Friday, February 26, 2016
Michael, the chief of the angels, is the protector of your people, and he will come at a time of terrible suffering, the worst in all of history. And your people who have their names written in The Book will be protected.
[Daniel 12:1 The Message]
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
So begins Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. You can’t help but wonder if this opening paragraph was inspired by today’s reading from the book of Daniel. Even though he didn’t engage in religious activity to any noticeable degree, Dickens was a champion of the poor and oppressed throughout his life, as well as a critic of aristocratic and High-Church elitism. The similarities are striking, to say the least.
Dickens wrote his classic novel in 1859. He centered on the events leading up to the French Revolution, some four decades earlier.
In 1893, a man named Daniel Sidney Warner, wrote a hymn titled The Golden Morning. The first verse reads as follows:
We have reached an awful era in the onward flight of years,
While the nations are in slumber, crying “peace” ’mid drowning fears;
Lo, the shadows of creation lengthen to the eventide,
The Lord is surely coming to receive His holy bride.
Warner, known primarily as a church reformer, was one of the founders of the Church of God. Born in Marshallville, Ohio (in Wayne County), he was also a veteran of the Civil War, where he substituted for his brother. His text is more than a veiled reference to those troubled times.
We live in difficult times today, socially, politically, and economically, as we have from the dawn of history. In this age of technology, however, the immediacy of information simply delivers the bad news sooner.
It was no different in Daniel’s time. But note that neither Daniel nor his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ever reacted violently to the persecution they endured. Instead, the Lord fought their battles. Despite being tossed into a lions’ den and a fiery furnace, they were protected.
In modern times, the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., modeled that same non-violent resistance.
The reading and subsequent research that was prompted by this challenging passage from Daniel brings to mind the current political climate that we are engaged in. I confess that I have spent no time whatsoever watching the Presidential candidate debates. I consider my time absolutely too valuable to be wasted on hearing the shouting matches that pass for civil discourse.
As we approach the election, I feel we would all do well to ignore the hostile rhetoric of the candidates that is heard on a daily basis. As people of faith, we are called to follow a path that leads to a more hopeful outcome – a path of justice, righteousness, love, and peace.