Monday, November 11, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Zechariah 6-8 and My Own Article on "What DId I Say?" (Part 5)

Zechariah 6 – The eighth vision is four chariots emerging from between two mountains of bronze. The first chariot has red horses, the second has black horses, the third has white horses and the fourth has dappled-gray horses (6:1). The angel says they “are the four spirits of heaven who stand before the Lord of all the earth. They are going out to do his work” (6:5). The red ones are going to the East; the black ones to the North; the white ones to the West and the dappled to the South. They will patrol the world (6:7).

Zephaniah is to take a crown of silver and gold, place it on Joshua’s head and tell him that “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Here is the man called the Branch. He will branch out from where he is and build the Temple of the Lord . . . Then he will receive royal honor and will rule as king from his throne. He will also serve as priest from his throne, and there will be perfect harmony between his two roles” (6:12-13).

People will come from lands far away to rebuild the Temple, and when it is rebuilt, everyone will know that these visions and messages have come from the Lord.

Zechariah 7 – November 518 – since the destruction of the Temple in June-July 587, there had been a fast to commemorate it. Zechariah wants to know if this tradition should continue. The important thing is God wants the people to practice kindness and compassion towards each other, but the people never obey these simple commandments, so he scattered them. “They turned a land of delights into a desert” (7:14).

Zechariah 8 – Yahweh promises to return to Zion and “shall dwell in the middle of Jerusalem” (8:3). “Now with the remnant of this people, I am not as I was in the past. It is Yahweh . . .who speaks. For I mean to spread peace everywhere. . .Just as one you were a curse among the nations, you House of Judah (and House of Israel), so I mean to save you for you to become a blessing” (8:12-13). The prophet also tells us that someday people from many nations will come to Jerusalem to learn of Yahweh.

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism -
“What Did I Say?”
Part 5
The story goes on to say that Jesus leaves his disciples, telling them to baptize all people. The Holy Spirit comes and Christ’s church is born. The church believes that Christ will return soon to end human history and gather his faithful to himself. But he does not return. We learn a little about the first decades of the church, but then the narrative ends, at least as history. The real end of the biblical narrative comes in the Revelation of John, which portrays in symbolic or imaginative terms what the end of history will be like.

History, insofar as it has to do with the past, ends in the first century, biblically speaking. Quakers incorporated the Revelation part of the narrative by saying that events prefigured there could be experienced on a spiritual plane even though they had not yet come to pass, just as all the events of the narrative could be inwardly experience. We could come into the full presence of God and sup at the great banquet in a spiritual way in this life. But Quakers did not see the historic events that unfolded after the establishment of the church, after Christ’s ascension, as having much weight or spiritual significance. Like the New Testament writer of Hebrews, they saw Christ’s coming as the end of all outward types and shadows, the culmination and end of God’s redemptive work in the world.

They used the image of the sun and compared Christ’s coming historically to the rising of the sun (Son) to its zenith over the earth. As the sun (Son) rises to its fullness—to its zenith—it casts “shadow” in the world (the “types” or outward forms), but once it is “come” (or risen to its fullness), the shadows disappear and what you have is perfect fullness (what Friends called Substance), the fullness of God’s Spirit and Light.
This image spoke to me. It explained why Friends did not feel the need to see God’s redemptive truths embodied in outward things like sacraments; but over time, it also led my mind to see that it was Quakerism did not address. The sun did not stop at noontide; it had a downward course to take as well to complete its story, and during this part of its course through our world, it would inevitably cast “shadows” again because the world it illuminated was just that way. It contained things that both obstructed and made real the sun’s presence. This image, the sense of what it implied, the sense that it revealed something true to me about the course of the redemption story and the way God was working in the world today, opened a way out of the labyrinth I felt Quaker theology had placed me in. It helped me see a way of resolving issues about the place of outward things in religion, the legitimacy of the historic church, and the matter of apostasy as well. I began to see another way the narrative could be viewed and other truths it might open.
I know this sounds strange. It is very hard to communicate how a vision of something comes to one, how a different way of orienting oneself to a story like the biblical story can open things, solve issues, or lead one in a direction not yet taken. It is very mysterious, but these insights brought me to some important conclusions and insights.

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