On September 11 … Yes, that September 11, I sat at my cubicle on the fourth floor of an insurance claims processing center when the news began to filter in that something major was happening in New York City.
One employee on the floor had brought in a little, old fashioned travel television and dozens of us huddled around it. We were filled with disbelief. We were rattled. We stood in stunned silence.
For me, the moment I realized that nothing was every going to be the same again was when I saw the first images of the Pentagon with a gaping hole in its side, black smoke pouring out.
The Pentagon is a symbol of American power and might. It represents the highest echelons of our industrio-military complex which has flung bases and forces all across the earth. To see it burning shook the ground beneath my feet.
What kind of world was I living in that the Pentagon could be so vulnerable?
For the Judeans in the days of the Babylonian captivity, watching Solomon’s Temple crumble to the ground was the earth-shattering event which made them question their continued existence.
Nebuchadnezzar was known as the “Destroyer of Nations” for more than one reason. Yes, his mighty army could raze entire nations. But he also knew how to erase the past of a people, and he attempted to do it with Judah. He took the best and brightest, the ones who were likely to organize and restore the conquered people, spread them out thin, and gave them new identities so that they would forget their past.
Meshach, Shadrack, and Abednego were amongst the many to be uprooted from their home in Judah and thrown into captivity in foreign places. There, they were expected to learn a new language, a new religion, a new culture.
Their resistance was more than just a protest against a ruthless king. Meshach, Shadrack, and Abednego were clinging to their identity as God’s chosen people. They were clinging to their history, and to their promised future. They were clinging to God, even if it meant being cast into the fires.
While the proclamation made by Nebuchadnezzar would be reason for the captive Judeans to celebrate, the more important message they heard in the story was that God was with them. They were facing trials and tribulations on a daily basis and they would draw comfort from a God who was present with the three young men in the worst possible moment. God was with them, in Judah… and in captivity.
In what ways do you feel as if you’ve been “cast into the fires”? In those moments of hardship, have you seen evidence of God with you? Many scholars say that America is in a Post-Christian era. How do we live fully into our Christian identity in such a time?