April 1: Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Posted by Campus Ministry on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at 6:00 AM PDT
In the wake of what is likely to be an historic pandemic, COVID-19 (Coronavirus), there has been a mishandling of leadership both from the administration and from church governance that has caused widespread panic and confusion, as evidenced in the plunging stock market, emptied grocery stores, and trite social media posts about “having faith.” Coronavirus is at the forefront of our collective imaginations as information regarding its impact is daily changing and we are adjusting to new ways of communicating and interacting in the world. Schools and houses of worship are closed as are restaurants and bars, and as businesses try to stay afloat, many folks are working around the clock to make sure seniors and other vulnerable populations are contacted and cared for. Yet despite repeated warnings and even executive orders, churches and other large groups are still gathering, hundreds of college students are still swimming at beaches with no regard for social distancing, and even this administration with all its hubris is failing to model best practices and worse yet expressing more concern for the economy than for the people.
How else can we explain our nation’s states being forced to battle and outbid each other over lifesaving medical gear or faithful parishioners continuing to worship in person in gatherings of hundreds for fear their salvation is somehow at stake. What we find is that sometimes our leaders want us to serve their self-interests and bow down to the gods they have erected rather than to the God who created us. Before our lives would be spared, they want us to profess the goodness of their name and their glory rather than the Glory of God in the highest.
This is certainly the case in our reading today where we learn about the three wise Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who King Nebuchadnezzar has appointed over all the affairs of Babylon. One minute these three men are wise in Nebuchadnezzar’s eyes, the next he is throwing them into the fiery furnace because they refuse to bow down to his idols. And bow down they would not. Many times, this scripture is taken to mean if we have faith even the size of a mustard seed, anything we ask for will be granted to us by God in heaven. Certainly, the words of these three men seem to suggest just that as they declare to the King with boldness, “If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us!” But these three men seem to understand that the God we serve is not a genie lamp that we can rub, and our wishes will be granted. The God we serve is not a vending machine where we get to insert faith and out comes our reward. No, these three Hebrew men are indeed wise as they surrender their future to God. They have done all they can to stand, but they do not tie God’s hands. Instead they declare, even if God will not save us, we will not serve your god or worship anything but the Lord.
Maybe this scripture is about faith, but what I see here is resistance. It’s resistance to oppressive forces that would have us believe in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak that it’s “every man for himself.” It’s resistance to the idea that the elderly are expendable so long as our economy gets back on track. Resistance is having the courage to wake up every morning. It’s facing another day of uncertainty. Resistance is being true to that which we value most. It’s not letting our fears override our sense of hope for the future or our enduring belief in a God who will always be with us even in the darkest of times.