...the Zephaniah reading is not all about victory. Zephaniah also talks about a people humble and lowly, a remnant. And these people, who sound a little pathetic, these are the same ones whom no one shall make afraid. Shame will be turned to praise.
It sounds like strength coming out of weakness, which we hear over and over in the Bible. Moses told God again and again that Moses was not up to the task, and yet, as we heard tonight, he led the people out of slavery in triumph. Ezekiel saw a valley strewn with dried-out bones, and before his eyes the same bones were transformed into a vast multitude.
None of this makes a lick of sense, and yet these are God’s promises to you and to me. Again and again, we turn away from God, but as we heard in Genesis, we, God’s creatures, are good. And in our weakness, we are called. Everyone who thirsts is invited to the water. God will save the lame and the outcast.
These are wild promises, and what do we offer in return? By our baptism, we came into a covenant with God. For many of us, those baptismal promises were made on our behalf, when we were babies, unable to speak for ourselves. But tonight is one of the nights that in response to God’s promises, and in anticipation of the resurrection and the end of the darkness and the rest of the story that will immediately follow, we will renew these vows; we will make these promises ourselves, as a community.
We are approaching the end of the darkness in our service, but not in the world. When we leave church tonight, it will be dark outside, and we might be tempted to lose hope. We can lose hope because of Iraq; we can lose hope because of Darfur; and we can lose hope because of tragedies closer to home, because of the suffering that surrounds us. What kind of people can celebrate in times like today?
We are that kind of people. We are foolish enough to believe we can change the world, to be reckless enough to see good in all creation; believing that, despite the insurmountable odds, we, in all our weakness, can participate with God in the deliverance of the oppressed.
We are foolish enough to believe that God can and has overcome death, and that no sin is so great that it cannot be forgiven through Jesus Christ.
At this point in our service, we are still in the darkness, but we do know the rest of the story, and we are foolish enough to put our faith in that glorious story of the resurrection. We will now renew our baptismal promises, outrageous and solemn promises that we can not possibly keep without God’s help. And with God’s help, we will keep those promises, and believe that, even in the darkness, God never abandons us.
We are an Easter people, even in the darkness.