Sunday, November 17, 2019 – Pentecost 23

November 17, 2019  

Pentecost 23 2019

Malachi 4:1-2a

Our Savior’s La Crosse

This past week I did something I’ve never done before: I read the entire book of Malachi. All fifty-five verses.

The book of Malachi is from a collection of books in the Old Testament commonly known as the Twelve Prophets. Malachi is the last of the twelve. In addition, the book of Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. For that reason Tertullian called the book of Malachi “the skirt and boundary of Christianity” (as quoted in “The Book of Malachi” “Introduction” in The New Interpreter’s Bible vol. 7, p. 843). Where the Old Testament ends the New Testament begins…

We have 1.5 verses from the book of Malachi as our first reading.

The best parts of the book are left out.

For example, if we were to finish reading verse 2 instead of just reading half of the verse, our reading would be:   See the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all   evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you that revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

And then, in 2:3 it is written that the Lord said

I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and I will put you out of my presence.

Malachi claimed the Lord was angry with some of the priests who had gotten lazy in their work. Rather than making animal sacrifices of the best animals from the herd, priests were sacrificing sickly beasts, or beasts that were lame or blind. Malachi believed this was an offense to God, hence the “dung” of those sickly animals would be used as a punishment against the priests, spread on their faces.

The best verse from the book is found in 2:17, where the people ask Malachi

“Where is the God of justice?”

 The question is haunting. Where is the God of justice?

The book of Malachi is believed to have been written after the Babylonian exile, during the period known as “the period of the Persian Empire” approximately 539-450 BC (ibid p. 847). The prophet Zechariah (whose book comes right before Malachi’s in the Old Testament) called this time “the day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10).

Malachi, then, was asking “where is the God of justice?” during the day of small things.

The question is haunting. Zechariah’s description of the time is intriguing. What do their thoughts mean for us?

I don’t think we would say that we live in the day of small things. Especially with our use of social media, everything in our day to day lives seems not just big but “HUGE!”

I make a pretty meal, a meal that looks delicious, before I take a bite I take a photo and splash it onto my Facebook page. Because my meal is that important…

I’m sitting home watching tv and I notice both dogs sitting on the bench, looking out the front window. Quick! Take a photo! Our dogs are so CUTE! Look everybody! Look at our dogs! As I post the photo on Facebook and Instagram…

What if we focused ourselves, our lives, on the small things? Would we find the God of Justice there? Because I’m not necessarily finding the God of Justice in the HUGE! things happening in the world that seem to be demanding all of my attention…

I took this photo when Jeanne and I were on vacation on the U.P. this past September. It was a rainy day and I was walking on the beach.

Can we find the God of Justice here, in this little leaf?

I think I can.

Lake Superior is 7 inches higher this year than it was last. Many of the beaches on the Keweenaw Peninsula are under water. If I look out our back windows at home I see the same thing happening to the Mississippi River. We’ve had an abundance of rain and snow—temperatures have been extreme highs and lows, much of which is explained by global warning.

The God of Justice entrusted us with this world, calling on us to be stewards of creation. The God of Justice calls us to look around and see what is happening and to act.

I took this photo when I was camping at Bethel Horizons over Labor Day weekend.

I was there for the camp’s 50th anniversary. This is a photo of a wildflower called Goat’s Beard. The flower has gone to seed. It lives in a field of wildflowers intentionally planted and cared for by the camp’s Naturalist.

When I see Goat’s Beard growing I think of the camp and its commitment to serving at risk children from Dane County and Milwaukee. Children come to camp on “camperships.” I see the God of Justice in their young faces as they learn about life in a safe environment, where the worst threat to them is the ticks that are there in abundance.

If we make every day a day of small things, we won’t have to wait until the end of time to know God’s justice. God is calling us forward now—calling us into each and every moment. All we need to do is stop. And look. And listen.

And then we need to figure out what we can do to bring God’s justice to the world.