Our reading from the Old Testament is from Zephaniah 1:7,12-18, a book which probably was composed around 630 BCE after an era where the worship of multiple gods supplanted the worship of God. Zephaniah is encouraging the king of his time, Josiah, to throw out that worship and commit the nation to the worship of the one true God. And it is in this hostile environment where we hear Zephaniah talk about the day of the Lord.
The day of the Lord is mentioned all over the prophets. My personal favorite exposition of the phrase is in Joel. Both Joel and Zephaniah imagine the day of the Lord as something that is coming very soon. The day of the Lord is different from contemporary images of what the “end times” will look like. There will be no war or great battle between good and evil. God, as supreme ruler, cannot be competed with. God will merely cast judgement. The day will be a day of wrath, violence, and incredible sorrow because, as Zephaniah states, “they have sinned against the Lord.”
But this wrath, for Zephaniah, is directed towards one set of people: those who are indifferent to God and God’s wants in the world. And what is it that God wants? Justice. Love. Healed relationships. God isn’t indifferent to the world. God is active in it, moving through us and the world, helping us to love our neighbors, heal our friends, and raise up the strangers in our midst so that their life is full and filled. God loves us – and we are called to love everyone too.
To look at the day of the Lord and focus only on the wrath and violence is to see only half of the story. The other half tells us what God is looking for. Eric Mathis writes, “The day of the Lord is the day when indifference will no longer be tolerated. The day of the Lord is the day when, out of blood and ashes and flesh and dung, will, in fact, come something good: the promise of a future where God reigns over all people and all things.” God’s future is our future. Let’s live into that.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 23rd Sunday After Pentecost, 11/16/2014.