August 14, 2015

Zephaniah
We humans keep looking for a religion that will give us access to God without having to bother with people...We want God to give us an edge in the dog-eat-dog competition of daily life...

Because the root of the solid spiritual life is embedded in a relationship between people and God, it is easy to develop the misunderstanding that my spiritual life is something personal between God and me...That is when the prophets step in and interrupt us, insisting, “Everything you do or think or feel has to do with God.  Every person you meet has to do with God.”  We live in a vast world of interconnectedness and the connections have consequences, either in things or in people--and all the consequences come together in God.                    

Zephaniah 1-3
God’s message to Zephaniah, great-great grandson of Hezekiah - I am going to make a clean sweep of the earth, a thorough house-cleaning, God’s decree...I’ll find and punish those who are sitting it out, fat and lazy, amusing themselves and taking it easy...Don’t plan on buying your way out.  Your money is worthless for this...So get yourselves together.  Shape up!  You are a nation without a clue about what it wants...Seek God, all you quietly disciplined people who live by God’s justice.  Seek God’s right ways.  Seek a quiet and disciplined life.        

Doom to the rebellious city, the home of oppressors--Sewer City!  The city that wouldn’t take advice, wouldn’t accept correction, wouldn’t trust God, wouldn’t even get close to her own god...    I thought, “Surely she’ll honor me now, accept my discipline and correction.  Find a way of escape from the trouble she’s in, find relief from the punishment I’m bringing.  But it didn’t faze her.  Bright and early she was up at it again, doing the same old things.  I’ll have gotten rid of your arrogant leaders.  No more pious strutting on my holy hill!  I’ll leave a core of people among you who are poor in spirit...Content with who they are and where they are, unanxious, they’ll live in peace...

Then God will be happy to have you back, he will calm you with his love and delight you with his songs.  The accumulated sorrows of your exile will dissipate.  I, your God, will get rid of them for you.  You’ve carried those burdens long enough...I’ll heal the maimed, I’ll bring home the homeless...I’ll bring you back home---a great family gathering!  You’ll see it with your own eyes---all those painful partings turned into reunions!  God’s promise!!                        

Ephesians 4
I want you to get out there and walk, better yet, run!---on the road God called you to travel.  I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands...and mark that you do this with humility and discipline--not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick to mending fences.  

You are called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.  You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who rules over all, works through all and is present in all.  Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

But that doesn’t mean  you should all look and speak and act the same.  Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift...He handed out gifts... working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive in Christ....

God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love---like Christ in everything.  We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.  He keeps us in step with each other.  His very breath and blood flow though us nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

And so I insist, and God backs me up on this--that there be no going along with the crowd...take on an entirely new way of life---a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.  What that adds up to then, is this:  No more lies, no more pretense.  Tell your neighbor the truth.  In Christ’s body, we’re all connected to each other, after all.  When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry--but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge.  And don’t stay angry.  Don’t go to bed angry.  Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life...
                                        
Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.  Watch the way you talk.  Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth.  Say only what helps, each word a gift.
                                        
Don’t grieve God.  Don’t break his heart.  His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself.  Don’t take that gift for granted...