Zephaniah ben Cushi
I am a white woman. Therefore it is unusual that I went to Howard University for Seminary. The flagship historically black university, Howard has been called the “Black Harvard.” And, yes, I was the only white person in most of my classes. I learned to see Jesus, a marginalized child born in the poverty of a manger, as black.
Zephaniah’s heritage, noted at the beginning of his prophecies tells us he is from Ethiopia, in Africa. With a first name that means “YHWH protects,” Zephaniah diversifies the Hebrew prophets in his own body, through his parentage.
Zephaniah’s message diversifies the scriptures. Sitting at the end of a series of eight oracles, calling the nations to task nation, this oracle brings it together. From the edges of the earth, in Africa, God’s people will come, giving offering. Not just the Israelites. Everyone. Like Isaiah’s, Zephaniah’s God is a “light to the nations.”
It is far too easy to understand God coming in terms of ourselves and our own culture. This prophet reminds us, in stark terms, that God’s love, God’s message, and God’s grace are for all of us. And God comes to and is with all of us.
Yes, to see God clearly, we need to see that the people of God are of all sorts. If we only see God in those like ourselves, we will miss the divine presence. Yes, one of the prophets was African. And sometimes white folks like me need to see the babe in manger as black.
Rev. Julie Holm pastors the Brush Valley Fusion of Faith in Rebersburg and Madisonburg, PA: St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, St. Peter’s Lutheran (ELCA) and Christ United Church of Christ. She also edited this booklet.
©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.