Wednesday, August 1, 2012

So many things come from reading the Prophets

My journey reading the Hebrew scriptures straight through is almost over - tomorrow Malachi, the last of the prophets in the canonical scriptures. The Apocrypha, the observed but non-canonical post-prophetic writings, will follow. But for now, I am still steeped in the prophets.

They have worked on me. There are those who wrote before and during the destruction of the two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah/Jerusalem in the south. There are those who wrote during the exile or after. The first warn of the destruction and exile to come, with promises that one day God would forgive and restore. The latter write of the destruction that will come upon those nations and peoples who were God's instruments for punishing the chosen people, Israel and Judah.

Yesterday, as I was reading the second part of The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, I felt the words of the Jewish prophets laying themselves over those of Jeffrey Sachs. I saw what happened in the world, the things attributed to God by the prophets, leading up to, including, and after the destruction of the kingdoms, the exile, and the return to rebuild, and I saw them laid over top of what is happening today.

What would a pre-exilic prophet make of all this today? Climate change, which we are ignoring, the destruction of an economic system which we insist on continuing to worship as the salvation of the all, the purchase of democracy by those who can pay the most, the threat from both climate change and economic decay yoked with the buying of government, to the ability for us to feed ourselves, for the poor to ever have hope, for the common good to ever again make us human - what would those ancient prophets make of this?

And I saw God's fine hand, trying to warn us what we are doing to ourselves, to one another, to the earth. It is not God, any more than it was God in the days of ancient Judah and Israel, who is bringing destruction on us. It is we ourselves. And we seem helpless to do anything different.

Jeffrey Sachs has a game plan in his book that would reverse all this by 2050. The clinker is that it depends on us wanting to do this, unselfishly. I do not have much hope we will be willing, any of us on this planet. We are too invested in our "wants", seeing them as "needs". For this we are willing to give up our government to the highest bidder with one hand while with the other we blame and condemn those who govern us.

We, every one of us on this planet, are too invested in securing ourselves and our pieces of the planet from invaders, and we cast a large net over that word "invaders" to mean anyone, anywhere, not like us, or who threatens or is perceived to threaten us. On these two things the hope of the world and the planet will fall, taking us with it. And it will be we, ourselves, who did it.

The prophets, many of them, acted out the destruction to come. Zechariah, for instance, tends a flock of sheep, with two staffs, one labeled Favor, the other, Unity. Then he breaks his shepherd's crook Favor to symbolize the end of God's favor. Then he asks for his pay and he is given, by the powers that be, thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. He then throws this "lordly price" into the temple treasury and breaks the staff Unity, the end of the covenant.

And everyone who saw, knew what this prophecy meant.

I took a vow at my ordination to be a wholesome example to the people I serve.

I pledge today to act out a counter-cultural prophecy. When I want to make an impulse purchase, I will stop, ponder, wonder from where comes this impulse, do I really NEED this, why do I think I need or want this. I think I shall also, then, put this impulse on a list of other wants, and if, over time, I still really want it, I will delay gratification for a time, while I save up for it.

I will not be perfect in this prophetic act. I will have times when I just cannot stop myself. Like everyone in this world, I have become addicted to consumerism. But then I will begin again.

I pledge, also, to continue in my example of giving equal time each to work, play, study, and creativity. I leave on vacation soon. I will not work on my vacation. I will work on being on vacation - I will play! As a prophetic act, this is my prayer that all work will become valued by being relieved by times of play, of study, and of creativity.

As to what happens in the future of this planet and the people on it, I do not know. We can reverse what we have done, if we all start now. It means giving up a lot. And it means taking on a lot. It means becoming responsible, once again, for one another, being appreciative of and tolerant of others, taking time to think through what we need and what we want, and maybe just turning off some of the screaming that tells we really, really NEEEEEED that impulse purchase that advertisers want you to buy to be beautiful, to fit in, to be popular, to be different (really?! like everyone else who has it?!!), to be cool.

I pledge to ignore the adverts on the computer, on Facebook, and on the television. And I pledge to spend less time every day with these things - computer, Facebook, television, putting them in their proper place, as tools, and not necessities of life.

And now, I shall take some time to laugh at myself! Because this is such an earnest piece I have written, and maybe even a little bit self-important.

If only all the rest of the world would take a laugh break, too, maybe, just maybe...who knows?


DeanB said...

Keep preachin' it, sister!

It always makes me sad when I'm the first commenter. I wish you had a bigger audience.

Lois Keen said...

Thanks, Dean. I wish I had a bigger readership, too. I know some of the ones who do read this blog and they just are not commenters.