Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 (NRSV)
Verse 7Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests. Verse 12At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, "The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm." Verse 13Their wealth shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.
Verse 14The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there. Verse 15That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, Verse 16a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. Verse 17I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the Lord, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Verse 18Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord's wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.
This coming Sunday marks the next to last Sunday of the church year, when the scripture readings and reflection have traditionally focused on end times and the “Day of the Lord.” On Ash Wednesday our foreheads were marked with ashes and we heard those sobering words: “From dust you have come, and to dust you shall return.” So then and now, how indeed shall we think and act when faced with questions of our relationship to God and the end of life?
Zephaniah, like the prophet Amos, invited God’s people to reconsider complacent lives conducted as if God had nothing to do with their lives. “The Lord will not do good, nor will he do harm,” they presumed. Zephaniah challenged them to a call to responsible and alert living in the awareness that God is not absent and cares about the creation, and that there will come a time of accounting for how we live accordingly.
O Lord, our God, teach us to live in the awareness that you have not abandoned your creation, and that you call us to live not in complacence, but with awareness that this life rests in your hands and by your mercy. Amen.