From wrath to grace

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90:1-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

A young seminarian could effectively caricature the preaching of his supervising pastor. "Repent!" he would holler at the top of his lungs. "Too late," he would add sotto voce, his head turned aside, as if walking away.

His supervising pastor, the Zephaniah of the Great Plains, must have been stuck on the texts for the 25th Sunday after Pentecost. His words fit the season. The fallen leaves bear the smell of judgment. The day of the Lord in mid-November smells of death.

The notion of God's wrath has fallen on hard times. It offends our sophisticated sensibilities. But there it is. The prophet Zephaniah says, "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' . . . The great day of the Lord is near . . . the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter . . . That day will be a day of wrath."


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