Chris has been out of town all week, watching over a group of boys at church camp. I can introvert with the best of them, but that whole absence makes the heart grow fonder thing? It’s true.
Kate says: help (me if you can, I’m feeling down. I love the Beatles).
The United States of America needs help.
Ever-deepening political divisions. Racial tensions. Continuing economic disparity.
We are at war with ourselves. We have forgotten how to disagree. We call each other names. We threaten violence. Sometimes we even act on the threat.
Instead of practicing loving kindness and thereby modeling a different, better way to those on the outside, the Church rolls around in the mud, pointing fingers and flinging accusations.
I am bone-tired of it. All of it.
The prophet Daniel prayed:
O Master, great and august God. You never waver in Your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love You and do what You say. Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable. We’ve done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around Your clearly marked paths. We’ve turned a deaf ear to Your servants the prophets, who preached Your Word to our kings and leaders, our parents, and all the people in the land. You have done everything right, Master, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame, the whole lot of us—people of Judah, citizens of Jerusalem, Israel at home and Israel in exile in all the places we’ve been banished to because of our betrayal of you. Oh yes, God, we’ve been exposed in our shame, all of us—our kings, leaders, parents—before the whole world. And deservedly so, because of our sin.
Compassion is our only hope, the compassion of You, the Master, our God, since in our rebellion we’ve forfeited our rights. We paid no attention to You when You told us how to live, the clear teaching that came through Your servants the prophets. All of us in Israel ignored what You said. We defied Your instructions and did what we pleased. And now we’re paying for it: The solemn curse written out plainly in the revelation to God’s servant Moses is now doing its work among us, the wages of our sin against You. You did to us and our rulers what you said You would do: You brought this catastrophic disaster on us, the worst disaster on record—and in Jerusalem!
Just as written in God’s revelation to Moses, the catastrophe was total. Nothing was held back. We kept at our sinning, never giving You a second thought, oblivious to Your clear warning, and so You had no choice but to let the disaster loose on us in full force. You, our God, had a perfect right to do this since we persistently and defiantly ignored you.
Master, You are our God, for You delivered your people from the land of Egypt in a show of power—people are still talking about it! We confess that we have sinned, that we have lived bad lives. Following the lines of what You have always done in setting things right, setting people right, please stop being so angry with Jerusalem, Your very own city, Your holy mountain. We know it’s our fault that this has happened, all because of our sins and our parents’ sins, and now we’re an embarrassment to everyone around us. We’re a blot on the neighborhood. So listen, God, to this determined prayer of Your servant. Have mercy on your ruined Sanctuary. Act out of who You are, not out of what we are.
Turn Your ears our way, God, and listen. Open Your eyes and take a long look at our ruined city, this city named after You. We know that we don’t deserve a hearing from You. Our appeal is to Your compassion. This prayer is our last and only hope:
Master, listen to us!
Master, forgive us!
Master, look at us and do something!
Master, don’t put us off!
Your city and Your people are named after You:
You have a stake in us!
– 9:1-19 (MSG)
We do not live in a theocracy and we have not replaced Israel. We haven’t been carried off into exile. It’s not an exact parallel. Still, Daniel’s prayer is moving. His words stir up something painful in me. I know that there will never be Paradise this side of Christ’s return, but I wonder – what would this country look like today if the Church hadn’t slacked off? What if we hadn’t wasted time fighting about Calvinism and who can preach and what kind of clothes people can wear? What if we had just shared Gospel, cared for the widows and orphans and never began screaming about our rights? What if we hadn’t mixed the “American Dream” with the message of salvation? What if we hadn’t bought into the lie that Republican always equals conservative which always equals Christian?
I wonder what would happen now if we, like Daniel, took the posture of mourning. Of repentance. If we took on the burden of really caring about our country, in the way that truly matters.