Rev. Larissa Forsythe is an Associate Minister at Congregational Church in South Glastonbury, UCC.
Scripture: Zephaniah 3:14-20 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
Sing, daughter of Tziyon!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
daughter of Yerushalayim!
Adonai has removed the judgments against you,
he has expelled your enemy;
the king of Isra’el, Adonai,
is right there with you.
You no longer need to fear
that anything bad will happen.
On that day, it will be said
“Do not fear, Tziyon!
don’t let your hands droop down.
Adonai your God is right there with you,
as a mighty savior.
He will rejoice over you and be glad,
he will be silent in his love,
he will shout over you with joy.”
“I will gather those of yours
who grieve over the appointed feasts
and bear the burden of reproach
[because they cannot keep them].
When that time comes, I will deal
with all those who oppress you.
I will save her who is lame,
gather her who was driven away,
and make them whose shame spread over the earth
the object of praise and renown.
When that time comes, I will bring you in;
when that time comes, I will gather you
and make you the object of fame and praise
among all the peoples of the earth —
when I restore your fortunes
before your very eyes,” says Adonai.?
Reflection: It's Up To Me
Though you are reading this only a couple of weeks before Christmas, I am writing days after the tragic shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg in which 11 worshippers, pillars of that community, were killed by an anti-Semitic gunman. The words of Zephaniah bring tears to my eyes as I imagine God, Adonai, in our midst, promising that we need never fear harm again. It is a balm to my soul to read God's intention to gather those who have been cast out, to exalt those who have been shamed, to restore those who have been made captive to systems of oppression. It is a joyful relief to hear that God wishes to cast aside that which punishes and grieves me. Those things which keep me in bondage are no match for the Sovereign of the Universe.
It is also a temptation to interpret these words as being addressed only to those that I can relate to, only to those that I pray for, only to those whose grief and shame and oppression are apparent and understandable to me. But there are others too. Those that I "other", that I cast as enemy, as oppressor, as "those people." And I imagine them reading these words and thinking that the oppressor is someone like me - or like the people that I see as the oppressed. What are we to do with these words of comfort and justice as our country and our world become more and more divided? What are we to do when there are deep disagreements about what restoration truly looks like? What are we to do when what makes us grieve makes our neighbor rejoice and vice versa?
I'm grateful that the promise of this passage is that it's not up to me to sort it out. It's up to me to be faithful to the truth as I understand it and humble enough to acknowledge that there is much more to the world and to truth than I can fathom. It's up to me to love my neighbor - which sometimes looks like showing up to lovingly comfort and sometimes looks like showing up to lovingly confront. Best of all, Zephaniah claims that it's up to me to rejoice and celebrate with God when a glimpse of restoration is illuminated; to dance with God as neighbors near and far come home to one another. This is the hope of Advent: that the healing which seems impossible is just over the horizon, that the Imago Dei which resides in every person can become the driving force for change, and that even in the midst of violence and destruction, God is working out our salvation.
Immanuel, God with us, open our spirits to see your salvation even now. Let your desire for this world be our only motivation. Let us be agents of healing and restoration within ourselves, our communities, and even for our "enemies". Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those affected by the snowstorm southeastern U.S. where as much as 20" of snow fell over the weekend
- For family of the 5 children who died in a house fire on Sunday in Youngstown, Ohio
- Those grieving or suffering in eastern Italy where 6 people were killed and dozens more injured by a panicked crowd at an Italian discon on Saturday
- For those families facing the holidays after losing a loved one
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For the peace that Advent bring
- For those who work to shelter and support people who have suffered from domestic abuse and violence
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
South Killingly Congregational Church UCC
Westfield Congregational Church UCC
The First Congregational Church of Darien UCC
First Congregational Church, Deep River, UCC
The First Congregational Church, UCC
This Week in History:
Dec. 10 1901, (117 years ago) The first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. Named after Alfred Nobel, who acquired a fortune after securing patents on his invention of dynamite. Nobel later had misgivings about his invention as it was used in warfare. In his will, he directed that the majority of his fortune be used to award prizes in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.