Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Malachi (Page 1 of 2)

October 27, 2019 — Prophecy

Today’s Bible reading

See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction. — Malachi 4:5

More thoughts for meditation

In the book of Matthew, and in a couple other books, there is a moment when Jesus turns to his disciples and asks them who people say he is. The disciples respond, “some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Peter gets the question right, declaring that Jesus is the Messiah and the son of the living God. Jesus then blesses Peter because this truth had been revealed to him by God and not by anything else.

There isn’t a direct connection between this story and the passage from Malachi, but there is something resonant about the story of Peter having the knowledge of who Jesus was revealed to him by God and how we relate to the Bible. We need more than just the words on the page. We need a connection to the living God the stories are all about. Peter didn’t have the Bible, he had Jesus, and even then he still needed God to speak to him to know the truth.

Reading the Bible can be a daunting task if we imagine that it requires expertise to use correctly. Who was Elijah? Why would people expect to see him alive in Jesus time? Why does it seem like God is always talking about destruction? I don’t know the answers to those questions. (Slight counterpoint to the last one: apparently enough children and parents worked it out that God was happy. Don’t bury the lead.) I do have faith that God is working something out in the world, though. The Bible is the collected stories of God’s consistent effort to remain connected to us. This effort culminated and continues through the present in the life of Jesus. 

Suggestions for action

Have you ever tried to write a prophecy? It’s a spiritual gift so some us are especially good at it, like Malachi. But even if one is not gifted, that doesn’t mean we can’t practice it. Try to listen for a word from God that is worth writing down and sharing. Who could you share it with? If it feels too awkward just let it exist in your imagination.

October 26, 2018 — Judgment

Today’s Bible reading

 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. — Malachi 3:17-18

More thoughts for meditation

There is a lot of that needs to be judged in the world. We live in the age of apocalypse. The world, as if in accordance with all the prophets who predicted a consuming fire, is getting warmer. People with the power and knowledge to abate the destruction bury their heads in piles of money or refuse to see the truth right in front of their faces. That many of the people who publicly decry the idea of humanity’s impact on our global ecology claim to follow Jesus is a sad irony. 

I have an atheist friend who is a doctor of philosophy. His focus was on politics so his opinions tend to seem less arcane of late. He is ethnically Jewish and wrote this on Facebook comparing Yom Kippur to what he perceived as repentance in the wider, presumably Christian culture: 

Inwards, always inwards, from St. Paul to Kant. But what does it matter as long as people are, or are not, “doing” the thing? Your “soul”? That’s between you and your “god” I suppose. (“the day of atonement atones for sins against god only; for sins against man, the day of atonement does not atone.”) . 

I could quibble with him about the accuracy of his statement but I agreed with the jist of what he was saying. It sounds a lot like Malachi and Jesus to me, to be honest.

Jesus didn’t really mince his words when it came to how God was going to bring things to right ultimately. He was equally clear about what the people who followed him would be in the meantime: We are his body, knit together by the Spirit, and gifted to form an alternative to this dying world. No matter what form its current dying might take, God acts through us when we participate in his life-restoring project. We participate in something larger than ourselves when we follow the prompting of the Spirit but we shouldn’t diminish it to just something we are doing as individuals or as an individual Church. We are a unique expression individually and corporately. 

Suggestions for action

Try to connect with some renewal. It might be hard as the days get shorter and the leaves start to change. Try to find a tree that is in mid transition from green to another color. Can you imagine it becoming more green? Our ability to imagine is a little miracle God has given us. It allows us to envision alternatives and participate in the creative process God is working out. Can you apply the tree image to something else in your life that needs new life?

October 25, 2019 — Return

Today’s Bible reading

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ — Malachi 3:6-7

More thoughts for meditation

The rhetorical question is often offered in the less than helpful spirit of sarcasm. It’s difficult for me to read Malachi without imputing some of that passive aggression into God’s response. Can’t you just hear the “You oughta know” in it? Can’t you see God rising onto his toes, raising his hands, and then slapping his thighs as he finishes the word “return?” He might as well be saying “How many times have I said this before.”

That’s one way to read it. But there is another way if you’re willing to bring what you know about Jesus to the question. Jesus is, afterall, the way we return. There is a parable and a passage that spring to mind when I think about the question and my own recourse to sarcasm. The passage is from Matthew when Jesus opines “Jerusalem [..] how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings ..” The parable is the story of the prodigal son.

They both inform how to address the question of how we return and undercut the jadedness that would have us defend ourselves from the sarcastic, insulting tone referenced earlier. How do we return? Well, “we respond to God’s longing” might be one answer. It would be easy to forget that God inspired Malachi to speak. Rather than just visit Israel and Judah with destruction, he tries to relate. The parable of the prodigal son answers the question, again from God’s perspective, how do we return with the answer: “We are welcomed.” When the son who had squandered his inheritance returns, the father in the story rushes out to embrace him.

Suggestions for action

Find a labyrinth. The internet, as ever, provides: https://www.labyrinthlocator.com/ . Ponder the question of how you return. We all move through the day and can get distracted or catch ourselves saying and doing things we find regrettable. It might be helpful to get out of your head and actually walk your body through returning to who you are in God. If you can’t find a labyrinth, just go for a walk with the question in mind.

October 24, 2019 — Injustice

Today’s Bible reading

So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. — Malachi 3:5

More thoughts for meditation

The Old Testament, especially the Minor Prophets, is a great place to go to find quotable moments about God’s justice versus the world’s justice. Malachi delivers an especially applicable series of quips about justice in this passage. The litany of offenses he rattles off reads a little bit like all the injustice of our own time: a rapacious 1% sucking up resources while declaring their own benevolence, families caged and separated for crossing the border, and the endless wars in far off places. 

Malachi points to a singular problem at the root of the evils of his time: the people don’t fear God. Some people twist themselves in knots justifying the injustice of the world. It seems easier to do that than it is to trust in the promise of God. “Seems” is probably the right word because we let ourselves get bent out of shape and ignore the possibility of any alternative. Jesus said the same thing a bunch of times. Just think “den of vipers,” or “white-washed sepulchre,” and the infamous scene of him driving the money lenders out of the temple. Malachi is having a very Jesus moment in his sliver of the Old Testament.

But what’s the solution to injustice? Do I really have to follow the law from Leviticus to fear the Lord? That’s too much to answer here. But if you decided to read all of Malachi you might have noticed that one of his bigger gripes is with the priests and the people making a show of their religion without actually participating in it. It echoes the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector found in Luke 21. The outsider who is truly penitent is received with greater favor than the powerful insider who puts on a performance.

Suggestions for action

There are a  lot of opportunities to confront injustice in our world. Is Jesus calling you to participate in any of them? Is there a protest planned for the middle of the day that you would have skip lunch to participate in? There are lots of compassion teams you can connect with to work at transformation if you’ve had your fill of marching in the streets.

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