By Ken Asel
A Reading from Zechariah 4:1-14
1 The angel who spoke with me came again and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. 2 He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. 3 And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” 4 I said to the angel who spoke with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 Then the angel who spoke with me answered me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6 He said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain, and he shall bring out the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”
8 Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.
“These seven are the eyes of the Lord that range through the whole earth.” 11 Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” 12 And a second time I said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees that pour out the oil through the two golden pipes?” 13 He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 14 Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
Recently, I came across an article about a group in Los Angeles known as Atheist Street Pirates. This band removes religious signs from utility poles and buildings. The Pirates are a subgroup of Atheists United dedicated to empowering people to express secular values and promote the separation of church and state.
Zechariah as the governor of Jerusalem under the control of Emperor Cyrus of Persia set about reestablishing the former demolished temple in Jerusalem. He and his companion, Haggai, longed to rebuild the Temple of Solomon destroyed in 586 BCE. Zechariah, as the prophet, was filled with zeal not only for a restored temple, but for a community which would renew the vision of the Jewish people dating back to the days of King Solomon. He longed for a messianic age that would bless their nation which had failed to live up to their dreams upon entering the land of Canaan centuries previously. However, rebuilding the temple was controversial, as many in Jerusalem were not Jewish.
Disagreement over religious and political issues need not be hostile, but they do need to be faced, then and now. God does have a vision for us. How do we live it out? Today, we encounter committed Christians, as well as groups such as the Atheist Street Pirates (as extreme an example as they may be!), who advocate very different understandings of the values and the value of faith. Among Christians, too, we find disagreements and polarities, from those who advocate for secular values in a secular sphere, to those who want to see a more “Christian” nation.
We must realize this is nothing new. Many Romans centuries ago were adherents of the gods of Olympus, or cynics, or people of other faiths or none. In the marketplaces some must have shaken their heads in bewilderment by values and customs of early followers of Jesus. Yet surely some were just as mystified in admiration of how those Christians truly loved one another. Only divine love can bring God’s vision about.
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest of the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married more than thirty years and reside on the Front Range.
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The Diocese of Cape Coast – The Church of the Province of West Africa
Church of St. John the Divine, Houston, Texas