those who come ‘before’…

There is always someone making predictions

concerning the wandering ways of the people of God.

Repent – return – open your eyes and see what you have done –

open your eyes to see what God is doing.

There are always going to be prophets…

but Malachi has his particular project, doesn’t he…

Malachi can’t be speaking about us, can he?

We could (we do!) say the same of any of the prophets we find in Scripture –

we are content to select those passages that suit us

and ignore (with smug satisfaction)

those bits that sound too…well, too old-school for us.

Offerings that are pleasing – we don’t need to hear that.

The sacrificial system that Malachi was commenting on is not our system.

Christ is our refiner, and that is all we need to know, right?

Yes, there are prophets for every time and place;

prophets for every situation and circumstance –

and some of them fade into obscurity,

but there are others who won’t let us rest.

And they are determined to drag us into a new relationship with God,

whether we like it or not.

Malachi won’t let us rest.

His words threaten us – frighten us –

refining and sifting do not seem like comfortable pursuits –

even less does being refined and sifted…

“who can endure this coming?”  asks the ancient text.

Who indeed?

It is a question that remains current,

no matter what you think the prophet is speaking of.

There are no direct allegations that connect Malachi’s words with our situation –

prophecy is rarely “about” us – so much as it is “FOR” us…

but who can endure the news of this great act of God that is coming?

I refuse to worry about any specific judgement that God may render –

to spend our time worrying about whether or not biblical prophecies can be connected to specific current events is not a worthy use of the revelation of God that is Holy Scripture –

but I do believe that God is always doing something among us –

something that we cannot endure…

God sends a messenger – who tries to waken us to the foolishness of our ignorance of God

(and our absence from God, which is sin)

and the message is consistently “repent”, renew your connection with the Almighty

look at the ‘new thing’ that God is doing among you…

Over and over again we are given this word.

Over and over again we debate how the word is to be understood.

Over and over again we decide

that the prophet is speaking to someone else (for someone else).

The repetition is tiresome, and we move on to other concerns.

Not content with Malachi’s warning words,

the lectionary brings us another messenger in John, son of Zechariah –

John, whose message of repentance, whose warnings of judgement,

sound very familiar to our cynical ears.

The thing about repetition – especially repetition in Scripture –

is that it usually signals something of great importance.

And the message of great importance is not “God will destroy all you wicked”

but rather “God is reaching out to us all.”

We may well be indifferent, distracted, even bored

by the incessant warnings which these ancient texts seem to hold,

but we cannot deny that throughout Scripture, and our own experience,

God is demonstrating a remarkable persistence toward humanity.

Those prophetic voices have been given a gift of special awareness.

They can see the glory we are missing.

They have discovered the extraordinary among the ordinary –

and have a knack for getting our attention.

Malachi warns that our ‘impurities’ must first be purged.

John declares that our way to forgiveness involves genuine repentance.

The message is consistent – that we are missing an opportunity

to participate in the ongoing work of God’s Kingdom on God’s own terms.

And so – even here – even now – we are called to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’

God’s messengers continues to drag us – willing or not –

toward that redeeming light that is our salvation.

We are called from our wandering paths – encouraged to clear our vision

that we might see the glory of God that is come in Christ.


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