I was in the middle of writing The Pastoral is Political post, when someone came into the church to talk to me. We spoke, masked and distanced for an hour, before I began to get messages about the attack on the US Capitol building in Washington, D.C. We cannot pretend this is normal, so I will instead offer a prayer for the circumstances and the incomplete text of my essay below it. We cannot expect ourselves to persist in our regularly scheduled programming, so to speak, in the midst of destruction and forces inciting terror.
God, have mercy.
Show your presence in the places of fear and distress.
Show your presence in the seats of power and the halls of the people.
Reveal your love in the hearts of those who are waiting for news.
The forces that oppose your will are real and strong,
But we reject them.
We renounce their lies.
We damn their hateful claims.
We will not rest in undoing their legacies of death and destruction.
Healing this is not impossible for you.
Peace is not impossible for you.
Justice and righteousness in our world is not impossible for you.
On this Epiphany day, show yourself to us in clear ways.
Bring the healing we need.
Grant wisdom and strength to those who work for peace.
Inspire us to listen for and embrace truth.
Illuminate our dim understandings and enlighten us with your revelation.
God, we need help.
We need it now.
You are in control.
You are in control.
You are in control.
Pour out your love, let it reign
And grant us the courage and the will to live in accordance with it.
Receive our prayer, O God, and in your mercy- answer us.
King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue. It was ninety feet high and nine feet wide. He set it up in the Dura Valley in the province of Babylon. 2 King Nebuchadnezzar then ordered the chief administrators, ministers, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to assemble and come for the dedication of the statue that he had set up. 3 So the chief administrators, ministers, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They stood in front of the statue the king had set up. 4 The herald proclaimed loudly: “Peoples, nations, and languages! This is what you must do: 5 When you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, lyre, harp, flute, and every kind of instrument, you must bow down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Anyone who will not bow down and worship will be immediately thrown into a furnace of flaming fire.” 7 So because of this order as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, lyre, harp, flute,[a] and every kind of instrument, all the peoples, nations, and languages bowed down and worshipped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. – Daniel 3:1-7
Nebuchadnezzar was not the first ruler nor the last to have an outsized vision of his own glory and power. All of his toadies were neither the first nor the last to put their energies toward a ruler whose grasp for power exceed his grasp on reality. Unfortunately, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were not the first or the last to be put into a fire, literal or metaphorical, for refusing to submit to lies, illusions of grandeur, or human attempts to play at being divine.
One can trot out administrators, lawyers, priests, false prophets, governors, Congressmen, news anchors, and conspiracy theorists. They can make noise with lawsuits, with chants, with instruments, with weapons, with shouting, with Tweets, and with fake news. Their titles and their noise cannot change the reality of what has happened.
For Nebuchadnezzar, the truth is that he was not God. He did not deserve the glory due to God. The allegiance that belongs only to the Divine was not his to claim. The power that belongs to Eternal Love was neither in this king’s power to wield nor was it possible for him to withhold it. Those who followed him, who believed their rise to glory was connected to his, believed lies and then saw no way to back out from what they had supported.
They doubled down on their untruths, on their harmful conjectures, on their worship of false idols…
The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Big Timber Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Big Timber, MT. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit and is President of the board of RevGalBlogPals, Inc.
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