When the seventh month arrived – the people having settled in their own villages – they assembled in Jerusalem as one body. Then Jeshua begot of Jozadak, together with the other priests, and Zerubbabel begot of Shealtiel, together with his family, began the building of the altar of the God of Israel so that they might make burnt offerings as was stipulated in the law of Moses, the godly one. They built the altar first, for they lived in fear of the peoples who lived around them…
Fear is a powerful motivator. The cruelty that we enact due to fear is limitless. We slander, we provoke, we rationalize, we even kill. In the spiritual realm fear casts just as strong a shadow. Take for example the bullying behavior of those who fear the Sacred. As opposed to the behavior of those who love the Sacred.
In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals Charles Darwin reminds us that fear is preceded by astonishment. Hence, in the world of ancient Israel “fear” or astonishment about God is the beginning of wisdom. In this passage of scripture though, fear is the sense of danger that we live with when we know that others do not like us. Fear is what we feel when we know others want us gone from their neighborhoods, and will seek our harm to get rid us.
In a twist of history those Jews returning to their ancestral homes after years in exile are now the foreigners. In a similar amazing twist we queers find ourselves suspect and feared when we return home to our authentic being. Coming out and speaking the truth to our affections and lives makes us foreigners in our own homelands.
Here we might take a cue from ancient Israel. The first thing they did after settling back down was to build an altar. The political statement involved in this project far outweighs any semblance of personal piety and devotion. An altar staked claims to a god, and a god staked political and cultural claims to a society.
This is the cue I am hoping lesbigaytransinterasexual community will be keyed to. If we are to live as foreigners in our own lands, then let us stake a claim to the Sacred. The political and religious structures allied against us will not be happy, and may, themselves, become fearful. Let us call upon God and may that calling shake the foundations of our detractors.
Most importantly, let us stake our claim to the Holy. Let us honor the seasons of our lives as people who live in astonishment of God’s fearful and joyful love.