Today’s Word: Zephaniah 3:14-20
17Â TheÂ Lord, your God, is in yourÂ midst,
Â Â Â a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
Â Â Â he will renew youÂ in his love;
he will exult over you with loudÂ singing. (Zeph 3:17)
The image of a loudly singing God has always been a favorite of mine. When I first started reading and studying the Bible, I imagined God standing over me like a parent stands over a child and sings at bedtime. For awhile that was a comforting, inspiring image to me.
But of course, the “you” is actually “y’all.” God is not rejoicing over me, but over “us,” and in this case, the first “us” were the wayward people of Judah before they were exiled. Zephaniah is ending his book with a reminder that God’s judgement against them will not result in a nullification of the covenant God made with their ancestors long ago, and that God would bring them back, rejoicing, renewing, and singing.
We can do a lot of theological damage when we insist on making scripture (and church and faith and etc.) about God and me, rather than about God and all of us (through the ages and in all the places). God didn’t start by calling me. God started long before that, calling people to him and back to him, and now I’m included in this calling, kneeling with saints and gleaning the knowledge of the wise who have studied God’s word longer than I’ve lived.
The hymnal in my hand is “the red one.” (That’s what we call it in the biz. “What hymnal does your church use?” “The blue one” or “the new one” or “we still have the red one.” For those wondering, Peace has both red and blue.)
My favorite hymn in the red hymnal is a Christmas hymn. Since I was a little girl at the First Presbyterian Church of Merrillville, Indiana, I have loved singing “And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing; for the manger at Bethlehem cradles a king!” It was in that church I first learned to love to sing, and learned how to turn the pages of the hymnal (we had the red hymnal when I was little; the blue hymnal when I was older). It was there I first heard the stories of our faith, told to children with red punch mustaches by sage Sunday School teachers. I did not come to this faith or this place on my own and I do not stand here alone.
We are in this together. Us.
And as we find our way together, may we find renewing in God’s love and may we join God in the loud singing as we all make our way home.