I just signed my first contract (!!) with a publisher to produce study guide curriculum for a Bible Study by my friend Shawna Songer Gaines - a fellow female minister and all-around inspiration. The topic? Babylon.
I love how Shawna picks the themes for her studies, choosing to trace the arc of a concept through scripture as opposed to focusing on one book, person, passage, etc. But when she and I first discussed the curriculum, the concept of Babylon seemed a bit random and very heavy.
But now I see there is nothing that parallels so closely our current cultural moment as the story arc of Babylon.
The Israelite exiles in Babylon sit down by the rivers and weep for Zion, weep for the absence of a holy city - only to be reminded that God is also in this place that feels so foreign to them. AND ... God is asking them for their participation in the work God is doing there.
Through the story of Babylon woven through scripture we witness people who carry the divine story within them confronted by a foreign culture of self-reliance, tempted by this culture, yet called by God to be immersed in this culture. And ultimately, asked to point any power, position, or wealth back to God's presence, wisdom, and work of renewal.
This is the lens through which I've been viewing recent events on the political, social, and cultural stage. We have so much to learn from the Israelite exiles in Babylon. Because we, all of us, carry the divine spark within us; we, too, are called to seek the good of a city where we may feel like exiles; we, too, are required to use any power we might obtain to point back to a story of good news.
So yes, I have joined the Israelites in weeping by the river as I feel the pull of a holy, divine city within me, yet am immersed in Babylon all around me. I weep because those of us who acknowledge this spark also acknowledge that we must give ourselves for the city, yet we are too often pursuing power, position, wealth, and self-reliance right alongside everyone else. I weep because it seems like we don't believe our own story any more, or maybe we've gotten so lost we don't even know what the story is.
There are no platitudes, no slogans that fix this. There is only God's presence and our participation. There is work to be done - work in reminding ourselves what we stand for, why we stand for it, and how to stand for it. Then there is work in actually putting this in practice, for the good of our city, for the good of Babylon.