Zechariah’s Refinement: An Old Man Learns Something New

Zechariah’s Refinement: An Old Man Learns Something New

Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth and the father of John the Baptist, was a priest. He was kind of a big deal, really. Only descendants of Levi could be priests and he was one of them.

We do not know very much about his economic status or learning, but we do know that he had responsibilities in the Temple—a turn to touch the holy.

That is always a big deal.

The lectionary tells the story this week of John the Baptist. Starting with Malachi we learn that God is sending a messenger to prepare the way; “The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1b). But this will not necessarily be an easy coming. It will be something to be endured like a “refiner’s fire” and “fullers’ soap” (Malachi 3:2). The messenger’s coming will require transformation of us all, but especially, Malachi says, of the descendants of Levi.

How interesting that John the Baptist’s own father was one such person.

Malachi believed that the all-male religious leadership he knew would especially feel the effects of the messenger’s coming—and that the well-being of the entire people would depend upon their heeding that transformation.

Fast forward a few hundred years and we see Zechariah tending his duties in the Temple. Along comes the angel Gabriel with good, good news. The messenger is coming, he says, and through your partnership with your wife!

Zechariah’s response, Say what? How will I know that this is so?

And the angel promptly strikes him mute.

Water, Water

Water, Water

One of the first songs I learned in Ms. Stroud’s high school chorus was Mayim, Mayim—Water, Water. It is an upbeat Jewish children’s song and folk dance that draws its lyrics from Isaiah 12:3. 

The lilting, mysterious tune lured me, as did the challenge of a language different than my own. I tasted the Hebrew words phrase by phrase and imagined what they might have meant for a once wilderness-wandering and exiled people. I learned Mayim, Mayim by heart. I memorized somewhat out of survival (Hebrew transliterations are not easy to read in measure), but mostly because it was beautiful.

I can sing it even today, and I have been. Except my hums and whispered solos have not been in celebration. They have not even been on purpose. No, the recent events in Flint, Michigan brought Mayim, Mayim to me in deep waves of lament and prayer. 

Trash, Triage, & Transition

Trash, Triage, & Transition

I need to talk about my trash. I am pretty emotional about these things, so be gentle.

Up until this morning at 7:42 a.m. these two bins were full to their brims. Full as in “pressed down and shaken together,” not “maybe could slip in another piece of paper—“ Nope. They were so solidly compacted part of me was afraid the waste truck would not be able to hoist ‘em high.

The brown can is loaded with of recyclables. Contents of the green bin are bound for landfill.