The First Reading for May 22, 2016 is Ezra 1:1-10.
In the language of the Old Testament, the hebrew word for messiah means “anointed.” This is a word we’ve heard and seen before. When oil is poured over a king in Ancient Israel, they become “the anointed one.” When the altar and special holy vessels used in the Temple are consecrated, they are “anointed.” Even non-Israelites can be described as a messiah (an anointed one). The only reference to a non-Israelite being named as a messiah or “anointed,” is in Isaiah 45:1. God speaks to God’s anointed one: Cyrus. And why does God do this? To bring the people of Israel out of exile and back to Jerusalem.
Our first reading today is Cyrus’ decree to his people to send the exiles from Jerusalem back home. After Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586, the Persians destroyed Babylon. Cyrus spent his time undoing what the Babylonians did. He allowed different religious and ethnic groups to return to their homelands and worship as they chose, as long as they didn’t rebel against their Persian overlords. But in regards to the Israelites, Cyrus does not act out on his own. God stirs up Cyrus, telling him to send the Israelites home to rebuild the city and the temple. Through God’s dynamic word and Spirit, the Israelites are sent home by a Persian king.
As the church, we are also filled with anointed ones. In our baptism, not only are we united with God’s promise through the water, we’re also anointed with oil. Through oil and prayer, the cross is marked on our forever. We are given the mark of Christ, carrying Christ with us forever. Martin Luther famously said that the Christian life is being a Christ for our neighbors. Through God’s Word and Spirit, we’re stirred to make a difference in the world. Like Cyrus, many of us are not Jewish. But, like him, God’s spirit is still stirring in us to love and care for our neighbors.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 5/22/2016.