Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Queer Prophet (Haggai 2:20-23)

On the twenty-fourth day of the month the word of Adonai came a second time to Haggai: “Speak to Zerubbabel, the high commissioner of Judah. Say this: ‘I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn the judgment seats of entire countries and destroy the power of the rulers of the nations. I will overthrow their chariots and charioteers, and bring down their horses and riders; they will fall to the sword of their own comrades.
                “’When the day comes’, say Adonai Omnipotent, ‘I will take you Zerubbabel ben-Shealtiel, my servant – it is Adonai God who speaks – and make you my signet ring. For I have chosen you”, says Adonai Omnipotent
Haggai 2:20-23

Haggai is a bit of a misfit in the scriptures and even among the prophets. His people are in the midst of a draught leaving them with a belly full of hunger. Poverty marks their living and inflation is rampant - a tough time to be God’s voice to the people. Yet, Haggai does not broach any of these pressing issues. Haggai raises no lament to the Sacred, does not call for social justice, nor does he encourage the turning of hearts to each other. It appears that Haggai missed a class or two at prophet school.

Haggai is an oddity in the service of the Sacred. Haggai addresses the issue of the reestablishment of the Jerusalem Temple and temple-rituals. Other prophets railed against the Temple for it abuses. Haggai proclaimed against the grain. He lived and ministered by way of a different voice and vision of the Sacred. To prophesy that Zerubbable is God’s signet ring reversed the prophecy in Jeremiah 22:24 where Zerubbable’s grandfather is symbolized as the signet ring torn from the hand of God.

Haggai is funny – doesn’t he know that scripture speaks against him? Yet, his queer voice has also become a part of scripture. Do we toss Haggai out since his is the minority report? We certainly cannot. The editing of sacred texts for the purpose of excising passages we disagree with has only led to harm and the curtailing of the rich tenor of scripture.

The book of Haggai is itself a signet ring to us. It reminds us that the Sacred invites dialogue and encourages a diversity of views. It calls us to be courageous when our experience of God forms only a minority report. Haggai reminds us that God is relating to creation in ways that are dynamic instead of static – at one time flinging away a ring and at another time gathering it back up.

On the surface Haggai’s message does not belong in the scriptures. Haggai speaks from an experience which can be labeled as surprising, perplexing – queer – for it does not match what is the accepted and expected proclamation of a prophet of God. Like we sexual queers today, Haggai had to rely on his own experience of the Sacred, ignoring the institutional understanding. Like us today, Haggai had to claim for himself the right to speak for a God who had spoken at another time in a different way. Like us today, Haggai had to deal with textual harassment in order to announce God’s new vision for a new generation.

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