Tuesday, November 25, 2008 -- Week of Proper 29
James Otis Sargent Huntington, Priest and Monk, 1935
Today's Reading for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 995)
Psalms , 121, 122, 123 (morning) 124, 125, 126,  (evening)
1 Corinthians 3:10-23
We don't know who the prophet is whose action is recorded in Zechariah today, but his work is dramatic. He has a great complaint against the leaders of his people. Instead of caring for the people, the leaders are exploiting them. In an act of protest, the prophet takes on the role of a shepherd, and begins what appears to be a reform campaign. "In one month I disposed of the three shepherds, for I had become impatient with them, and they also detested me."
This reforming shepherd took two shepherd's staffs, naming them "Favor" (or "pleasantness") and "Unity." But he found that the people, like sheep, were ungovernable. So he broke his staff named "Favor" and annulled his covenant. He scorns the shepherd's wages that the leaders gave to him -- thirty shekels of silver. It is the typical price for redeeming someone devoted to Temple service from their service. The prophet throws the money into the Temple treasury, thus contaminating it and indicting the Temple leaders as corrupt as well. Then the prophet breaks the second Unity staff, abandoning hope for the reunion of Israel and Judah. Again in his shepherd's clothes, he waits the arrival of yet another corrupt leader.
There have been times in our nation's history and within other organizations when the actions of leaders have seemed full of the abuses of power, corruption and exploitation. Sometimes the effect of such dysfunctional leadership is to create a completely corrupt and dysfunctional system, both leaders and followers become self-centered and destructive. There is no "Favor" or "Unity." Sometimes reform is futile. The prophet we read today lives in such a time and place.
Jesus speaks to his followers in a similar spirit in today's reading from Luke. He tells them that they will be going up to Jerusalem where "everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again." The disciples do not understand what he is talking about. How often we fail to understand the warnings of the prophets.
Yet on the road to Jerusalem, a blind man seems to understand. Calling to Jesus as the Son of David, he asks for his sight, and he is healed. There is one person who can see. Ironically, it is one whom everyone knew was blind.
Paul's letter to the Corinthians warns people of the craftiness of the wise and worldly. He encourages his congregation to build things of substance, attend to that which will endure because it has foundations grounded in God's work. Like the prophet we have read in Zechariah, Paul warns them, "Let no one boast about human leaders." What we have, we have from God; and it is everything, he says. "For all things are yours, whether ...the world or life or death or the present or the future -- all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God."
It is an encouraging reminder when leaders are corrupt and systems fail and only the blind can see. Underneath everything, "all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God."
Yesterday I met a man who has lost his job. After years of skillful building of a successful business, he is completely without work. He told me he has nothing but God to depend upon. The he looked at me with a beaming smile and a determined eye, and said, "And I am already thanking God for what he is bringing me."
"The world or life or death or the present or the future -- all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God."
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About Morning Reflections
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
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