Zechariah 1:1-6 Return to Me
Zechariah the prophet has a message to Israel, return to me. Not a novel message, the prophet, a traditionalist, speaks to Israel again the Word. Repent! Return to your roots. How often the prophets are written off as liberal yahoos determined to get justice for the poor and marginalized, with little care for financial gain. Not a fan of unbridled capitalism or corrupt political figures, the prophets declare a word of judgment again and again. Yet, what does Jeremiah tell us? Return to the Lord, a message given to and followed by their ancestors. Such a conservatism seeks to renew God’s people through the simple message of return to God, worshipping God alone, and care for the poor.
What sort of church would we have today if such simple instructions were followed? Worship God alone, not capitalism. Worship God alone, not nationalism. Worship God alone, not cultural relevancy. What would the church look like if such a simple practice was followed?
What would our communities look like, if the church prioritized the needs of the marginalized over the needs of the wealthy? What would the church look like if the church prioritized the spiritual needs of the unbelieving world? Would the programming change? Would the membership grow? We know not because we have not…yet.
Until death do us part. Those words have been uttered by countless couples in their wedding vows. The vow says that it stands until one of them dies. Once dead, the vow no longer binds the two together. So too, when we are baptized, we die to the law and its requirements. Having been put to death, we are raised in Christ to new life. This new life places one in the hands of the Spirit of God. Paul tells us, in Romans, that the Spirit opens up for us communion with God, the constant presence of Christ, and unity with one another. Wedded to the law and find yourself separated from one another and from God.
Excursus: What is the law? For the early followers of Christ, the law was the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Some zealous Jewish Christians insisted that to be a faithful Christian disciple, one must indeed follow Christ by following the Law. Or in other words, all non-jewish followers of Jesus must become Jews and observe all of the Law, while still worship Jesus as Lord. Paul argues extensively here in Romans and in Galatians that the Law, though good, was a limited good. Meant more as an interim caretaker for God’s people, as a way to prepare for the coming of God’s son. The Law, like any other system, can be coopted by sin and used for deathly purposes.
Following Jeremiah, who admonishes Israel to return to God, Paul asks the question about what have we added to the simple worship of God alone? Must one dress a proper way to properly God? Not use certain four letter words to rightly worship God? Must one be a Republican or Democrat to worship God? Simply worshiping God alone rewrites what we understand as essential for faithful worship and faithful. What has been added to the simple worship of God alone develops into the kind of idolatry that lead Israel away from God. So repent, and return to God.