The Church Underground

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 28.12, 28
12 When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; 
but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.

28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; 
but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive. 

Reflection: The Church Underground
By Erin Newton

This is written a week in advance. By the time this is published, the war in Ukraine may be drastically different.

When we read verses about power, our minds will quickly spawn the images of this war. For some, it includes the memories of past conflicts. Corrupt leadership can come in the form of local leaders, bad bosses, or abusive parents. It is not difficult to imagine someone who fits the role of a wicked leader.

These two proverbs tell a story. When the righteous are leaders, celebration and joy fill the air. Their righteousness is a means of safety and security for everyone because this type of person is filled with mercy and justice. There is the sense of freedom to live one’s life in a carefree manner because of this leader.

But the wicked leader creates a suffocating atmosphere where hiding is necessary. Emotions are suddenly guarded. There is no freedom in expression because the leader creates a sense of danger.

The Israelites were accustomed to living under the rule of wicked leaders. Some were domestic kings: Rehoboam, Ahab, Manasseh, etc. Some were foreigners who invaded the land and subjugated the people: Sennacherib of Assyria and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

During these wicked reigns, some Israelites went into hiding. Prophets hid in a cave from the threat of Ahab. David fled to the wilderness to escape Saul. Jeremiah hid as Jehoiakim burned the prophet’s scroll.

Courage is rightly applauded and admired, but we learn from history that there are times in which removing oneself from danger is the best option.

We can learn how to persevere under the leadership of a wicked ruler by looking at those who went into hiding. David spent years in the wilderness wrestling with his frustrations about God and his circumstance. He expressed the depths of his pain. Yet, songs of praise were penned to help buoy his faith in God.

Already, word of churches going underground has circulated. Orthodox priests travel to air-raid shelters to commune with believers. This has been the way of God’s people for millennia.

Churches in intolerant nations go underground. Believers may hide their faith from wicked rulers, but within each heart, a greater depth of faith can be found.

May we pray for the time to come that the righteous may thrive and that the power of wicked leaders will perish. Come, Lord Jesus.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“Be still, then, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” — Psalm 46.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 28 (Listen – 3:07)
Psalm 95-96 (Listen – 2:37)

Read more about Praying for the Persecuted
May we hold up before God’s throne in prayer, members of God’s church threatened by the state, by religious militias, and by other dangerous forces.

Read more about A Hymn of the Oppressed
History might be very different if rather than idolizing the martyrs, we could study how not to become the oppressors.

Cry, Creator, Cry!

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 53.10
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

Proverbs 28.13-14
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
    but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
    but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

Luke 29.41-43
We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Reflection: Cry, Creator, Cry!
By John Tillman

The cross is not necessarily the only way Jesus might have died. As an exercise of theological hypothesis, one can entertain the question, “What if Jesus had died another way?” 

In his moving epic poem, The Singer, author, pastor, and professor, Dr. Calvin Miller reimagined Jesus as The Singer, who sang the song of Earthmaker, the Father-Spirit. During his trial, The Singer’s lyre and his hands with which he played Earthmaker’s song are crushed by a mallet. Then, with his musical hands crushed into inoperability and unrecognizable form, he is stretched by a machine of death built into the wall of the city.

The people of the city toss into a hopper great stones representing the sins and crimes The Singer is accused of and the weight of them turns the great, geared, machine which, through cogs and levers, tightens the cables, stretching The Singer’s body until he dies.

The World Hater, Miller’s analogue for Satan, dances on the cables of the machine, crying out to the Creator with mockery:

“Look how he dies. Cry, Creator, Cry!
This is my day to stand upon the 
breast of God and claim my victory 
over love. You lost the gamble. In 
but an hour your lover will be pulp 
upon the gallows. Did you tell him 
when his fingers formed the world, 
that he would die on Terra, groaning 
with his hands crushed and whimpering 
in my great machine?”

Today on Good Friday, the crosshairs of the cross seemed to be centered on Jesus. Sin’s weight is heavy upon him as the hammer of God’s wrath comes down. But the target of God’s wrath is Sin. Sin dies in the crosshairs of the cross. Yes, Jesus dies, too. But for Jesus and for us, Sunday is coming. Resurrection Day. The Eighth Day. The first day of the New Creation.

But until that day comes, we sit mourning in the chaos and darkness. What we mourn, if we do so with proper understanding, is not a man’s death or a failed rebellion. What we mourn is our own participation in his trial. We mourn our own sin upon his back. We mourn our hands upon the nails and the hammer and our hands forcing bitter drink into his mouth.

What is coming is the most important morning since God first said, “let there be light.”
So, let us mourn tonight. For joy comes in the morning.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress? — Psalm 22.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 28 (Listen 3:07) 
2 Thessalonians 2 (Listen -2:32)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 29 (Listen 2:44), 2 Thessalonians 3 (Listen -2:16)
Proverbs 30 (Listen 3:51), 1 Timothy 1 (Listen -2:59)

Read more about The Prayer From the Cross
So, on this Good Friday, we will join Christ in his suffering, praying excerpts from this psalm prayed on the cross.

Read more about Choose to Hope in the Cross
The two thieves represent two choices…These choices stand as constant reminders that the cross of Christ demands a response.