#FeelItSayItFixItForgetIt is the reflection for December 13, 2015. What is the worst thing you have done in your life? There is a way to leave it all behind. John the Baptist and Zephaniah have something to say to you about a long lost book that can make all the difference. Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #Prophet #JohntheBaptist #Josiah #Torah #Confession #Forgiveness #MercifulGod #Luke3 #Zephaniah3
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 12/13/2015 The 3rd Sunday of Advent.
Please pause this audio and read Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Luke 3:7-18.
I want you to think of the worst thing you have ever done. Take a minute and really think. Maybe you don’t need a minute. What is the one thing you would take back in a second if you could? Did you say you were sorry? It is the most helpless feeling in the world, knowing you did something really bad and you cannot take it back. There is no better feeling than when you have admitted that you did it, cannot change it, but all you can do is say you are sorry for it, and you are forgiven.
That is the message to the Kingdom of Judah from the prophet Zephaniah today. King Josiah was the king during the time of Zephaniah and it was when Josiah was cut to the heart that Judah had not followed God’s ways and had mixed their religion with paganism that he changed everything. It is thought that the entire book of Deuteronomy is written to address this rebuilding of the people of God to be the people of God. The Book of the Law of God was so neglected that they stumbled upon it in the Temple. The Chief Priest at the time had never read God’s Book.
What would you say if you discovered that there was not one Bible in the Church? What if there were all kinds of pamphlets that told you about the Bible, but not one scrap of paper of the Bible could be found? You wouldn’t think too much of that Church or the people of the Book would you? That was the situation in which Josiah was King.
Josiah was horrified. He sought out the prophetess Hulda to let God know he was sorry. He repented and rebuilt everything and changed the laws so that the people of God followed the Word of God. It was no small undertaking. The formula for confessing our sins has always been the same. It is simple to outline. It is horrifying to do. Here is the formula: feel bad, say you’re sorry, and try to make it right in at least some small way. In other words: feel it, say it, fix it.
The Prophetess Hulda had some good words for Josiah and the people in 2 Kings 22. God forgave them because they were sorry and changed their ways.
Fast forward to John the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke for this Third Sunday of Advent. It is evident that Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” had not been written in the time of John the Baptizer. I am not sure that, “You brood of vipers!” is the way to greet people who have come to hear you speak. In our hypersensitive society, I am not sure that anyone would be left in the room, but maybe some lawyers suing you for defamation of character after a greeting like that. Yet, the point to bring to bear here is that the formula is the same when the people are cut to the heart about their lack of faithful living: feel it, say it, and then fix it.
Every time this passage comes up in the lectionary cycle, I have to point out that John does not call everyone to go, sell all they have, give it to the poor, and then become a pastor, priest, monk, nun, or religious professional. John calls on us, after we have felt badly about our sins and said we were sorry, to fix our behavior in our context. He tells them to share what they have, to be honest when dealing with money, and use their power with justice for all. These are things that all of us can do right now in our lives.
As Luke tells us, the people wonder if John is the Messiah. We who know the Book, we who anticipate Christmas in the here and now, know that not John, but the one who bears the name, “God saves” is the Messiah who is to come. The fact that Jesus’ name means, “God saves” says a lot.
God is rich in mercy. He loves us. He is patient, slow to anger, rich in kindness. If not, then why would God accept his chosen people after they had left him so far behind that they lost the TORAH?!? The Chosen People, whom God had set up in their own nation, had lost THE BOOK. When the servant goes to King Josiah to tell him what they found in the Temple, dusted off, and finally read, he says, “We have found a book.” It is to the people who filled the Temples with the things of false gods that the God of the universe says, “I love you and I will take you back.”
Of all the religions in the world, all the religions that have ever been, how many know that God loves us so much that He is the major player in our being saved from eternal death? God does not expect us to run on a hamster wheel of spirituality and religion. This is why I say the people who are “spiritual but not religious” think we believe in a god that I do not know. I said it last week; we do not know that god. The God we know forgives his own people who have forgotten him. The God we know forgives the chosen people who have given in to lying, cheating, and unjust dealing with each other. The God we know desires mercy and not sacrifice. The God we know is kind and just, slow to anger and rich in mercy. The God we know, when it was time to save his people from their sins, came down from heaven, was born our birth, lived our life, walked our walk, talked our talk, died our death, and rose to eternal life giving all who have been baptized into him a path to our God forever and ever. This is why the God we know tells Joseph to name his Son, “God saves.”
So, what is the worst thing you have ever done? Don’t you wish you could go back and undo it? Don’t you wish you could just be forgiven? Well, you can. For the God who forgave his people who misplaced the writings of the Law he gave them; who forgave the unjust and deceitful dealings of his chosen people in John the Baptizer’s time, your worst thing is nothing. So, feel it, say it, and fix it. Feel the regret. Tell God you are sorry. Then change your ways and do a small thing to repair the damage you have done. Then one more thing: forget it.
This Christmas we are going to face family members who have wronged us and who we have wronged. This might be the perfect time to feel it, say it, fix it, and then forget it. Hear the prophet Zephaniah this Advent,
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…
So, what is the worst thing you have ever done? It is nothing in light of the mercy, kindness and forgiveness of our God. You can be forgiven. You can start over. You can have a new life, starting now. Amen.
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