Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
The readings for the day can be found here.
Today marks the beginning of spring this year. It is also the spring or “vernal” equinox; that is, when day and night are briefly equal in length before giving way to brighter, longer days with more warming sunlight.
It seems fitting, then, that the word “Lent” means “spring,” the “spring season” or “to lengthen.” Just as winter fades away and spring arrives, so must we let our dark, cold pasts turn to history as we embrace a brighter future with God more squarely in the center.
Looking at today’s scripture from Daniel, we see a King Nebuchadnezzar trying to inject himself into the center of Babylonian life instead of God. Despite earlier revelations about the will of the one true God, as described to him by Daniel in chapter two, the King builds a giant golden statue in honor of himself and his false god. He decrees that all people in Babylonia, including the many Jews whom he enveloped into his kingdom by invading Jerusalem, worship his golden idol or “be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace.”
But the merciless King nonetheless meets resistance from the Jews, including Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They refuse to worship the false god out of confidence that their God will deliver them from death. And to the King’s astonishment, the three Jews do indeed thwart death and walk amongst the flames of the furnace “unfettered and unhurt,” accompanied by an angel of God.
Sadly, King Nebuchadnezzar needed concrete proof of God’s sovereignty, as we likewise do often, in order to begin self-denial and conversion. In this and all Lenten seasons we are called to begin our conversion, self-denial and repentance through bold faith in God lest we become blinded like the King. There are countless wise men and women in our lives who are witnesses to God’s power but whose importance to the world and to our souls we downright ignore. Fortunately, God is accustomed to our blindness and constantly reopens our eyes.
In the passage from the Gospel of John, we see another example of the danger of denying God and believing lies instead. While talking with some Jews who apparently “believed in him,” Christ is met with profound anger and resistance as he explains how they are “trying to kill [him], because [his] word has no room among [them].” In this instance, their golden statue is a blind faith in Abraham and immovable tradition. They cannot see the truth that God sent Jesus to them and that “before Abraham came to be, I AM.” Later on in this Gospel, the Jews’ ignorance brings them call Jesus “possessed” and to “pick up stones to throw at [him].” Likewise, King Nebuchadnezzar turns uncontrollably to violence against Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Perhaps if we are to allow springtime to brighten our darkened spiritual hearts we must first identify the golden statues in our lives. What or whom do you serve above God, above all else? Next, we must destroy our false idols before they drive us to further deny God’s truth and grace.
As disciples of Christ, we are called to “remain in [Christ’s] word” in order to know the freeing truth that “the God of our fathers” is “praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.” Through faith, we are protected from fiery furnaces, stones and creating golden statues.
So on this first day of spring, let us choose to be what we already are through Christ—sons and daughters in God’s household forever. Let us remember that Christ’s death on the cross—a death which begets salvation and unconditional love—is all the proof we need for our spiritual springtime to take hold.
Chris “Toph” Hampson graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work degree. Toph was a member of the Micah Program during his time at SLU and served as an R.A. for that community in Marguerite Hall during his Junior year. While at SLU, he also studied Spanish and International Studies and spent a semester abroad in 2007 in El Salvador, Central America, through the Casa de la Solidaridad program.