Malachi the Grouch
Malachi 4: 1-6. Luke 1: 5-17
Malachi is a tough book.
It is a tough book because it is so real.
People have an ideal, a dream, a romantic way of looking at things...Malachi is all about destroying that illusion.
You see Malachi was frustrated.
He wasn’t living in the time of Moses when the people were slaves and needed to be free and they had the dream of a saviour freeing them.
He wasn’t living in the time of Judges, of Samson, when the people had found freedom in the Promised Land but were being attacked by Philistines and needed a saviour.
Malachi lived when everything should have been fine.
The people had returned from exile in Babylon. They had their freedom, they had their temple, they had their king, and they had their nation. Everything should have been fine. And yet it was a mess. The people were corrupt, the priests were corrupt, the nation was no better than all the other nations around them.
What was the point of going though all that heartache and struggle as a nation if they were just going to be as selfish and self centred as every other nation?
What was the point of seeking God’s help over all those centuries if all they were going to do was abandon all of God’s principles and values once they had what they wanted?
And in anger and frustration he looked ahead and saw that one day, one day, people would live the life that God had hoped for them.
In his anger and frustration Malachi had great wrath for those who had failed God up to then. They would dread the Day of the Lord.
But to those that had followed God’s ways, they would see hope on that day.
On that day their lives, the world, everything would be the way God wanted it to be. There would be peace and harmony and joy.
Till that day came they should prepare.
But they didn't need to worry, because before that joyous and terrible day came, God would send a messenger, Elijah to return and warn them.
The New Testament saw that messenger Elijah coming in the birth of John the Baptist.
Malachi was a grouch; a very angry, very frustrated grouch.
I don't want to be too hard on him because I can be a bit of a grouch.
And I can get really grouchy at Christmas.
I hate getting presents.
I would rather have no presents than a disappointing present.
But they look at my face and say stuff like, ‘You should be grateful for what you get. It’s the thought that counts.’
And somehow their rotten present picking is my fault.
I hate giving presents.
I hate spending hours and hours and hours thinking of the prefect present, and then someone saying, ‘Oh is that it?’
But if I say, ‘You should be grateful for what you get. It’s the thought that counts,’ then it doesn’t count.
So if I buy a rotten present then that’s my fault, if they buy a rotten present then that’s my fault too.
It’s the Malachi syndrome.
That felling that our life shouldn't be that hard.
Our life is basically good, so why are we so discontent?
There has to be more.
Whatever this life is, it is not that way it should be, this cannot be the way God wanted it to be.
Malachi saw the only hope as the Day of the Lord, that day when God would be involved with the world, and the sign would be the birth of his messenger Elijah.
The one good thing that Malachi had in his favour was rhe belief that God does get involved.
When the people were slaves in Egypt God got involved, God sent Moses.
When the people were under the rule of the Philistines God got involved, God sent Samson.
God would send his messiah; then he would be really involved.
And until that day we should be prepared.
And I think that is the truth that Jesus gave us.
The day of the Lord is near; the day of the Lord is here.
Look at the example Jesus gave us.
Jesus took that example of being prepared and lived his life that way.
Jesus lived his life prepared. At any moment there could be a God moment.
That is the sole message he taught his disciples, and I suppose wants to teach us.
It is not about what we learn; it is not about how much of the Bible we read or how much we pray.
It is not about how much we give in the collection or how many times we go to church.
All those things the Pharisees did, and did it a lot better than any of us. But Jesus didn't think their way was good enough.
What Jesus taught his disciples, and wants us to understand...is that every moment can be a God moment, so we should be prepared, because we never know when it is going to happen.
Fore instance, Jesus has been teaching all day, thousands upon thousands of people, all day. And maybe some people were inspired, some people had learnt a lot, but now they were hungry, now they were tired, and far from home. What to do? They should be fed. But how do you feed such a large group?
Well along comes Andrew with a wee boy and says, ‘This lad has five loaves and two fish.’
Personally I would have been sarcastic. ‘Thank you Andrew. Five loaves and two fish are exactly the right amount of food for 5000 folk.’
But Jesus saw it as a God moment; a moment when God was involved.
Jesus is walking through Jericho and the crowd are cheering and he is thinking of finishing the journey near Jerusalem but that is still a long walk. And then he looks up and sees this guy hiding in a tree. Jesus was obviously tired; he could have left the guy up the tree and gone off. Stopping would mean a delay in his journey. But Jesus saw a God moment. And a party was had at Zaccheus’ house.
Jesus is resting at a well, the disciples have gone off to find food.
And along comes a women of dubious history.
I would have said, ‘Hi.’ she would have said, ‘Hi’ and she would have got her water and gone home. But Jesus saw a God moment and talked to her and changed her life.
Jesus is walking to Jerusalem, knowing that this is the last journey he will take. This is the most important journey he will ever make, this is his walk to the cross.
On the way he is stopped by a man who says, ‘Could you help my daughter she is ill?’
I wouldn’t have had the time. I would have had the more important journey on my mind. Jesus sees a God moment. He stops everything that is so important to do this thing. But on the way there a women touches him who has been ill for over a decade. To me this is an interruption to the interruption.
But to Jesus it is another God moment.
He assures the woman that she is well, and by then a servant comes to tell the first man that his daughter has died. But to Jesus it is just another God moment. And Jesus goes off and heals the girl.
Jesus is dying on a cross. He has been hanging for hours, the pain must be nearly overbearing. This is his time, he can concentrate on himself and getting through this, that’s all he has to do.
And then there is a voice gasping from the side, ‘Would you remember me when you come as king?’
A God moment.
‘May your heart find peace knowing that today you will be with me in Paradise.’
A moment were we see God wants to be involved.
A moment where God is breaking into the world and making things a bit more like the heavenly kingdom.
A moment when God’s love is felt and God's joy is felt and God’s peace is felt.
A moment where God not only wants to be involved, but God is seen to be involved.
That was Jesus’ huge lesson, the lesson of Malachi, ‘Be prepared, for that moment when God gets involved is very near.’
But whereas Malachi thought it would be some huge day with God smashing into the world.
Jesus saw it as something that God was doing all the time.
Sure one day God will get hugely involved; that will be THE DAY OF THE LORD.
But until then God was sneaking in all over the place.
Moments were all around us if we had the courage to be prepared and to act in that moment.
I was playing squash when the door went. It was the person in the next court. The university had put a yoga group in the next court and we were making too much noise for them to do their yoga properly. She insisted that we had to stop playing squash...on the squash court, so that she could do yoga in the next squash court.
My partner was livid. He tried not to be angry and as we were near the end of the game anyway stopped, but you could tell in his body language that he was not a happy bunny. I wasn’t a particularly happy bunny myself.
So you can imagine how he felt the next week when the game was tied and he thought he was going to win when the same thing happened. There is a knock on the door, ‘Could you stop please because we are just about to start our yoga and you’re making too much noise.’
Now part of me was pleased because I don’t want to lose a squash game.
But strangely enough I saw this as a God moment. A chance to bring God’s love and hope and joy into the moment.
So I said,’ We only have a couple of points to play. If you haven't started yet could we finish those two points, and if it drags on past that then just give us a knock when all your clients have arrived and we will stop.’
And she looked at me and said, ’That would be fine.’
And it was fine. As it turns out I won the game anyway. But as I passed the other court back to the dressing rooms I made a point of putting my head through the door and saying ‘Thank you.’
I never thought anything else about it until a couple of days later we are passing through the gym and this voice says, ‘How are my noisy boys?’
I’m not too sure what kind of moment that was.
I know we are all going to be busy over the next wee while.
I know we all have added pressure on ourselves over the next few weeks.
And I know the temptation is to get frustrated and narky and angry and complain about how Christmas has been commercialised and the spiritual and the holy and the wonder has been taken out of it all.
But maybe our problem is that we have forgotten to be prepared for the God moments. Those moments when we can do simple things like holding doors open, asking folk how they are getting on, complimenting a struggling mum or dad on how well they are coping with their child.
Those moments when we can bring God’s heart into the world.
Those moments were we see God wants to be involved.
Where his love and compassion and joy can make a difference.
When this world stops being more like this world, and starts to be more like His heavenly kingdom..
Those moments are all around us...all we have to do is be prepared, and look for them.