Driving Like a Maniac

Friday, September 27, 2013 — Week of Proper 20, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 88 (morning) // 91, 92 (evening)

2 Kings 9:17-37

1 Corinthians 7:1-9

Matthew 6:7-15

It’s not always easy to distinguish movements of peace, justice, and freedom from movements of violence, injustice, and oppression. In today’s first reading, Jehu’s battle against Jezebel is a confusing mess of both vindication for the oppressed and brutal violence, of the overthrow of a cruel leader and the sudden seizure of power by someone else. Like many bold rebels, Jehu wants to set the course of the universe in the right direction. However, as the sentinel says, “he drives like a maniac.”

Jehu enforces justice with acts that might satisfy and yet horrify the people. Jehu kills King Joram with an arrow and lays his body on the very piece of land that Joram’s family had added to their kingdom by killing its owner, Naboth. Jehu declares that he is repaying the blood of Naboth with the blood of Joram.

In another dramatic and gruesome act, Jehu kills Joram’s mother, Jezebel, who engineered the murder of Naboth in the first place. Jehu doesn’t kill her directly, but he calls out to people in her palace willing to rise up against her: “Who is on my side? Who?” A few eunuchs look out, and Jehu tells them to throw Jezebel down from the window. They do, and her blood spatters on the wall and on the horses who trample her.

So, here we have it: A wrong avenged. A tyrant cast down. And now, a maniac at the helm.

When the world looks for leaders, we sometimes face few choices. We can suffer the cruel rule of Jezebel, or we can join the maniacal rebellion of Jehu. Although every nation has its own patterns of power and governance, the bigger picture often boils down to an impossible choice between a viciously imposed “peace” or a violently inflicted “justice.”

Where can we go from here? While the roadmap isn’t always clear, the gospel tries to offer us a way forward through the simple prayer, “Your kingdom come.”

Like the territory of Jezreel under Jezebel’s reign, America has crimes at its foundation. It expanded its terrain by annexing peoples’ ancestral lands, sometimes through bloodshed. It dehumanized and enslaved other people, who, like Jezebel’s eunuchs, sometimes found the courage to revolt.

As America persists in its patterns of exploitation and oppression, the ride toward justice is often a maniacal one. Yet today the gospel asks us to practice words and actions that bring God’s kingdom near. The path may not be smooth, but at least it is steady.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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