The Good News
Another class beginning with a question.......
What do you think it means to be a prophet?
Our Old Testament bible reference comes from the prophet Zephaniah, one of those "minor" prophets whose name gets lost behind the more familiar and major prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Daniel.
Who was he, and why was he considered a prophet?
He was a prophet during the time of King Josiah prior to the fall of Jerusalem, preceding the exile of the Jews to Babylon (640-609BC).
Like all Old Testament prophets he had a distinct message to deliver.
Interesting to note his words, his message, was quite encouraging in the reading for today (Zephaniah 3: 14-20) offering hope to God's people who will be facing significant hardship in the years ahead.
One definition of the word prophet is one who utters divinely inspired revelations. That definition makes us think that a prophet is special, unique, different from most of us ordinary people. In the gospel lesson today we hear from John the Baptist, extreme prophet, living in the wilderness wearing a camel's hair belt and having locusts and wild honey for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Certainly to be admired, but not a person most of us modern day Christians could remotely relate to or strive to be (at least if we were honest!)
Still, the Good News that Christ brought, the powerful message advent shares through the incarnation, is that Emmanuel- God with us- God in us- means we are all "prophets", and therefore messengers of The Good News. We don't have to be on a mission field in a far off place -or in a pulpit -or fasting day and night- or eating locusts (thank God!!!)
If we realize we are messengers, then how do we share that message?
John the Baptist gave some clear guidelines in the gospel lesson from Luke 3:7-18 to help us with that question. After calling the crowds coming to him a "brood of vipers", the people began to get a little nervous, especially when he stated God could take rocks and make them into Abraham's children if he needed to -also adding (ouch!) "every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
As a prophet he certainly got their attention, something most prophets were gifted in doing by using some scary ideas- hell fire and judgement. When the people he was challenging asked some viable questions, John responded with the true heart of The Good News.
""What then should we do?"
He said to them. "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; whoever has food must do likewise.""
Sharing what we have.... so simple, and yet so profoundly and divinely inspired.
Referring back to Zephaniah, God encourages through the prophet "And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth." As prophets, messengers, today, we too can save and gather through God's love.
Anne shared that being a prophet can be as simple as feeling a nudge to call someone, and by doing so responding to God in reaching out to that person. Sharing with someone a smile, a nod of kindness and recognition, could bring light and hope to a person's day. It doesn't have to be extreme or particularly noteworthy, it just needs to come from our heart- God's heart.
Living The Good News also means letting God "baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." The fire part sounds painful but is necessary to burn away our "chaff"(all that stuff inside that keeps us from living up to our full God-given potential), enabling us to become truer to sharing his love.
We touched briefly on the Epistle reading from Philippians 4:4-7. The word rejoice is also in the passage from Zephaniah, but Paul uses it twice in the first sentence, clearly emphasizing his point.
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice."
In theory, rejoicing and not worrying about anything because we choose to trust God sounds plausible, and all of us could point to instances in our lives where we did feel God's peace in the midst of a troubling situation. But we were also honest in admitting that living up to Paul's exhortation, " Do not worry about anything" is hard, seems almost impossible, until he places the key to this attitude into our hands by telling us:
"but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Let us give everything to God...... both our struggles and our joys, and rejoice! as we continue to await the Lord's coming this advent season.
Here is a thought provoking poem included as part of our study guide:
"Our Daily Bread" by Cesar Vallejo
I wish I could beat on all the doors
and ask for somebody; and then
look at the poor, and, wile they wept softly.
give bits of fresh bread to them.....
Every bone in me belongs to others
and maybe I robbed them.
I came to take something for myself that maybe
was meant for some other man;
and I start thinking that, if I had not been born,
another poor man could have drunk this coffee.....
And in this frigid hour, when the earth
has the odor of human dust and is so sad,
I wish I could beat on all the doors
and beg pardon from someone,
and make bits of fresh bread for him
here, in the oven of my heart....!
A remarkable quote from Mother Teresa of Calcutta:
"In each of our lives Jesus comes as the bread of life----
to be eaten, to be consumed by us.
This is how he loves us.
Then Jesus comes in our human life as the hungry one, the other,
hoping to be fed with the bread of our life.
our hearts loving, and our hands serving."
As we approach the fourth Sunday of Advent, let us meditate on allowing the Lord to use us as prophets of The Good News, freely sharing His bread with those in need.
Our Study for the upcoming 4th Sunday of Advent (December 23, 2012):
Jesus The Teacher
Bible verses: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30