Dealing with Accusers

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 — Week of Advent 3, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 119:49-72 (morning) // 49, [53] (evening)

Zechariah 3:1-10

Revelation 4:1-8

Matthew 24:45-51

In the American criminal justice system, the accuser, the interrogator, and the prosecutor are usually different parties. The Hebrew Bible, on the other hand, wraps all three roles into one: “the Satan,” better translated as “the accuser.” We see this Satan at work in our first reading today.

Throughout our lives, we will face accusations of all sorts. Some of these accusations will have at least a grain of truth in them; others will be completely unfounded; still others may be right on target. The difficult spiritual practice in times like these is to preserve our soul’s dignity, integrity, and sense of unconditional belovedness.

Three images from our Scripture passage help to sustain our soul against its accuser. In today’s passage, the high priest Joshua is on trial. God upholds Joshua even though Satan is standing at God’s “right hand to accuse him.” How can we see ourselves through the images that God uses to defend Joshua?

First, God calls Joshua “a brand plucked from the fire.” God wants to save us like a piece of charred wood from the world’s most destructive forces. When the world is a chaotic mess of accusation, defensiveness, confusion, and misunderstanding, we can rest in God who quickly delivers us from the flames.

Second, God’s angel commands the beings around Joshua to take off his “filthy clothes” and to dress him “with festal apparel.” Joshua’s guilt turns into rejoicing, and he gets to wear a clean turban. (How cool is that??) Guilt is not something that we need to let get so deeply under our skin that it disturbs our opportunities for joy.

Finally, the angel of the Lord uses an image that has baffled exegetes ever since. The angel says that the Lord has set before Joshua “a single stone with seven facets.” This image is a reminder that each of us, whether guilty in some respects and innocent in others, is exquisitely beautiful, multi-faceted, and durable.

These reminders of how God upholds us against accusatory remarks or even formal charges should help us to preserve our souls. We are worthy and true, forgiven and loved, and made to outlast the world’s temporary judgments.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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