Questions and Reflections

November 2014

A Reflection on Ezekiel 34

This text from Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 is God’s reminder that we are always at the front of God’s mind even if God isn’t on the front of ours.

The former bishop of the New Jersey Synod said something like this recently at a preaching workshop on Advent but I believe our Old Testament reading from today says something very similar. This is the last Sunday of the church year. Not long ago, it gain its own name: Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday. Scripture lessons were picked to lift up the presence of Christ in our lives and to challenge us by asking who (or what) really structures how we live our life. 

In this piece from Ezekiel, God takes the initiative to search for God’s own people. This can easily be seen as a radical act on God’s part. So much of our approach to spirituality and faith can appear to be centered on ourselves. We ask questions about what we believe, what we stand for, and what feeds our souls. These questions are powerful and necessary to sustain our faith journey. But God turns this around. No longer is God asking for the people to turn towards God, God is now actively going to God’s people. God isn’t asking God’s people to be perfect before God reaches down to them. God comes to God’s people after calamity and during suffering. God comes to care for God’s people. And God does this because that is just what God does. 

The language of covenant and promise are all over this piece of Ezekiel because God is a God of promise. These promises are not made because we are wonderful but because God is love. God comes to meet us in baptism, in the words of scripture, in our prayers, and in holy communion to share with us that God’s promises are true promises that we cannot make broken. God cares for us. God comes to break injustice. God comes to renew, restore, and resurrect. God’s story is that we are always on God’s mind even if, during our busy lives, God isn’t always on ours.
 



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Day of the Lord

Our reading from the Old Testament is from Zephaniah 1:7,12-18, a book which probably was composed around 630 BCE after an era where the worship of multiple gods supplanted the worship of God. Zephaniah is encouraging the king of his time, Josiah, to throw out that worship and commit the nation to the worship of the one true God. And it is in this hostile environment where we hear Zephaniah talk about the day of the Lord. 

The day of the Lord is mentioned all over the prophets. My personal favorite exposition of the phrase is in Joel. Both Joel and Zephaniah imagine the day of the Lord as something that is coming very soon. The day of the Lord is different from contemporary images of what the "end times" will look like. There will be no war or great battle between good and evil. God, as supreme ruler, cannot be competed with. God will merely cast judgement. The day will be a day of wrath, violence, and incredible sorrow because, as Zephaniah states, "they have sinned against the Lord."

But this wrath, for Zephaniah, is directed towards one set of people: those who are indifferent to God and God's wants in the world. And what is it that God wants? Justice. Love. Healed relationships. God isn't indiferent to the world. God is active in it, moving through us and the world, helping us to love our neighbors, heal our friends, and raise up the strangers in our midst so that their life is full and filled. God loves us - and we are called to love everyone too.

To look at the day of the Lord and focus only on the wrath and violence is to see only half of the story. The other half tells us what God is looking for. Eric Mathis writes, "The day of the Lord is the day when indifference will no longer be tolerated. The day of the Lord is the day when, out of blood and ashes and flesh and dung, will, in fact, come something good: the promise of a future where God reigns over all people and all things." God's future is our future. Let's live into that. 



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Generous Thankfulness: Messenger Article for November 2014

As a new face here at Christ, every day is a day full of discovery. In each conversation I learn more about the people that make Christ Lutheran Church the warm and inviting place that it is. I hear stories how personal invitations from family and friends grew our community. Baptisms, marriages, Sunday School, Confirmations and funerals have been avenues of love to those who didn’t have a community to call their own. I hear in Christ Lutheran’s story a story of invitation, hospitality and welcome that does the very rare thing of inviting new people to help us change to more fully live as the body of Christ in the world. There is a generosity here at Christ Lutheran that is boundless, reflecting the boundless grace that God gives us every day.

November is a time when the leaves finish falling from the trees, giant piles of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce from a can are shared, the days are cooler, and when we start to notice the days getting way too short. But as the darkness grows we’re invited to reflect on what God goes. We are a people who proclaim every Sunday that darkness does not win. The light will return. God’s generosity to us is bounded not by our wants but by God’s love which covers us every day. In thankfulness, November is a time to take risks with our own generosity. I invite you to help the Care committee provide food so everyone can share in the Thanksgiving dinner they deserve. I invite you to make a financial pledge to Christ Lutheran, helping us expand our generosity to children, youth, adults, elders and our neighbors whom we haven’t met yet. I invite you to help clean up after our Advent dinner, invite a friend to our movie showcase on November 11, read your bible and take a few minutes out of each day to pray. Even if the only time you have is waiting at a traffic light, I invite you to take a moment and say “Hi” to God. You might just discover how God is inviting you to live generously today. 

Pastor Marc



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