We return to Malachi to bookend this week, but I invite you to read a bit more. Malachi 3:5 follows today’s reading with these words: “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.”
The goal of the refiner’s fire is not to make gold or silver pure. The goal of the fuller’s soap is not to make a garment clean and white. The goal of the life of following Christ is not to become what John Wesley would call a “holy solitary” separated by piety from the world’s problems.
No, the goal for Malachi is to stand in solidarity with the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant. We seek refinement in Malachi 3, God’s fidelity in Luke 1, love and insight in Philippians 1, and radical reorientation in Luke 3 in order to benefit the marginalized in biblical society and today.
Look around you. Do you know the name of the person experiencing extreme poverty in your neighborhood or on your way to work? Are you aware of how the political structures impact the orphan and the immigrant differently than you?
We can recommit ourselves to all the ponderings of scripture, but if they have no discernible effect on our life alongside the marginalized, then they are noisy gongs or clanging cymbals. We can make a difference in people’s lives. Go, and make the paths of the marginalized straight.

Holy One, help us live out the scriptures in action and deed. Fill our lives with interaction with the outcasts, and we shall find the joy of life in you. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Luke 3:1-6

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Lectionary Week
December 3–9, 2018
Scripture Overview

The prophet Malachi speaks of a future day when God’s messenger will come to prepare the way for the Lord. The Lord will then purify the people and restore proper worship of God. Christians believe that John the Baptizer was this messenger, preparing the way for Christ. In Luke 1, the Holy Spirit fills Zechariah, John’s father, who proclaims that the fulfillment of God’s promises to their descendants has begun. Luke continues the story of John in chapter 3, describing John’s ministry of calling people to repentance. They need to prepare the way of the Lord in their own hearts, thus fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy. Paul in Philippians focuses not on the advent of Christ but on the ongoing power of Christ’s presence to make us blameless and righteous in God’s sight.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

• Read Malachi 3:1-4. How have you experienced the refiner’s fire? What was your experience?
• Read Luke 1:68-79. At home and work, are you usually the first touch, the second touch, or the third touch? How so?
• Read Philippians 1:3-11. How could you make expressing your gratitude to others a habit?
• Read Luke 3:1-6. How are you preparing the way of the Lord? What crooked paths are you helping to make straight?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.