Stump is a blogging project of Claremont Presbyterian Church
Things are going very well for Zechariah. Some people might be sent to serve God in the hinterlands of Boise or Staten Island or Ferguson, but not Zechariah. He serves in THE Temple in Jerusalem. He’s in the Order of Abijah. And let’s face it, everyone wants to be in that club. Am I right?
His wife is descended from Aaron. He’s got it all. So when he was chosen randomly, by lot, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense, we can imagine he saw that as confirmation of his blessedness. Some days our privilege gets in the way.
We’ve never been behind the curtain in the Temple, so we’re a little vague about what usually happens when the priest takes the incense back there. But we suspect not everyone has the same experience Zechariah did. The angel Gabriel appears to him at the altar, and tells him his prayer has been heard and his “on in years” wife Elizabeth will bear a son, whose name will be John, and he will turn the people to God and he will prepare the way of the Lord! Zechariah is told good news of great joy by no less than Gabriel himself, and he still somehow seems to think it’s all about him. “How will I know this is so?” he asks THE angel of the Lord, pointing out details of the situation for Gabriel’s edification. Ahem.
Poor Zechariah. Do you think he realized his error as soon as the words were out of his mouth? Or did it not begin to dawn on him until Gabriel started glowing even brighter and made himself twice as big and then screamed at him in his terrifying angel voice, “I AM GABRIEL. Do YOU know God? Because I do. I’m God’s own messenger and I go over to God’s house to play bridge, so just who do you think YOU are to question me?!”
Privilege is like that. We assume we are where we are because of our own righteousness and hard work. And that can certainly be important. But some days we are behind the curtain in the Temple only because our name was chosen by lot. We ascribe our success to our own blameless living, and we forget we were born to a family name that opens doors and offers career advancement.
Luckily, he’s not smited (smote? smitten?) there on the spot. Gabriel takes away Zechariah’s voice, leaving him to observe life in silence for a while, forcing him to offer a witness of presence instead of a witness of words.
Once John is born, and Gabriel’s word is fulfilled, Zechariah gets his voice back and offers a prophecy. But this time it is not all about him. It is about deliverance, and the tender mercy of our God. “The dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace”. (Luke 1:79)
Zechariah finally realizes the light of God is not supposed to shine in his own face, illuminating his brilliance. It is supposed to be held up, as a candelabra, to shed God’s light in a world who sits in darkness. Privilege brings responsibility. Is the silence of the privileged the best way to find out where God’s light needs to shine for those who sit in darkness?
Marci pastors Southminster Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho and is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and Trinity University. She blogs at www.marciglass.com and Huffington Post’s Religion Blog about religion, freedom of religion, feminism, and adoption. She serves on the Boards of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, Ghost Ranch, and the Covenant Network. She and her husband Justin have two teen sons and spend a lot of time on the soccer field.
You can find her on Twitter @MarciGlass.