On joy and Zephaniah.

Every Sunday morning, I lead an interdenominational chapel service at our hospital. There are a few people in the chapel sometimes. The service is sent live into hospital rooms on Channel 21.1, and then is replayed several times during the week. I laugh about having a TV ministry. It’s the opposite of most-no close-ups, no production numbers, no invitations to send money.

We use the Revised Common Lectionary for our Bible readings each week. It provides a structure, a discipline to be sure that we look widely at Scripture. And each week I look for the threads to tie together into a message that makes sense for people in hospital beds, often with hospital meds. If you are a regular reader here, you have read some of those messages, broken into three or four posts.

Sometimes, the texts are challenging in very many ways. Such is the case for this weekend. On this third Sunday of Advent, we will light the pink candle and speak of Joy. The texts point us, one way or another, to joy and rejoicing. But they get to that point through pain and suffering and disobedience and calls for repentance.

One text, for example, is from Zephaniah 3:14-20. (You can look at a table of contents to find it in the Old Testament). The text speaks of rejoicing and deliverance. To prepare, I read the whole book. It speaks of hypocrisy and abuse of power by religious leaders and religious people. It then speaks of God’s response: punishment and destruction. It is not the kind of happy Christmas story to read on Christmas eve.

It’s the kind of text we take to God and say, “Help me see what you see to say what you are saying to who you are speaking to.” And yet. For those who are in pain and despair, words of deliverance can be good news, can bring joy.

I invite you to reflect with me this weekend.