Listening to the Prophet

Friday, December 16, 2011 — Week of 3 Advent , Year Two

Ralph Adam Cram, Richard Upjohn, and John LaFarge; Architects, 1942, 1879; Artist, 1910

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 939)

Psalms 40, 54 (morning) 51 (evening)

Zechariah 7:8 – 8:8

Revelation 5:6-14

Matthew 25:14-30

As I live in my 60th year, I recognize that I have rarely been as troubled by the spirit and direction of my nation as I am now. We seem mired in conflict and dominated by those who have made a pact with sectarianism and meanness. I long for a society that shares the vision of the prophets.

“The word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying: Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” (Zech. 7:8-10) In other words, create a just society.

Zechariah looks at his people’s history and sees that when they “refused to listen, …great wrath came from the Lord of hosts, …and a pleasant land was made desolate.” A decisive portion of our nation today seems to be determined to follow that destructive path.

But Zechariah also has a vision of restoration, when “old men and old women shall again sit in the streets…, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the Lord of hosts?” (8:4-6)

We know our Biblical history. We know that the rulers and the people failed to listen to the prophets over and over. There are always consequences to our pride and stubbornness. But God always follows judgment with redemption. The final chapter of history is always God’s act of restoration and reconciliation.

So in the meantime, the best we can do is side with the prophets. Work for a just society. Proclaim in the name of the Lord true judgments; kindness and mercy; compassion toward the vulnerable, alien and poor; and open-heartedness. If we live in a time like so many others when a nation refuses to listen, we will suffer with our neighbors, working and actively waiting for God’s work of restoration.

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