Friday, March 18, 2016

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016 - Zephaniah (1)


The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016

FUD – Zephaniah (1)

          Lent 2016 grows old. Holy Week is almost here. The repeated warnings and calls from the Lord for the people to wake up and pay attention to him or calamity, the Day of the Lord, is coming upon them as gone largely unheeded. Yet the Lord continues to cry out to them, hoping against hope, it seems, for a sign of recognition and response. Zephaniah chimes in today keeping God’s voice ringing out clearly to stir the people to repentance.

          Perhaps it is good at this point to draw back and ask ourselves why those people of God kept on resisting and resisting his call.

Of Jerusalem I thought,
    ‘Surely you will fear me
    and accept correction!’
Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed,
    nor all my punishments come upon her.
But they were still eager
    to act corruptly in all they did. (Zephaniah 3:7)

 Why do we (because we do, you know)? I believe FUD is the villain for them and for us.

          What is FUD? Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.

          Fear arises from insecurity. Despite our bravado is proclaiming ourselves captains of our ship and masters of our fate we remain profoundly, achingly, insecure about our place in the world, our significance and security. Existentially potent, this fear drives much of what we do and who we are.

          Uncertainty is fear’s first cousin. And like fear, it is driven by the reality that we lack certainty in almost every area of life. We bluff it though, and bluster that we do in fact have indubitable certainty, at least about things that matter. This fuels much of the incivility and anger in our public discourse.

          Doubt is fear’s second cousin. I don’t mean here the doubt that is part of faith seeking understanding. The doubt that keeps us questioning and growing in faith. Rather, I mean the doubt that afflicts us all at the core of who we are. Who are we, really? What are we doing here, or supposed to do? Is there any point in life? Again, these are not primarily intellectual questions but those niggling doubts that creep up on us unbidden from our subconscious in our daydreams or wake us at night and make it hard to go back to sleep.

Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. Together they comprise a formidable barrier for us small, frail, and fallible creatures desperate and determined to go it on our own in our journey through life. Yet the power of our self-deceit and the illusions it traps us in make us fearfully resistant to any challenge or call for change. Even from God. Our Creator. Our Redeemer. As we have seen throughout the Book of the Twelve.

God keeps calling though. Wooing. Loving. Disciplining. Us.

This call is a call to faithfulness rather than fear. God’s faithfulness. Made known to us in Jesus Christ. God’s love in Christ is the only certainty we need. And we do know it certainly because the Spirit is poured out in our hearts (Romans 5:5). We can surrender control of our lives to this divine Lover. From him we receive a new identity – our true identity – and thus our significance and security.

This call is a call to Utterly. Uncertainty does dog our steps all along our way. We cannot, despite our best efforts, ward off their presence or deny how much they shape our life. Nor can we deny their truth. We are small, frail, and fallible. No illusion can mask that convincingly forever. The good news is that we don’t need such certainty. Our uncertainty can only be met by love that chases and embrace Utterly. That is, to the max. Despite any and every cost. Unendingly. To hell and beyond. Utterly. Because of love. Because such love will not live without us. Utterly. Again, that love has come among us as one of us in Jesus Christ so we might see, hear, and feel that love which loves us utterly. We can then let go of our illusions and quixotic quests for certainty and rest securely in that love that envelops us with its Utterly.

This call is a call to Discipleship. Following Jesus. A call to relationship with God. And relationships are only real if they’re on the move. Mumford and Sons catch the dynamism of this in their song “The Cave”:

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's hand

“So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

“'Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

“And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

“And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again”

          Discipleship answers those self-negating doubts by catching us up in a movement and a drama far larger and more significant than we are. And its gives us a role and the gifts to live that role out that effectively answers those doubts. And it is this relationship that also gift us with confidence and hope, as God promised it would through Zephaniah.

Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
    Daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away your punishment,
    he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
    never again will you fear any harm.
 that day
    they will say to Jerusalem,
‘Do not fear, Zion;
    do not let your hands hang limp.
The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.’”

          Faithfulness (God’s). Utterly (Christ’s). Discipleship (Spirit). That’s the answer to Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. And for that, we can only cry “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

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