Friday, December 11, 2015

Hebrew Testament Text for Sunday 12 December 2015

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you,
he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
do not let your hands grow weak.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
At that time I will bring you home,
at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
before your eyes, says the LORD.

Reflection        What will it take for us to believe and live into the promise of the prophets, “Do not fear?” Moses, Muhammad, Amos, Samuel, Deborah, Elijah, Huldah, John the son of Zechariah, Leo Tolstoy, St. Mary Magdalene, Brigid, Agnes, Martin Luther, Perpetua & Felicity, Martin Luther King, Jr, Dietrick Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Wilberforce, Lao Tzu, George Orwell, Desmond Tutu, Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry…. the list goes on and on. At the root of their messages is the admonition, “Do not be afraid.” Do not allow fear to subjugate you to wrong thinking and wrong acting. 

But peek into the window of any human’s life from 13 centuries before the common era to today, and what do we see? Natural disasters, disease, human oppression and exclusion. Not much has changed in the category of human suffering in the past 31 centuries. So why do we keep expecting things that we see in the world to change? Why do we expect some singular apocalyptic event to erase disasters, disease and every form of human suffering from the earth? 

What the prophets then and now promise is, “the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more… Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst…” Whatever the trial or challenge we face, God is with us. That is what we hear in the First Song of Isaiah; “Surely, it is God who saves me; I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, and he will be my Savior.” (Is 12. 2-3) And if for some reason we still can’t hear the voice of the prophets speaking into our heart, and we don’t remember Jesus’ promise to the disciples and us, “I am with you always to the end of the age, (Matt 28.20) we can turn to Pau’s letter to the Philippians,  “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4.5-7)

What if we believed Gandhi’s words, “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate’ but, it is fear?” What if we understood that fear respects no borders, religions, ethnicities, political parties or states? Could we admit how vulnerable we feel in the face of the unspeakable tragedies and suffering in the world? Might we recognize that the people we call enemies are just like us, afraid? What if instead of debating who is to blame for our inevitable suffering we listened to each others fear? What if we admitted we are one in our vulnerability  and inability to escape suffering? What if we changed our minds and our hearts and instead of seeing one another as enemies we saw each other as the sensitive and defenseless creatures that we are? Might we extend our hands in compassion instead of raising our arms in fear?

Sports psychologist Dr. Rob Bell suggests simple, but not easy, steps to aid our journey to live without fear having “confidence and trust in yourself and your team…” and, I would add, faith that our team includes all people and God with us. Click on Dr. Bell’s link above to hear his story. 

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