On the feast of St. Michael and All Angels
Monday, September 30
Feast of St. Michael and All Angels
Zechariah 8:1-8 Reading for the Daily Eucharistic Lectionary
Christ Chapel, Seminary of the Southwest
September 30, 2013: Tomorrow the healthcare marketplace will open, and you can register and choose a plan to insure that your costs will be paid if you get really sick. The system will work if enough healthy people sign up, and their premiums will cover the cost of the people who aren’t healthy and who will have a ton of expenses.
Abstract perhaps, except for the people I know who will be able to get coverage now.
If there is not agreement in the House and Senate today, the government will be forced to shut down, laying off workers from their jobs and stopping non essential government services, most of which we take for granted, but that nevertheless we depend on happening.
Abstract perhaps except for how a government shutdown and the market reaction might endanger our endowment and our seminary.
If you aren’t able to remain in total denial about this situation – which is definitely one strategy - it is pretty scary, dire, infuriating, unnecessary, and upsetting.
So what do we do today, in light and shadow of all this? How do we think about it? What do we do about it?
We gather at Christ Chapel for the Monday Eucharist. We celebrate the feast of St. Michael and All Angels. We gather around ancient texts, thousands of years old, a million miles distant from us. We reverently read them: “The Word of the Lord.” And we somehow have faith that they matter for the people of God in the present. That they can comfort, provoke, feed and motivate us for the day and week that we face.
I am reading the scripture assigned in the daily Eucharistic lectionary.
First, this ancient text shows that the vision of peace, of God’s shalom, and of the good community is so deeply saturated into our hearts and collective minds that it can never be exterminated.
Listen to Zechariah’s version of it:
“Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.”
People can get old. Not be massacred. Not starve to death. Not get sick at an early age and waste away. Girls and boys can play in the streets. Not be raped or conscripted into gangs or mercenary armies. Public life is renewed and restored.
I picture the old men and women holding their walking sticks, surrounding the fire or the vat of beer, or playing dominoes at the benches along the sidewalk. And the kids – I think of them at night for some reason, jumping rope or spinning hoops or chasing each other around in the streets.
Here is the vision of the good community. Not a pipe dream. Not impossible.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the Lord of hosts? Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”
Could it be that our role – as Christians, as seminarians, as staff and faculty, each in our own way --- that our role today is to keep this vision vivid and alive even as it is transmuted in public political discourse?
Let’s not let the country forget this vision. Even if it seems impossible.
Those of us who are training to become or who already are, authoritative interpreters of this Christian tradition, can be critical readers, thinkers, and speakers about these texts and this tradition. We can show how to discriminate and how to make distinctions –
--- between the Jesus of Bill O’Reilly or the Jesus of Ted Cruz and Jesus in the gospel of Luke. Or between the amazing stories of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and the scientific theory of evolution that has produced so many benefits in the treatment of disease, the development of medicine, for healing.
We can endeavor to do this with rhetorical power and with faithfulness, exemplifying the virtues commended in these ancient texts:
“These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord.”
And second, in a world of violent jealousy, of deadly competition among nations, peoples, and faiths – in a world where one nation’s survival depends on the destruction of others, hear this stupendous good news of the prophets: God’s commitment to and jealousy for one people, God’s partisan fervor and commitment, will ironically, mysteriously bring all peoples to God, and will make the vision of old and young up late in the streets of the city – it will make that vision true for all.
This is the vision of Zechariah and the prophets. This is the vision taken up by Paul, who calls all the others and the enemies, “Gentiles.” For “Gentiles,” read Shia, Shiite, Read Hezbollah, read Godless China, whatever – all the others, the enemies will be enfolded into God’s shalom.
“‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’; and again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him.’” (Romans 15:10-11)
Proclaim this: in the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God, choosing one ultimately blesses all. The Word of the Lord for a difficult, dangerous week. Praise the Lord. Thanks be to God.