Be silent before the Lord God

Repent, the end of the Church is nigh!

May the words of my mouth, and the thoughts and meditations of all our hearts, be inspired by the Holy Spirit and speak of God’s love.

“Shut up!”

“Be silent before the Lord God!” What a way to start a sermon, by telling the world to be silent because the day of the Lord is at hand. There is an urgency to the prophet Zephaniah’s words. The message seems clear: “What you cling to in this world is passing away”.

But who is the message for?

Very few people feel comfortable with street corner preachers wearing billboards and shouting “repent, the end of the world is nigh”, and yet, isn’t it easy to interpret apocalyptic readings that way. Thinking that the Church has got it all right, and that the world has got it all wrong.

Zephaniah was talking to a society that was founded on religious rules and behaviours, but it is believed that Zephaniah was speaking to the religious leaders about religious complacency saying “You have no faith – you say that The Lord will not do good, nor do harm.” For ‘houses’ read temples: They shall be plundered, laid waste, empty: there will be no fruit from the work. Spoken in the last years of Jewish temple-based worship.

Jesus talked about a move from temple-based worship to something new when he spoke about being torn down and rebuilt in three days.

We know this: Christians meet in sacred buildings, but we are no longer a temple-based worshipping community. We are a body of believers, a messy, mixed up, strange people made up of whomever God has drawn together. We are the people of God, the children of God; inspired and enabled by God. Blessed with a relationship with God in which God gives us gifts and those gifts bring fruitfulness.

Jesus talks about this in today’s gospel. God gives us gifts according to who we are. Matthew relates the story as different amounts of talents, but bear in mind that Luke and Mark also relate this parable with everyone being given the same amount of gifts. How much is given is not as important as what we do with the gifts we’re given. Gifts from God, given to each and every one of us according to who we are. God knows us. God loves us and gives us gifts that are appropriate to who we are.

Not everyone feels called to stand on a street corner and preach about Jesus’ love.

What are the gifts that come from God? You could look them up in the Bible to see what Paul thinks.

Or remember that you are unique and beautiful to God. What gifts has God given you? “Be silent before the Lord God”, know that you are loved by God and ask yourself, “When do I most feel like I’m in harmony with God?” For inspiration, think of the athlete Eric Liddell, and the famous quote

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

Eric Liddell

There is, however, one gift we have all been given: An open channel of communication with the Divine. Prayer. Use it. As Jesus said, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”

Jesus makes it clear, ‘use it or lose it’. It doesn’t matter what other gifts you think you have or haven’t got: you have the gift of a God who listens. If instead, we say in our hearts, “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm” then we have given up our faith and belief. We will have given up on God and given up on the Church.

Instead, let’s bring together Jesus’ parable, and Zephaniah’s prophecy:

‘Pray’, because otherwise, ‘the end of the Church is nigh’.

2 Comments

  1. We all know that words said in one context can be received very differently when said in a different context. To understand Jesus’ words, it helps to know the context in which he said them. So hats off to you Graeme for giving us your thoughts, not from your study, with the bookshelves behind you, but from the communities in which we are called live out our faith, with the canals, high streets and hills behind you. Your words and enthusiasm take on new meaning because of it.

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