Advent Prophet Parade: Zephaniah

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Zephaniah 3:14-20

This past summer I had the privilege to serve as a worship leader at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Youth Camp for an incredible bunch of rising 4th and 5th graders.  They were bright, intelligent, and somewhat smelly (hey – it’s summer camp in Florida!).  They kept me on my toes for sure.

The last night of chapel was special.  We were set to share Communion together.  We were set to hear from the worship arts groups during the service.  We were set to celebrate everything we had learned that week.  And to get us in the mood…I taught the children’s campers a song.  A wonderful song from Sister Act II.  The song is one sentence:

If you wanna be somebody, if you wanna go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention!

(And they sang lustily…and it was awesome.  John Wesley would be proud.)

God gives each of us a prophetic voice – to call to attention our own gazes as well as the gazes of our neighbors – that if we want to be the person God desires us to be and be in the places God desires us to be, then we better wake up and pay attention.

“Prophets say what no one wants to hear, what no one wants to believe,” says Deborah Block.  “Prophets point in directions no one wants to look.  They hear God when everybody else has concluded God is silent.  They see God where nobody else would guess that God is present.  They feel God.  Prophet’s feel God’s compassion for us, God’s anger with us, God’s joy in us.  They dream God’s dreams and utter wake-up calls; they hope God’s hopes and announce a new future; they will God’s will and live it against all odds” (Feasting on the Word: Year C Volume 1, 52).

In this week’s Scripture text Zephaniah is calling the people of God to wake up and pay attention!

Sometimes the words of the prophets are very harsh towards the people.  Zephaniah himself shares these harsh sentiments.  Zephaniah 3 begins, “Ah, soiled, defiled, oppressing [Jerusalem]!  It has listened to no voice; it has accepted no correction.  It has not trusted in the Lord; it has not drawn near to its God.  The officials within it are roaring lions; its judges are evening wolves that leave nothing until the morning.  Its prophets are reckless, faithless persons; its priests have profaned what is sacred, they have done violence to the law…I [the Lord] have cut off nations; their battlements are in ruins; I have laid waste their streets so that no one walks in them; their cities have been made desolate, without people, without inhabitants” (vv. 1-4, 6).

The picture isn’t looking very good at the outset of Zephaniah 3.  So it’s as if we experience scriptural whiplash when we read the conclusion of this chapter, which is also the conclusion of this prophetic text.  The final pericope or passage of Scripture is a song of joy!  It is full of hope!  This King – our King – is coming and his presence will unite all under the shadow of his wing.   In him and with him are safety, security, healing, and salvation.  In him is everything we have been waiting for.

Zephaniah knows the future!  Zephaniah shares what is coming!  Zephaniah invites us to participate in it through rejoicing and exultation!

But we can only do so if we wake up and pay attention.  We can only do it if we claim God’s strength within to lift our eyes out of the mire and into the light.  We can only do it if we turn our eyes and ears and beings and spirits to the vision of the prophet and embrace the hopeful reality we find there.

It’s time to wake up and pay attention.

Prayer: Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me; place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.  Open my ears, that I may hear voices of truth thou sendest clear; and while the wavenotes fall on my ear, everything false will disappear.  Open my mouth, and let me bear gladly the warm truth everywhere; open my heart and let me prepare love with thy children thus to share.  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.  Open my eyes, my ears, my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine.  (Open my Eyes, That I May See ~ Clara H. Scott)

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