Thursday November 30 2017

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Scripture: Zephaniah 3: 1-13

Key verse: (12) “For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly.  They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD – . . .”

Reflection: I can’t remember the last time I read Zephaniah.  It’s not exactly the kind of book that one turns to for solace or joy.  Even though the prophets predicted both doom and hope, Zephaniah is only three chapters long, so it is heavy on doom.

The prophet Zephaniah was sent by God to warn the people of Israel and the nations that destruction was on the way because they broke their covenant relationship with God.  The sins of both peoples had consequences for the entire world – everyone was being affected by their choices.  The nine oracles of this book take us through a list of crimes and punishments.  Our passage today is the sixth oracle, highlighting Jerusalem’s leaders’ failure to obey God.  No doubt there were faithful individuals living in Israel at that time – people who loved and served God.  But, the society was destructive and self-destructing. It would come to an end, but not without God making one more plea for them to return to the LORD.

As I read through this book again, I couldn’t help but think about the times we are living in.  As my grandmother used to say – “there is no shame!”  It’s not unusual for every generation to think that the generation that follows them is worse off.  In our rapidly changing culture, it doesn’t take a generation anymore to see collapse happen in one way or another.  And the choices one country makes can have a ripple effect around the globe. Given the reality of living in the midst of the negativity and the deep divide in our world, I find myself asking: what do we value? And what are we seeking?  The inhumanity and objectification we are capable of is staggering.  Where does faith fit into the picture?  Where have we placed our trust?   And, how can we let God use us as beacons of hope?  I pray we will humble ourselves and seek refuge in the LORD.

Recently, I read a prayer written by James A. Forbes, Jr. and I offer part of this prayer to you today.

Prayer: Almighty God, “because our needs are so great today, and your care so constant, we know that you are rebuilding the network of compassion around new visionaries who you have assembled for this hour.  Surprise us with the discovery of how much power we have to make a difference in our day: – a difference in the way citizens meet, greet, respect, and protect the rights of each other, – a difference in the breadth of our vision of what is possible in humanization, reconciliation, and equalization of results in our great city, – a difference in the way government, business, and labor can work together, for justice and social enrichment, – a difference in our response to the needy, and a difference in our appreciation for those who give of themselves for the surviving and thriving of our beautiful people . . . This is our fervent and sincere prayer.  Amen.”

(taken from Conversations with God:  Two Centuries of Prayer by African Americans, New York: HarperCollins, 1994, p. 260-61)

Author: Deborah Conner

[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].

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