Zephaniah and John the Baptizer were both prophets. They were called by God to deliver His messages to the people.
Zephaniah’s concern was that the people weren't living as if it mattered what God required of them. Their lives were focused on the things of the world not on the things of God. Their spiritual lives were in chaos. They were a mess.
John went into the wilderness to be alone where he could hear God speak to him without being distracted by the world’s desires and needs. It was from the wilderness that God called John to go to the people and preach a message of repentance. John’s world wasn't much different from Zephaniah’s. People still weren't living as God required. There was still chaos. People were only concerned with themselves, for the most part.
So, they both went out, Zephaniah and John, among the crowds of people, preaching God’s word as it was given to them by the Spirit. And, as they spoke, people had questions. “What should we do?”
Imagine that you’re in the crowd listening to Zephaniah or John the Baptizer. You hear people in the crowd asking, “What should we do to prepare?” How do you think John would instruct you and me, or our churches, to prepare for the coming of God’s reign? What do you think God wants us to do? What do you think we should do?
Every year Advent comes and we hear the stories, the stories of Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, of John and Jesus. Every year we are given the opportunity, again, to reflect on Jesus and the coming of God’s reign. Every year we hear the story of the “voice calling, shouting in the wilderness.” Every year we hear John shout at the brood of vipers and we hear the questions they ask, “What should we do?” Do we ever stop to think that the Message is for us, and the questions they ask are our questions? What should we do?
We know, don’t we. We know what God requires of us. We've heard it before from Micah 6:8 “…to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” We've heard those words before.
Is it because we don’t understand what they mean? Is it because we’re afraid that God might require us to become “poor?” Or do we believe that we’re doing all these things and we've got all the bases covered?
What should we do? The answer my friends is the same answer John gave to the people who questioned him. If you have two coats and you know someone doesn't have any then give them your extra. If you've been charging more than you need for rent or whatever…and you really don’t need all that income…and your renter is always late with their payment…then consider reducing it. Charge only what it’s really worth…only what you need. And if you’re someone who has authority over others then treat them with respect; don’t abuse them by treating them as if they were like those feral cats in Walnut, as if they had no worth.
I think that’s how John might answer us today. What do you think? How is God, through John or Zephaniah, speaking to you today? And how will you answer?
Most of our parents and our Sunday school teachers and our pastors and our kindergarten teachers taught us that we should share. That’s the answer, share. We all have plenty and we have something we can share with others.
At the very least we to share. God loves us. It says so in his word. He loves us and he asks us to love others just like he loves us. We are to share that love with them, those others…and you know who they are.
Listen to this poem written by the Reverend Roddy Hamilton…
‘Let me tell you how I love you,’ goes the song of God, a song that never ends, instead becoming more elaborate as time goes on. The God of love goes to extremes to show us how we are loved beyond measure. God never tires of finding new ways, revealing to us when least expected the height, and depth, and width of love.
And, just when we think we've got the message, we are stunned again by the enormity of such love that pursues us to the ends of the earth, stopping us in our tracks, in our daily grind compelling us to look up and wonder, and be filled with hope and with joy as we bask in God’s love for us.
Roddy Hamilton-Spill the Beans Issue 6