Morning Prayer for today, the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day).
The Old Testament portion is Daniel chapter 1. As Jerusalem falls to the Babylonian empire, Daniel and his three friends are displaced in multiple ways. They are displaced from nobility within the royal court of Jerusalem to service within the royal court of Babylon (this is displacement, rather than upending, as nobility/service are not opposites but synonyms for those ‘versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace’). They are displaced from the study of the literature and language of the Israelites to the study of the literature and language of the Chaldeans. They are displaced from the geo-political setting of Judah to the geo-political setting of Babylon. They are displaced in their interpersonal identity from their Hebrew names to other, colonised, names.
These circumstances hold the potential for two contrasting directions of travel: the erasure of their identity, or the expansion of their identity. And the key is their response to the circumstances over which they have no control, but may yet influence. Daniel, we are told, resolved that he would not defile himself. That he would not dishonour his foundational identity, while fully engaging with the new reality in which he found himself, and seeking to build relationships of honouring and serving others, even those who, outwardly, determined his day-to-day experience. In response, God extends the knowledge and skill of the four friends, and gives to Daniel even greater psychological insight into visions and dreams.
As we prepare to go into Lockdown 2.0, and as local church congregations are asked, once again, to suspend public worship, what we resolve will be the determining factor in whether our identity is erased or expanded: whether our calling to be those through whom all families on earth are blessed is taken from us, or whether God is able to position our lives for even greater possibilities of service.