Bearing Reproach—Epiphany

Scripture Focus: Malachi 3.1-5
1 I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. 
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. 
5 “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.

John 20.17-20
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. 
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 

Reflection: Bearing Reproach—Epiphany
By John Tillman

“Don’t shoot the messenger” is a cliche based on the fact that messengers may be treated badly for faithfully stating the truth.

This is perhaps especially true of the Lord’s messengers. They are criticized and laughed at. Words like “crazy,” “out there,” “heretics,” “unrealistic,” and “mad,” are tossed around.

Malachi’s prophecy is often tied to John the Baptist. Jesus said that John was mocked for elements of his Nazarite vows. John was discounted as crazy by the religious establishment and was murdered by the government for his sexual ethic. (Matthew 11.18-19; Luke 7.33-34)

All four gospels (especially Mark and John) name Mary Magdalene as the first messenger of the gospel of the resurrection, (Matthew 28.1-10; Mark 16.9-10; Luke 24.5-11; John 20.11-18) yet she is disrespected both within the Bible and in church history.

Mary’s testimony, and that of the other women, is not believed and is referred to in a dismissive fashion, implying their report is considered unreliable. (Luke 24.22-24) In addition, Mary was falsely slandered centuries later by church leaders’ poor teaching. Three biblical women (none of whom are called a prostitute in scripture) were amalgamated into one false picture of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. (Who is Mary Magdalene?, by Mary Ann Beavis) 

John was dismissed as a madman and beheaded for his moral stance. Mary was slandered as a prostitute. Even the Magi, to whom Christ is revealed on Epiphany, were under threat by the angry king Herod, who, unable to reach them and desperate to kill Christ, slaughtered innocent children. 

We must not be surprised at our mistreatment as the Lord’s messengers, whatever form it takes. 

When Christ appeared to his disciples, he brought peace for us to share with the world. The next time he comes will be different. John the Baptist says Christ will wield an axe. Malachi promises fire and harsh, burning, launderer’s soap that will wash away the filth Malachi described in the previous chapter. 

May our offerings be brought in righteousness. May we testify of the gospel to sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers. May we stand against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and who deprive foreigners of justice. 

By these things, we are the Lord’s messengers, preparing the way, carrying the gospel to all around us. We must be willing to bear any reproaches that come because of it. It is not we who are being attacked but the precious cargo we carry and the precious lives of those who are yet to be saved. 

Bearing the gospel will also mean bearing reproach.
May we be faithful in both.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. — Psalm 85.9

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

Today’s Readings
Malachi 3 (Listen -3:13) 
John 20 (Listen – 4:17)

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Read more about Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer
As the world investigates Jesus in our lives, we can expect the same treatment that Jesus received.

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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