Scripture Focus: Zechariah 11.4-5, 7-8
4 This is what the Lord my God says: “Shepherd the flock marked for slaughter. 5 Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who sell them say, ‘Praise the Lord, I am rich!’ Their own shepherds do not spare them

7 So I shepherded the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock. Then I took two staffs and called one Favor and the other Union, and I shepherded the flock. 8 In one month I got rid of the three shepherds. The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them.

Reflection: God’s Performance Artists
By John Tillman

When Christians think of God as an artist, we often think of pretty sunsets. But God’s artistic portfolio reveals edgier, darker, and grittier work beyond sunsets or rainbows. God often directed his prophets in shocking forms of performance art.

Few people understand performance art, which, like any art form, can be shocking, disgusting, or absurd. In 2014, Shia LaBeouf participated in performance art called “I Am Sorry.” LaBeouf attended events wearing a paper bag over his head that read, “I am not famous anymore.” Then, he wore the bag in the gallery while visitors sat across from him. Most verbally abused him.

“I Am Sorry” was mild compared to God’s performance art exhibits.
Isaiah prophesied naked.
Jeremiah wore an oxen’s yoke.
Ezekiel ate food cooked over feces.
Hosea married a prostitute.

Zechariah’s performance art was taking over a herd of sheep marked for slaughter. These sheep were neglected and ill-treated by former shepherds. Zechariah paid special attention to the oppressed of the flock, yet even with his tender treatment, they detested him. Zechariah turned them over to a far worse shepherd than the ones before.

God explains this as a condemnation of the shepherds and the flock. God sent a good shepherd to replace the bad, but the flock rejected him. They paid Zechariah thirty pieces of silver as an insult. It was the same price paid for the death of a servant gored by a bull.

Zechariah’s performance art previewed Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was the good shepherd sent to the abused flock. He directed his attention to the outcasts, abused, and oppressed. Israel rejected him and sold his life for thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 27.9-10) We can trust this good shepherd.

Not all art we encounter is holy in meaning or execution. But art expresses part of the image of God in us. Understanding anyone’s art helps us better understand God’s art, which reveals God’s heart.

God is an artistically expressive creator, a verbally gifted communicator, and a passionate storyteller. Like most great artists, God puts his blood, sweat, and tears into his work. We communicate with God through art inspired by and interpreted by his Holy Spirit.

God’s art, including the Bible, is complex and multifaceted but not inscrutable or absurd. Even at its darkest, there is hope. Even at its most confusing, we can trust the heart of Jesus, the ultimate artist and good shepherd.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
On the last day, the great day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! As scripture says, ‘From his heart shall flow streams of living water.’” He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive; for there was no Spirit as yet because Jesus had not yet been glorified. — John 7.37-39

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Zechariah 11 (Listen 2:40)
Luke 20 (Listen 5:07)

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