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The Oracle

December 1, 2011

They gathered at the foot of the mountain because they had been called, not because they wanted to be there. They gathered because the Oracle of the Lord was about to speak, and when the Oracle sent out his servants with the call, you answered.

They gathered, men, women and children, some still in hastily-covered nightclothes, others with half-milked cattle trailing dejectedly behind them.

“The Word of the Lord!” Called out the heralds standing three paces before and to the sides of the cave opening, the giant maw from which emanates the Word of God.

A small man, a young man, an old man, a tall man–few knew what he was for while his voice carried it was at times both strident and warbling. His shoulders were both strong and bowed over, his back straight and yet he stooped, hunched over as if carrying the weight of all the people.

“Hear now the Oracle of the Lord!” his voice rang out, and stopped the murmuring, the muttering, the shuffling and clamoring. “Hear now the Word of God for His people!”

All eyes turned forward and strained in the pre-dawn dusk to see the face of the one sent by God.

The man, the vessel of God’s message, eased slowly down the path and scuffled his feet along the stones as though to extend the contact, for to be the Word of God Most High is to be shunned, set aside, both revered and feared.

The man, who had a name once but forgot it as his parents had forgotten him at the foothills of this rock, stopped just before the edge, where he was still shrouded in shadow and mystery, for as he was cast aside so too did he feel set apart and so too did he wish to remain.

It was a burden on him, day after day, night and evening, whiling the hours away in prayer and supplication for a people who assumed he was there to absolve them of their sins on a regular and everlasting basis.

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one!”

“He is one indeed!” came the reply, cried not with conviction of the heart but solidarity of a people who felt themselves superior to all others.

“Hear my people, the Oracle of the Lord! He has shone a light on the wicked and wishes you to root him out from your midst.”

At that the murmurs returned and eyes cut to the sides, children grasped their parents’ hands and hid among their skirts.

“How will we know them?” asked a brazen youth, who seemed both rash and untested, proud and unsure.

“Ye shall know him by this,” replied the man, “They do not fear the Lord.”

No fear? The women stared daggers at the men for the women knew they had fear indeed within their hearts.

“They flatter themselves unjustly and consider themselves better than their equals.”

The men now stood tall and sought to determine whose wife, whose self-righteous nag was the evil in their midst.

“They blaspheme before God and men, and they covenant with their evil thoughts. Not even their bedclothes provide a sanctuary from their plotting.”

Their feet shuffled. A groan was stifled and a baby’s cries went unchecked as silence fell.

For none in the multitude could hold themselves apart from these accusations. None, from the youngest child to the skilled hunters to the most doddering old woman, could say that they were free from all such stain.

A wail cried out, a lament for the souls of the people. A heart-wrenching cry emanated and yet as the man took his hand from his eyes he felt beneath his feet the rumbling undercurrent which began in one heart then swelled past the lips and pointed like daggers at him “What you say is a lie! We are not the wicked. We are chosen by the Grace of God!” Yet others moaned in their grief “All of us, all of us deserve to die. There is no redemption for one such as myself.”

“Wait,” cried out the man, arms outstretched towards the people whom he loved. “There  is yet hope! There is yet light, for the One who made us saved us, He who created us redeemed us. His valley is wide and the rivers of life flow from on high.”

But the anger and the agony were too much to bear. In droves women wailed and left for home, covering their heads in shame. In droves men grew fierce and picked up stones, aimed and threw, to drive away the man of God and bury his outright lies.

He raised his arms above his head to ward off the blows while stones of flint and jade struck and tore at cloth and flesh.

And yet he cried as he turned away and, limping, sought the stony door “Lord protect me from their evil ways, protect themselves and call them to you, for he who casts the stone in anger or in fear shall himself be cast aside.”

And lo, before he reached the threshold of the mountain range, built of timeless stone, a twist of fate, an ankle turned, a rolling rock and a gust of wind sent him over the edge, down, down to fall and never return.

Yet as the cheers and jeers of the men rose into the mist, a child, who had climbed to seek a post whence he could view this man of God, the child could swear he saw an angel gently lift him up, and bore him skyward on wings of gold. Yet in his mind’s eye the child saw the men balanced out like coins on edge. He flipped a stone from hand to hand, then tossed it down–and saw them fall, one by one, never to rise again.

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