How He Loves Us—Epiphany

Scripture Focus: Malachi 1.2
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. 
“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ 

Reflection: How He Loves Us—Epiphany
By John Tillman

It is notable that the word of the Lord from Malachi begins with a declaration of God’s love for Israel. God declares his love because he knows his people have doubts.

Malachi ministered about 100 years after the first exiles returned to Israel and about 430 years before the birth of Jesus. The temple had been rebuilt by Ezra. Jerusalem’s wall had been rebuilt by Nehemiah. But, after a brief period of exuberant celebration, the people’s dedication to God was still a crumbling mess. 

Unlike the exodus from Egypt, the return from Babylon was not a sudden, dramatic exit. It was slower, political, methodical. God worked in the second exodus by softening, rather than hardening the hearts of kings. There were no plagues, no pillars of fire or cloud, no miraculous deliverance through the sea. 

Israel was slowly learning again how to be the people of God. They had experienced generations of oppression and suffering caused by the sins of their fathers and mothers. Now, like the former Egyptian slaves in the desert, they doubted the love of God. They showed contempt for the sacrifices of God. They showed selfishness in both worship practices and social policy. Doubting God’s love, they showed little love for him in return and little love for the poor and needy around them.

We, too, have passed through many traumas this year. Our exodus from many of 2020’s traumas is incomplete. The COVID-19 vaccine has been called a “medical miracle,” but we still haven’t crossed the Red Sea, out of danger, much less the Jordan, into a land of promise. We languish in the in-between—in the desert of deferred hopes.

Malachi’s audience was about to enter a different kind of desert—a desert of silence. Malachi’s message would be the last prophetic message or vision until Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist, followed by the birth of Jesus.

Jesus is the ultimate declaration of God’s love and, in Christmastide and Epiphany, we celebrate this love’s manifestation. May God’s love made known to us be made manifest in us and through us.

As we exit this year, let us dispel our doubt of God’s love so that we may dispense the love of God to others.
Let us ensure ourselves of God’s generosity so that a spirit of generosity may inspire our giving of both tangible and intangible gifts.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord, and guard the door of my lips; let not my heart incline to any evil thing.
Let me not be occupied in wickedness with evildoers, nor eat of their choice foods.
Let the righteous smite me in friendly rebuke; let not the oil of the unrighteous anoint my head. — Psalm 141.3-5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Malachi 1 (Listen – 2:47) 
John 18 (Listen – 5:16)

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Read more about In a World of Trouble, Peace :: A Guided Prayer
As Advent moves into the twelve days of Christmas, we participate in the revealing, the epiphany, the manifestation of Christ.

Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer

John 18.23
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”

Reflection: Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Making Jesus known will lead to suffering and rejection. As the world investigates Jesus in our lives, we can expect the same treatment that Jesus received. May we do so, knowing that he is with us in all our suffering.

A Prayer for the Truth

“Who is it you want?” — John 18.4

Jesus, you are the king, the gift, and the truth that the world does not want.

When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. — John 18.5

The simple revelation of who you are causes even your enemies to fall to the ground.

You refuse to be who politicians want to make you.
You refuse to be who the religious elite want to make you.
You refuse to be who even your closest disciples want to make you.

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” — John 18.11

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” — John 18.23

We must not expect, Lord, better treatment than our master. We will be struck for speaking your truth.

“The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. — John 18.37-38

The world’s powers reject even the existence of truth. Much less your truth, Lord.

“My kingdom is not of this world…my kingdom is from another place.” — John 18.36

Remind us, Lord, that we are not of this world.
Its systems are not ours to run.
Its wealth is not ours to spend.
Its power is not ours to grasp.
Its wisdom is not ours to claim.
Its kings are not our sovereigns.

We are sent into the world, Lord, as you were.
Not to join it. But to confront it.
Not to lead it. But to serve it.
Not to enslave it. But to liberate it.
To call out from it those who will come to your truth.

We need your protection, Lord…
So that we may do as you commanded Peter, and put away our swords.
We need your power, Lord…
So that we may overcome evil not with the evils of corrupt power, but with the goodness that comes of taking up our cross and following you.

Remind us, Lord, that this world is not our home to defend, but it is the world you died for and we can expect to do no differently.

*On December 28, Christians around the world remember with sorrow the slaughter of the male infants of Bethlehem. They were killed for the same reasons many children die today. They were killed that those in power could remain in power—for economic and political convenience. They were killed to prevent justice and truth from coming.

Justice came to Herod anyway. And justice will come to the powerful who remain callous to the deaths of the innocent, in no matter what age they live. As this weekend’s reading from Malachi testifies: “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Prayer: A Reading
Herod was furious on realizing that he had been fooled by the wise men…a voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping betterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are not more. — Matthew 2:16-18

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Malachi 1 (Listen – 2:47)
John 18 (Listen – 5:16)

This Weekend’s Readings
Malachi 2 (Listen – 3:12) John 19 (Listen – 6:23)
Malachi 3 (Listen – 3:13) John 20 (Listen – 4:17)

Additional Reading
Read More about What is Truth?
Christ’s kingdom does not depend, as earthly kingdoms too often do, upon craft, policy, and duplicity. The Master tells us that the main force and power of his kingdom lies in the truth. — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Read More about The Trap of Being Offended
There’s no gunshot like conviction,
There’s no conscience bulletproof,
There’s no strength like our own weakness,
There’s no insult like the truth. — Charlie Peacock

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