Thursday, August 16, 2012

Judged (Zachariah 3:1-5)

Then God showed me Yehoshua the high priest standing before the Angel of Adonai, with the satan standing at the Angel’s right hand, harassing Yehoshua about various things. And the Angel of Adonai said to the satan, “May Adonai silence you, Satan! May Adonai, who chose Jerusalem, silence you. Isn’t Yehoshua a stick snatched from the fire?”
                Standing before the Angel, Yehoshua’s clothes were covered in excrement. The Angel said to the attendants, “Help him take off those filthy clothes.”
                Addressing Yehoshua, the Angel said, “I have taken away your guilt, and I will clothe you in splendid priestly robes!” Then, to the attendants, “- and put a clean turban on his head!” They dressed Yehoshua as instructed them, as the Angel of Adonai stood nearby.
Zechariah 3:1-5

The Last Judgment by Stefen Lochner (15th Century)
Clich├ęd are court scenes before the Holy and Righteous Judge of the living and the dead.  Such rhetoric and images as the painting by Stefen Lochner are used to scare and to scar queer people. A tactic which has been around for as long as homosexual, bisexual, and transgender dynamics have been condemned in the name of the of Holy and Righteous Judge of the living and the dead.

Joshua (Hebrew – Yehoshua) standing before the Sacred with the adversary (the satan) standing at his side leveling accusation after accusation is a dynamic well known to us. In an ironic twist religious traditions are the modern Satan, accusing us of wickedness and painting dark pictures of the queer “lifestyle.” Like Joshua we stand in the heavenly tribunal with rags made filthy by the overwhelming onslaught of slander flung at us.

Joshua, a high priest returning from exile, was a controversial figure. According to their detractors Joshua and his kind were considered sorceresses, offspring of adulterers and whores, burned with lust, sought child sacrifice, and abandoned by God (Isaiah 57:1-8, also see 57:9-13, 58:1-5, 59:1-15, 65:1-7, 66:3-4). It is hard not to hear an echo of the modern religious persecution of queer folk in these descriptions.

Figuratively Joshua has been put on trial and Satan (Hebrew – accuser or adversary) is just another prophet of God in this scene (only later in tradition does Satan become the devil). The actions of the judge in this trial are suspect for the judge finds in favor of Joshua and against the adversary. 

Did the judge not hear the testimony of the prophet/adversary? I suppose when you are the Holy and Righteous One you may need to ignore your own prophet from time to time. “May Adonai silence you, Satan!” is as strong a Holy “shut your face” we find anywhere in the scriptures. In an unexpected turn those who brought Joshua to trial are those rebuked and Joshua is adorned with fresh festal apparel – a sign of the true life within.

Where the adversary knows only fault finding, the Sacred knows forgiveness. To quote one of my favorite scriptural interpreters, Elizabeth Achtemeir, on this passage, “Hell is where a person receives what he deserves, but heaven is where he is forgiven.”

God has given us a great gift. The next time we find ourselves persecuted, we will know the truth.  The Holy will clothe us in joy, for the Holy seeks solidarity with us.

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