Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A City Without Walls

Tuesday, December 18, 2007 -- Week of 3 Advent (Year 2)

"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

Audio Podcasts of today's "Morning Reflection" and those from the past week are available from http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id244.html (go to St. Paul's Home Page www.stpaulsfay.org and click "Morning Reflection podcast")

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 939)
Psalms 45 (morning) 47, 48 (evening)
Zechariah 2:1-13
Revelation 3:14-22
Matthew 24:32-44

Note: I typed (and read) today's passage from Revelation yesterday; Monday's Epistle should have been Revelation 3:7-13)

It has been said often that the role of the prophets is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

Zechariah speaks to a demoralized and vulnerable people. The Babylonian exile is a recent memory. Just twenty years before, the Persian Cyrus had given them leave to return to their homeland to rebuild. But the restoration project had been tenuous. Their homes were re-established, but the symbols of civic vitality were still as they had been following the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. The walls were broken down and the Temple lay in ruin. They are living among foreign people who seem to be tolerating them, but they are not in charge of their own land and destiny.

Zechariah writes at about the time when Ezra and Nehemiah with the support of Haggai will stir up the people to restore the walls of Jerusalem to make it a city that has some security and military protection and to rebuild the Temple. From their perspective, it would be a project of immense proportion just to get back to where they were before the invasion.

Zechariah sees another possibility. In his vision, he stops the surveyor with the measuring line and halts his preparation for rebuilding the walls. An angel speaks to Zechariah, "Run, say to that young man: Jerusalem shall be inhabited like villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and animals in it. For I will be a wall of fire all around it, says the Lord, and I will be the glory within it."

This is a different way of living in the world. No walls either to keep out or to limit the freedom of the inhabitants. God is the protection for this city, and God's presence is at its center. This nation will be a blessing to all of the other nations of the world. These other peoples will be welcome, and "many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in your midst."

How hard must it have been for others to imagine such a possibility. To build a civilization in a new way. An open, defenseless city of welcome and hospitality. A city that trusts in God rather than its own might. A city with God at its center instead of its own pride.

Zechariah is saying something about the nature of community and a vision of a new political order. He is also saying something that applies personally. What might we be like if we responded to ruin or catastrophe with a confident trust in God's presence at our center and a willingness to re-engage without defensiveness and suspicion, letting God be our protection. What does it mean to be a person without walls?

Zechariah says that God regards the people as "the apple of my eye." God loves and cherishes us. Within that love and benevolent regard is our rebuilding and our security. He closes this passage with an image that can touch anyone with a contemplative bone in his body. "Be silent, all people, before the Lord; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling."

God is alive and active. God is at the center of our life. We may be silent. Peace. All is well. All will be well.



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The Rev. Lowell Grisham
Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, AR

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life:
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.


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