Sorry it’s been such a long gap. I’ve had a week off and am only just catching up!
Malachi 3: 5
Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
This is part of the Old Testament reading for Candlemass. We won’t hear it on Sunday but it’ll be printed in your news sheet. The passage as a whole is normally interpreted to be a prophecy of John the Baptist calling people to get ready for the day of the Lord. Verse 5, which we have here, is the description of that day, and therefore refers to the coming of Jesus. There’s not much gentle, meek or mild here.
The problem with passages like these is that we tend to give them lip service but not expect them really to be very relevant to us. Be honest. When you read it, did you think of it as a verse that was going to have very much to do with your life at the moment? Would you not be much more likely to relate to a nice touchy-feely verse about God holding you in the palm of his hand?
But it’s OK because I don’t do a lot of sorcering or adultery. So I can be squeaky clean and look on smugly whilst Jesus judges the sinful people. And that, I think, is the nub of the problem today; nobody really thinks of themselves as sinful. It’s always someone else’s fault. I certainly don’t oppress the hired workers in their wages, but I do enjoy getting cut price vegetables, and if I don’t ask too many questions about where they came from and the conditions of the workers, I don’t have to worry about it. And I certainly don’t thrust aside the alien unless they are in likely of getting the vaccine before me.
When we look at the damage human beings are wreaking on the fragile world ecosystem that God has created …; when we look at the increasingly wide disparity between rich and poor, both in our country and in the world as a whole …; when we look at the rise in refugees and migrants around the globe and the way they are treated at borders …, would it not be good if Jesus came to judge us sooner rather than later and to keep God’s promise never to destroy the world he has made but rather to renew it? It is unlikely to be painless when it happens because it is bound to turn the political systems of the world which largely benefit people like us, upside down. Or would you rather he did nothing and we continued to hurtle headlong towards disaster?
Here is the Collect for Candlemass
Almighty and ever-living God,
clothed in majesty,
whose beloved Son
was this day presented in the Temple,
in substance of our flesh:
grant that we may be presented to you
with pure and clean hearts,
by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
And here is another sonnet by Malcolm Guite, entitled Candlemas. Does it say the same thing as the comment above but from a different perspective?
They came, as called, according to the Law.
Though they were poor and had to keep things simple,
They moved in grace, in quietness, in awe,
For God was coming with them to His temple.
Amidst the outer court’s commercial bustle
They’d waited hours, enduring shouts and shoves,
Buyers and sellers, sensing one more hustle,
Had made a killing on the two young doves.
They come at last with us to Candlemas
And keep the day the prophecies came true
We glimpse with them, amidst our busyness,
The peace that Simeon and Anna knew.
For Candlemas still keeps His kindled light,
Against the dark our Saviour’s face is bright.
If you enjoy the Malcolm Guite Sonnets, you may wish to buy his book, Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press