Michael shall arise

Wednesday

Daniel 12:1-3

File:Giovanni di Paolo - St Michael the Archangel - WGA09465.jpg1“At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise.

We have a pretty good idea of the exact moment in which the Book of Daniel in its final form was distributed. Suddenly the exquisite detail of Daniel’s visions of the kings that rise and fall and the woes that come upon God’s people gets rather generic. The reign of Antiochus Epiphanes IV about which Daniel’s visions speak so precisely suddenly becomes vague. Our author knows what has brought the nation to its present moment in 164 BCE. He doesn’t know what lies ahead. But the purpose of his book remains. God knows. History is in God’s hands. The kings of the earth may take their stand against the Lord and his anointed, but God has them in derision. God knows his plans and purpose for the world. Michael shall arise.

God will not let his people fall. God will not let the earth fall. God will triumph over evil.

These are words of great courage spoken in a time of great tribulation. We confess them to be inspired. Inspired doesn’t mean that Daniel was an historical figure of the Persian era to whom God granted visions that would have no meaning for hundreds of years. Inspired means that God speaks through these words of hope (presented in the mouth of the cultural figure of Daniel) to summon us to faithfulness, to remind us that God is yet God, to proclaim to wavering hearts that the God who cast down pharaoh will establish his justice on earth. Somehow.

ISIS will not reign. Not ultimately. No injustice shall endure. Not ultimately. Mary sings of this at the visitation: God has cast the mighty down from their thrones and lifted up those of low degree. The psalmist declares that all nations shall come and bow down before God. The prophets proclaim that all the boots of the tramping warriors will be burned as fuel for the fire,” that “God’s word will go forth from Zion” to bring peace to the world.

God will not let his people fall. God will not let the earth fall. God will triumph over evil.

It is a hope hard to hold onto sometimes, when we see the bodies of children lying in the surf, when children are murdered by police, when nations war upon nations, when earthquakes shake the foundations of the earth.

It is a hope hard to hold onto sometimes when we see evil close to home, when death and tragedy strikes, when misfortune prevails.

But then comes the promise of Daniel: “At that time Michael… shall arise.” At that time. At the right time. The world will not be surrendered to evil. We will not be surrendered.

The author of Daniel confesses this even though he knows that many faithful have been slaughtered at the hand of imperial troops. He sees beyond our narrow horizons into the great mystery: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake.” Even death shall not prevent God’s deliverance.

The prophetic writer is not giving us a doctrine; he is giving us a promise – God’s promise. What we see is but a city surrounded by armies, but there is much more beyond our sight.

God will not let his people fall. God will not let the earth fall. God will triumph over evil. Michael shall arise.

 

Image: Archangel Michael, Giovanni di Paolo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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“The prudent will keep silent”

File:Polycarp, Vincent, Pancras and Chrysogonus.jpg

Early Christian Martyrs: Polycarp, Vincent of Saragossa, Pancras of Rome, and Saint Chrysogonus

Sunday Evening

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

10They hate the one who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor the one who speaks the truth….
13Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;
for it is an evil time.

File:Perpetua.jpg

Early Christian Martyr, St. Perpetua

We all know there are times its best to keep your mouth shut. And though the United States has a tradition of a more or less free speech – free speech we don’t tolerate well when it burns flags, or criticizes the nation, speaks up about injustice or opposes a war – we understand the principle, at least. Monarchies and dictatorships have much less room for unregulated speech. Jeremiah’s message gets him ‘arrested’ and thrown into a the mud at the bottom of an empty cistern – ‘arrested’ in quotes because it implies a judicial procedure rather than the SS knocking at your door in the night…or, rather, not knocking.

There are times to keep your mouth shut: when the powers that be are against you, when the mood of the country is against you, when the nation has set itself on a destructive path (The March of Folly), when “it is an evil time”.

But listening to this reading in worship this morning I realized the irony that though the prophet declares he lives in a time when “the prudent will keep silent”– he, himself, is not silent. He dares to name the injustice of his day. He dares to challenge the ruling powers. He dares to challenge the dominant ideology, declaring that God is not on their side.

After David has contrived to murder Uriah to cover his affair with Bathsheba, Nathan comes to the king with a parable that incites the king’s wrath at an injustice by a man of wealth and power – and then points his long bony finger at the king and says, “You are the man.” It is evidence of David’s sincere faith that Nathan survives.

When the worship of Baal (god of the storm) became the practice of the monarchy in Israel, Elijah announced that the LORD would send no rain. During the famine, Elijah was forced to hide in the wadi of the river Jabbok – and then outside the country in the home of the widow of Zarephath. The king called him “my enemy” and accused him of being the source of the nations trouble. The Queen sought to kill him (and all the prophets of the LORD).

At the command of the king, Zechariah was stoned to death in the temple courtyard.

And, of course, Jesus is crucified.

So, when Jesus bids us take up the cross, there is a rich lineage of prophets and martyrs to share our journey, from Polycarp and Perpetua & Felicity to Martin Luther King, Jr. Speaking the truth in love, decidedly. But daring to speak truth nonetheless. They recognized the time, but answered the call to not be prudent.

 

Polycarp, Vincent of Saragossa, Pancras of Rome, and Saint Chrysogonus.  Image: By at Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  Pagelink:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APolycarp%2C_Vincent%2C_Pancras_and_Chrysogonus.jpg
Perpetua: Image: By onbekende Venetiaanse kunstenaar. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  Pagelink: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APerpetua.jpg