But I won’t ask you to leave today. Instead I’ll ask you to stay. Because of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam and Frank many of you are already living this way. So as we await what is yet to come let us remember what is required of us – to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. Then surely, soon, we will see the brightness of a brand new day.