Trust the higher power
By Vernon S. Broyles III | Presbyterians Today
The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher. All is vanity. … What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. — Ecclesiastes 1:1,9
Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed — with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power — with no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living … . — Ecclesiastes 4:1–2
We are bombarded by news in our nation and around the world of the manifold ways the rich prey on the poor, the strong oppress the weak, and racism and religious intolerance erupt in horrific acts of violence. Moreover, the leaders of nations continually conspire to create international conflict in their reach for power.
Do you remember the Kingston Trio? While the group is known for the revival in folk music in the ’50s and ’60s, their music is still played across generations. One of the most striking and still relevant of their songs is “The Merry Minuet,” in which they set to music the reflections of Sheldon Harnick, a songwriter best known for his collaboration on musicals such as “Fiddler on the Roof.” It goes like this: “They’re rioting in Africa, there’s starving in Spain. There’s hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain. The whole world is festering with unhappy souls. The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles. Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch. And I don’t like anybody very much! But we can be tranquil and thankful, and proud. For man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud. And we know for certain that some lovely day, someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away! There’s rioting in Africa, there’s strife in Iran. What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man.”
Sounds a lot like our preacher, Koheleth, in Ecclesiastes, when he says, “Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed — with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power — with no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead, who have already died, more fortunate than the living, who are still alive.”
The bottom line is that if we believe God’s Word, we cannot blindly trust our earthly leaders to lead us out of inevitable tragedy. It has been decades since the Kingston Trio sang and still, we can’t get it right. We have chosen leaders in every nation who are more concerned about their wealth and power than they are about their people.
We need the kind of intervention that is beyond human vision and human commitment. When we count solely on our earthly leaders, nothing will change. Koheleth makes it clear for us today as he did generations ago.
Enter this season of death and resurrection trusting in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, the one true leader who can redeem our errors and empower us in the struggle to bring justice and peace to all of God’s children.
Vernon S. Broyles III is a volunteer for public witness in the PC(USA)’s Office of the General Assembly.
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