Joel 3

Each generation can claim this stuff as typological in their own time, as did Americans in their Civil War, with ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’, taken not only from Revelation, but from Joel. When is it time to beat swords into ploughshares? When it is Joel’s time?

Anyhow, not with a bang, but with a whimper – thanks for your company through these 11 weeks, and anno domini 2018 – let’s keep sharing the way into 2019, with the Epiphany season to follow!

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Joel 1

The timing of Joel is not clear on its face. Hosea and Amos can be tied to the 8th century BCE, but not this text. Who is the invading nation, likened to a lion with teeth? Must if be Assyria coming down like a wolf on the fold of Israel?

What generation could not find a time and place to sing these laments? The good old days are always yesterday, and the deserts of the day never seem just. So far, though there’s nothing to tie Joel to its place in an Amos-Hosea sandwich!

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Malachi 3 (and 4)

Here’s the nugget we think we know, included in the lectionary lessons appointed to be read in a 3 year worship cycle. We hear it in Advent, and think that Malachi is predicting Jesus, a script to be repeated by John the Baptist. Perhaps, but it says so much more, and expands and clarifies the meaning and purpose, the person and work of Jesus if it is used to name one Messiah or another messenger.

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Malachi 2

The harangue continues in accusation against the priests. The Levitical priesthood broke covenant – there may still be hope for the Aaronic priesthood. People should respect their priests, but these priests are despised by their children (who know them best). They stink of the dung of the bad sacrifices.

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Malachi 1

When did we become a petty clubhouse for rummage sales, “Junk for Jesus”, taking cast-offs and afterthoughts, stuff ‘not good enough for hand-me-down or consignment shops, but too good for Goodwill’? When did we give up on tithing and exhaust ourselves in the treadmill of fundraising bake sales?

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Malachi and Joel

Newly subscribed as a member of Unifaith, in Unifor, 35 years later, I’ve joined the community chapter of the union that has been trying to organize clergy for the past 15 years and more. Gretta Vosper got a settlement with good lawyers, but in corrupt and degenerate times, we’ll need some advocacy with resonance with Malachi and Joel.

Can’t see the connections I’m making? Keep reading, or listening to my reading, of these last two of ‘The Twelve’!

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Zechariah 14

This is our third Sabbath of Zechariah, and the closing notes have to reflect the text. It all comes to crisis, this ‘day of the Lord’, with conflict and carnage. The bleak side sounds like Likud threatening ‘plague’ on all Arabs.

I’d prefer to linger over the promise of the mundane made sacred, the cooking pots in the kitchen as blessed as the holy of holies. I’d prefer to imagine all nations observing the festival of booths with Israel, remembering our own humble beginnings in huts.

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Zechariah 13

Here’s a happier start to the day, as we end the week with the penultimate chapter of Zechariah. The ‘day of the Lord’ is not as threatening as in Zephaniah, eh? (You can go back and check those notes). The experts will be humbled, their own families silence the false prophets. They won’t get away with Jacob’s trick of impersonating his brother the ‘hairy man’.

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Zechariah 12

I am not up to the task of construing this one in some distant, objective, historico-critical modern frame. I just weep at the tragic moral choices between bad and worse, people who feel passion and compassion, recognizing their role in others’ pain. In any and every time and place, we bear complicity – in this one, more.

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Zechariah 11

Here’s the finish to the famous oracle. As usual, I’m asking you to hear it like athletic competitors’ ‘trash talk’, given our cultural aversion to militarism. You know I’m ambivalent, given what we keep asking young Canadians in armed forces to do, and denying them support upon their return. Perhaps a bit of ‘trash talk’ was be better.

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Zechariah 10

In our own ages of despair and depression, what might give us again a ‘warrior’s heart’, lift our spirits and shape a shared movement? Let’s start with not being rejected, but shown compassion. Might we regain pride, and become militant, without becoming vain, or violent?

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Zechariah 9

When he cometh’ we sang as children. Our grandparents imagined the souls of children lost in infant mortality, gathered to God. Perhaps the jewels making up God’s crown are more like the economic migrants gathered to make something greater together in restoration and return from exile and diaspora.

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Zechariah 9-14

Do you expect your God to be impartial, or uncritically your patron? How does love balance with justice, and how far are the consequences of bad leadership and self-serving weak people to be permitted to play out? Is this really limited to a prediction of Jesus, expected in about 500 years, or is it a shape of leadership to which he will conform? What patterns do you recognize?

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Zechariah 8

Jealousy’ has a pretty negative semantic field for us. We confuse it with envy, or covetousness, by broadening its meaning as if they were synonyms. A closer word might be ‘possessiveness’ – which still has negative connotations between lovers when it is overly controlling. The idea of a patriarchal god feeling possessive wrath toward Israel feeds the discourse about domestic abuse and sexualized violence. Is there any redemption in a god in relationship, angered?

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Zechariah 6

Zechariah’s errand from God looks to me like a ‘development officer’ or ‘bagman’ raising money from donors, targeting specific rich patrons to sponsor key costs related to the crown and the temple. Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah may have been big names in their time – part of the elite exiled, successful in Babylon, and choosing to return to Jerusalem.

Have you known 20th century refugees to North America, returning to former soviet states after 1989? Having prospered here, and maintained language skills, this crowd is peculiarly positioned to prosper. Bata, Soros, Ignatieff might be familiar names like Heldai, Tobjah, and Jediah.

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Zechariah 5

Don’t steal. Don’t swear falsely. Sound familiar? Remember another scroll, or perhaps a couple of stone tablets, with a similar message? Where and when was that? Now, it’s coming to your own house, and if you’re a thief or a liar, it will eat your house into nothing. This is making the political personal, eh?

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Zechariah 4

Visualize a lampstand flanked by a pair of olive trees. You might start with a menorah, the Jewish symbol of Hanukkah, (December 2-10 this year, but December 22-30 in 2019). That festival celebrates a miracle of a bit of olive oil continuing to burn in the temple when it should have run out – part of the Maccabbean reclamation of the temple after Hasmonean desecration.

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Zechariah 3

Picture Joshua as a bedraggled refugee, singed by fire, stinking of smoke, and certainly not presentable in any high court, let alone this one. He’s a ‘firebrand’ – a stick pulled from a fire already burning. God tells the angels to whisk him off and clean him up first.

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