Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, December 24, 2006

His Own Associate: Zechariah 13 with poem by Elizabeth Cheney, There is a Man on the Cross

Daily Readings
Psalm 45, I Maccabees 10, Zechariah 13, Luke 20

Daily Text: Zechariah 13

His Own Associate
God demands the removal of both idols and false prophets in Zechariah 13. Even their parents will accuse them of lying and will pierce or stab them at home. Obviously, their unpopularity has spread for they face questions about their own integrity at home and abroad. As their parents accuse, they lie to protect themselves claiming neither prophetic status nor prophetic interest. They leave the customary prophet’s clothing at home and claim to be simple farmers. When asked about the marks of self-flagellation on their body that are indicative of the ecstatic prophet, they promulgate the falsehood that these bruises or scars were received in the house of friends. How this helps is unknown, for such bruising would suggest homosexual activity and certainly they would not try to ‘protect’ themselves with such a claim. Whether or not their protective words actually protected them, we know that they were dissembling.

In the passage, verses 7-9, we have a poem that suggests that God slays, or allows to be slain, his own associate, one who stands next to him. This is far more remarkable than the portion against false prophets, for this shepherd seems to be one of a true calling, even associated with God himself. And once he is slain, the people scatter and two-thirds of them end up dead themselves. The remaining third are brought through as if by fire in a testing mode, and these become the people of God. This image of shepherd seems to have influenced Jesus mightily for he uses it often [Baldwin 529:198]. “The very fact that the passage is to a degree enigmatic is an invitation to meditate on it, and there are indications that it influenced the thinking of Jesus more than any other shepherd passage in the Old Testament (cf. John 10, with its repeated emphasis on the shepherd laying down his life for the sheep, and on the scattering of the sheep).

There is a Man on the Cross
Elizabeth Cheney

Whenever there is silence around me
By day or by night—
I am startled by a cry.
It came down from the cross—
The first time I heard it.
I went out and searched—
And found a man in the throes of crucifixion,
And I said, “I will take you down,”
And I tried to take the nails out of his feet.
But he said, “Let them be
For I cannot be taken down
Until every man, every woman, and every child
Come together to take me down.”
And I said, “But I cannot hear you cry.
What can I do?”
And he said, “Go about the world—
Tell everyone that you meet—
There is a man on the cross.”

Collect for the Day
Gracious God, your love unites heaven an earth in a new festival of gladness. Lift our spirits to learn the way of joy that leads us to your banquet hall, where all is golden with praise. We ask this through Jesus Christ the Lord.

[476:763:Psalm 45 Psalm prayer]


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