Before you start
During this season of Advent I had an occasion to think a bit more deeply about the biblical passages my church will be reading this Sunday, December 9th, 2018.
In this week's readings I was struck by this line in Malachi: "Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’"
The Israelites here are guilty of all manner of wickedness. They of all people, who know what it's like to be oppressed, have become oppressors. In their quest for power, they have even sold out to other gods and become "sorcerers".
How like me and all of us today! What modern god's have we sold ourselves to in exchange for their dark powers? The god of money provides so much power, doesn't he? So does the god of prestige, and influence. And what do we do with their power? Do we feed the poor? Care for the widows? Of course not! We "oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, [and we] thrust aside the sojourner[s and the immigrants]."
But we aren't that bad, are we? After all, here in tiny Canon City none of us are the rich and powerful. But that doesn't stop us. Maybe it's in our hearts. Maybe it's just that we have no mercy on each other. Maybe the sojourner is sitting right next to us. Maybe those whom we oppress are the fearful, the weak, the fragile among us whom we conveniently fail to notice, or worse, whom we despise for their weakness.
Dear God! Truly, "who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?"! And “[Us] brood of vipers! Who warned us to flee from the wrath to come? [Why do we not] bear fruits in keeping with repentance!? Even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
"How shall we return!?" or "What shall we then do!?" The Lord is coming! But this time he will not come meekly on a donkey. He will come like a roaring fire to consume the wicked. "Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways…!" "How shall we return!?" We are too far gone. Too deep in. Too sold out. So why even try?
Thanks be to God who says "For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed!" We do not return: The Lord DOES. And the Lord WILL! " And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ!"
At the day of Christ! "When all flesh shall see the salvation of God!" Then we shall see it with the clarity of newly created eyes (come quickly, Lord Jesus!). But even now we HAVE SEEN IT even if meekly as though riding on a donkey!
Last week we saw the salvation of four people baptized with water and the Holy Spirit's fire! This week we see again our own salvation here on the Altar where Christ will come, today! Today our flesh will see and smell and taste the salvation of the Lord!
How shall we return? We shall be returned to God, "pure and blameless [on] the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."