Jared Witt l November 24, 2016
“‘Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect Israel! I will help you,’ says the LORD.” – Isaiah 41:14
“For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles.” – Rom. 15:18
Oh. Right. Whoops. I keep forgetting that. God is the one who helps us. Duh.
That’s kind of like the first and main thing about God—that God is God. So why do I keep forgetting it? No matter how many times I hear it, it’s only a matter of weeks or months or an election primary before I’m seduced once more into thinking that Babylon will save me, that the beast might someday rip off its own horns and transfigure into a puppy dog.
And why wouldn’t it? Babylon loves us, does it not? What’s more, Babylon is us and we are Babylon. At least that’s what they told me when I first pledged my allegiance to it? So surely, if we’ve read all the right columns in the New Yorker, subscribed to all the right NPR podcasts, educated ourselves on Persia’s single-payer healthcare system, surely, if we can just state our Facebook case clearly enough, donate to the right action group, get out the vote, surely, we can reform Babylon into the kind of benevolent kingdom we crave. No?
No. This Advent, I’m reminded that Babylon is neither the physician, nor can it heal itself. Babylon is a lost cause. That’s why we call it Babylon.
Babylonians, on the other hand, they’re a different story altogether. Babylonians matter. They matter deeply to the God of Jonah, and Isaiah, and they should matter to you too, you worm Jacob. The apostle Paul might have been a bit of a “one note Johnny,” but it was at least a very good note: the God of Israel is the God of bigoted, bullying, backwards Babylonians too.
Be as cynical as you like about Babylon, this advent season. I certainly am. But, as I say when I'm teaching little kids, “God never ever ever ever gives up” on Babylonians. So we don’t dare, either.
Peace and Cheers,
Jared Witt is a pastor in the ELCA and, along with Aaron Schmalzle, is a Founding Director of Castle Church Brewing Community and Castle Church Faith Community.
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