Thought for the Day by Jan Betts (All Hallows)
Reading: Daniel 3:1-30
What and who are we asked to worship as Christians and what are the consequences of refusing to worship anyone else? What are we each being called to protest about and refuse to worship in a time of exile?
Timely questions in the week when protestor Alexei Navalny is becoming more ill in a Russian prison, when in Myanmar there are still protests against the generals, and when in the UK there are calls for enquiry into the allocation of financial resources during the pandemic. Do we unconsciously worship power, or money or status in our actions or lack of them?
The book of Daniel addresses issues of power head on. Please those in power and you get to be powerful and influential, as Daniel had and as had his appointees Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. One refusal to play in the power game, to do the business of trade off of acquiescence for a seat at the top table, and you were lost and in the fiery furnace, or in the modern day equivalent, perhaps of being laughed at, maybe more seriously of being marked out as a protestor? But these three, in exile, refused to have any other king than the God they knew.
Two thoughts come to me over this extraordinary piece of writing.
One is to wonder what my unconscious acquiescence is to? Where do I give in to public power? My lack of challenge of systems of economic abuse or inequality? My failure to protest over issues which affect my local community? My failure to inform myself and act on climate change issues? My failure to be positive in my response to casual racism? We absolutely need not to beat ourselves up in efforts to save the world but to prayerfully and consideringly ask how we are responding to what we see as issues which spoil God’s purpose of justice in the world as we individually meet it. What is God bringing to our particular attention, where we meet the power of those who act to take away the justice of our loving God?
Secondly what will be the consequences of this? Why don’t I do it? There is no guarantee that an Azariah the Angel will turn up and prevent us from consequences. Alexei Navalny is really ill. Political asylum seekers really are at risk for protesting. Am I willing to be part of the kingdom where God’s saving justice is top priority even if it makes me look foolish or fanatical – or even just makes me weary?
The vision of Daniel is of God coming as King, as the Israelites being re-established from exile. Post Easter we know that that vision is fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus, king of Israel and king in the world, under a different dispensation of love and service rather than power and exploitation. What is the Spirit calling on us to protest about and do we trust God to be there as we protest?