‘Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God’

When I was a young adult, I represented the United Church of Canada on a nine-month global trip with partner churches from the Philippines, the United States and Germany.

As we traveled around visiting different churches, we were often asked to offer the sermon on Sundays, sometimes on very short notice (i.e. we arrived Saturday night and they were expecting us to preach Sunday morning). We developed a system for handling such requests. We always preached on the same passage: Micah 6: 6-8. We’d quickly assign one of us to talk about doing justice, another about loving kindness and a third about walking humbly with God – presto, instant sermon.

We preached on the same text so many times that I’ve rarely preached on it since. It felt like I had said what I had to say about that passage before my 24th birthday. Yet, as Lent arrived this year, I found myself thinking about this foundational text again.

Every morning when I read the news or walk down the streets of Listowel, I cannot help but notice so many places where justice work is needed. In fact, the number of places where justice work is needed are so numerous, that I have to resist getting overwhelmed and giving up on trying to work for change because it seems too hard. Yet, then I remember this teaching from the Jewish Talmud: “You are not required to finish your work, yet neither are you permitted to desist from it.” So I look for the place where I might do something, even if it is small, to contribute to God’s work of justice.

Every day as I meet people in person and online, I cannot help but notice as well how weary and burdened many of us are these days. There is so much pain, so much grief, so much heaviness, in so many people’s lives these days. And I remember Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Kindness” which goes in part like this:

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.

So many of us have felt the future dissolve in a moment, not once but multiple times over the past two years. Perhaps what we need now is kindness – kindness for self, kindness for loved ones, kindness of neighbours, kindness for strangers.
Then, I feel in my gut that continuing sense of uncertainty, of vulnerability, of fear of disappointment and I hear in a new way, that call from the prophet Micah to walk humbly with God. I have no idea what the future holds. This has always been true but now I am much more aware of it than I ever was.

Rather than lamenting this loss, this Lent I am going to try to embrace it as an invitation to deeper humility.


Beth Kerr serves as pastor at Trinity United Church (Listowel) and Atwood United Church.

Rev. Beth Kerr