By David Baumann
A Reading from Daniel 9:3-10
3 Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying,
“Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
7 “Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.”
Baby boomers like me have lived long enough to see a drastic changes in our world. We were young adults when Married With Children had replaced Leave It to Beaver. Whether or not our past represents “the good old days” (and we have to ask whom the “good old days” were good for), it’s hard to deny that traditional structures and understandings of human life, including acknowledgments of God’s reality, mercy, and presence, are being questioned in ways they never have before. And when it comes to God’s standards for human life, they are often thought to be absurd, if they are thought of at all.
But in reality, this hardness of heart is nothing new — whatever generation you’re from. The dazzling book of Daniel was produced in one of the most turbulent, uncertain, even dark times in the history of the people of God. It followed several centuries of persistent apostasy and disobedience, during which the great prophets repeatedly called the people of God to repentance: if they refused to turn from the dangerous inducements of false gods, judgment would come. This happened over and over again.
With rare exception, God’s people rejected the prophets, and their threats came to pass: first Israel and then Judah were destroyed by enemies. Though the signs of the times are not always easy to interpret, and most cultural movements aren’t entirely good or evil, and require discernment, still — in Lent we’re reminded of the reality of God’s judgment when we don’t take the time to do this discernment.
In today’s lesson, Babylon has been conquered by Darius, who is about to release the Jewish refugees to return to their homeland to rebuild their nation and their temple. Daniel’s prayer is one that goes to the very heart: a prayer of full repentance. If each generation of the Church can read the signs of its own times in this prayer, then, and only then, will we be able also to see the real meaning of God’s deliverance and renewal.
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield; he retired last year. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Anglican Church of Korea
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge, La.