By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from Daniel 3:1-18
1 King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counsellors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counsellors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, 4 the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshipped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live for ever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O king. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defence to you in this matter. 17 If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
In my church growing up, our Great Vigil of Easter service would start at 10 p.m., end close to 1 a.m., and then we would have a big celebration afterwards that heavily emphasized dessert. A particular highlight of the service was this reading from Daniel, during which the reader would take a little creative license. The children, or the young at heart, were given kazoos, and anytime the name King Nebuchadnezzar was read, we would give him a little “doot-da-da-doo” fanfare. This was by far my favorite night of the year, and even now, as an adult, it still is, though with fewer kazoos and less dessert.
Over the years, I have thought back critically on this treatment of Daniel. Isn’t the use of the kazoo sacreligious? At first, I thought, yes. But now I have come to believe that self-importance and idolatry are ridiculous pursuits and therefore deserving of ridicule. In fact, it may very well be that there is no better tool for calling attention to and derisively dismissing self-importance than the kazoo.
King Nebuchadnezzar commands that everyone must worship his image, and like dogs trained by whistles, his people fall down and worship upon hearing the sounding of a particular set of instruments. As in any age, we live in a time of great idolatry, with many self-important people from kings, to elected officials and various leaders, public intellectuals, media personalities and celebrities, right on down to petty bosses and the playground bully. And they command that at certain signals we must fall to our knees in the correct manner and worship. If we are going to continue to find ourselves in the position of being compelled to place a person, a political position, or some other cause above our worship of the one true God, perhaps it would be prudent to invest in a kazoo and to give it a nice, loud “doot-da-da-doo” every time idolatry is commanded of God’s people.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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