TEXTS: ZEPHANIAH 3:12-20/LUKE 24:1-12

FORTUNES RESTORED – QUIETED BY GOD’S LOVE!

Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Christ is risen – to quiet you by his love!  From Zephaniah the third chapter - On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:  “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.  The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love…


The least known of the readings in the Easter Vigil - Zephaniah lived when Jeremiah lived!  Judgment Day dominates his prophecy - a day of overwhelming wrath – against Judah and her enemies!  It would be a day of distress and anguish; ruin and devastation; darkness and gloom; clouds and thick darkness (1:14).  Through the voice of Zephaniah God said, “I will bring distress on mankind…because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust (1:17).  Zephaniah did address the horrors of the coming captivity.  His darkest prophecy, however, points to the earth’s end – the great day of the LORD.  I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the LORD.  I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked.  I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.  

EASTER VIGIL – MARCH 31, 2013

TEXTS: ZEPHANIAH 3:12-20/LUKE 24:1-12

FORTUNES RESTORED – QUIETED BY GOD’S LOVE!

Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting
Christ is risen – to quiet you by his love!  From Zephaniah the third chapter - On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:  “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.  The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love…

The least known of the readings in the Easter Vigil - Zephaniah lived when Jeremiah lived!  Judgment Day dominates his prophecy - a day of overwhelming wrath – against Judah and her enemies!  It would be a day of distress and anguish; ruin and devastation; darkness and gloom; clouds and thick darkness (1:14).  Through the voice of Zephaniah God said, “I will bring distress on mankind…because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust (1:17).  Zephaniah did address the horrors of the coming captivity.  His darkest prophecy, however, points to the earth’s end – the great day of the LORD.  I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the LORD.  I will sweep away man and beast; I will sweep away the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, and the rubble with the wicked.  I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.  


Fellow-redeemed!  We are too easily overwhelmed by the news of the day.  The trembling of financial debt and the rattling of nuclear weapons on the national scene is unsettling.  Headlines show decay in our culture.  God’s gifts are set aside by human will.  Mockery and persecution of the Christian confession is at work.  Things sometimes appear confusing and uncertain.  Things sometimes appear dark and foreboding!   But the anguish and devastation – the gloom and thick darkness that Zephaniah points to is the final judgment of God against all nations – against sinful mankind.  It is the crushing conclusion that every war, every earthquake, every tsunami, every disease, every evil, every graveyard points to.  The other vigil readings - the flood, the Exodus, the valley of dry bones, the fiery furnace all point to the day when God will sweep everything away from the face of the earth – not with water but with fire!  In a most disquieting way, Zephaniah speaks the full and final word of God’s law. 


Thank God for another day of darkness and gloom - anguish and devastation.  We heard it again this Lenten season from St. Luke.  It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed…Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father into Your hands I commit my spirit!”


Dear Christians – Good Friday was Judgment Day for the Son of God in the flesh!  The anguish that He endured included the full load that Zephaniah prophesied against sinful humanity.  Hear more of God’s words through Zephaniah - My decision is to gather nations…to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.   The mystery of how God the Son could stand under our sweeping judgment and bear it away is the burning center of the grace of God.  The mystery of God sweeping away the Holy One who made the earth and the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea is what all Scripture testifies to – Zephaniah as well.  Amid all the disquieting display of God’s wrath this prophet nonetheless proclaims the Gospel that will come in Christ this way – he will quiet you by his love!

Dr. Martin Luther wrote – “In the third chapter Zephaniah prophesies gloriously and clearly the happy and blessed kingdom of Christ, which shall be spread abroad in all the world.  Although he is a minor prophet, he speaks more about Christ than many other major prophets…He does so in order to give the people abundant comfort, so that they would not despair of God because of their disastrous captivity in Babylon, as if God had cast them off forever, but rather be sure that after this punishment they would receive grace again and get the promised Savior, Christ, with his glorious kingdom.” 


Beloved of God, whatever captivity you now struggle with – Christ is risen!  Whatever disaster comes to your house – Christ is risen!  Whatever blessings have been or will be swept away – Christ is risen!  The day of your Lord’s resurrection shows that God will not forsake you.  He will not cast you off forever.  Remember how he told you…that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.  The “must” of the angels’ words is divine necessity!  Just three letters in the Greek – the divine necessity of Christ’s sacrifice called forth all the letters of Scripture.  It was divinely necessary to free us from the judgment we deserved!  It was divinely necessary because God’s love for us is so immeasurably deep!  Judgment Day for the Son of God in the flesh is now your Judgment Day!  Risen from the grave He has clothed you with Himself in the waters of rebirth.  The results move you from captivity to freedom!  From darkness to light!  From sorrow to rejoicing!  From death to life!  From judgment to forgiveness!  From fear to trust!  That is what the tree of death and the empty tomb of Jesus wins and reveals!  He will quiet you by his love!


This prophet – Zephaniah who speaks the law as if there is not Gospel also speaks the Gospel as if there is no law.  On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you rebelled against me…I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly.  They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD…Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!  The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies…Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.  The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love…Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! Alleluia!  He is in your midst – a mighty one who saves you, who rejoices over you with gladness – who feeds you and forgives you – all to quiet you by his love.  AMEN.

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