From Feb. 5 – Mar. 16, 2003, I engaged in a 40-day fast, urging then President George W. Bush to consider alternatives to war with Iraq. Each day, I sent the President a letter — with copies to Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice — using the Daily Office Readings (from the President’s Episcopal tradition) as a foundation for my reflections. For the next 10 days, I plan to re-post the letters from Days 31 to 40 of the fast, interspersing them with photos of Iraqis. Whether one supported or opposed the war, the costs are indisputably high. -Daryl (March 7, 2013)
Financial cost of Iraq war:
March 13, 2003
Daily Office Readings
-Psalm 19, 46
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Bush:
Today’s Daily Office readings are about God’s judgment and salvation. The Bible is clear that God alone is fit to judge, but is not eager to do so. God’s desire is for all to be saved. The movement of salvation is from places of distress and insecurity — perhaps because of the threat of an enemy or the grip of sin — to places of well-being, wholeness and security. Only God is able to save and deliver.
The psalmist says that, while the earth changes, mountains shake, nations are in an uproar and kingdoms totter, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (46:1) Therefore, we are to, “Be still, and know that I am God!” (v.10).
Psalm 50 pictures God gathering the heavens and earth for judgment (vv. 4-6). God does not want or need meaningless sacrifices. Rather, the way to please God is to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving (50:14,23), to keep our vows to God (v.14), to call on God in our day of trouble (v.15) and to “go the right way.” (v.23) To persons who do these things God says, “I will show the salvation of God.” (v.23) With this understanding, David prays: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps. 19:14).
In the Old Testament reading, Moses summarizes his 40-day intercession on behalf of the people who neither trusted nor obeyed God: “Lord God, do not destroy the people who are your very own possession, whom you redeemed in your greatness, whom you brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” (Deut. 9:26) God listens to Moses’ appeal and gives the people another chance by providing a new copy of the Ten Commandments to guide them (10:1-5).
The Gospel reading speaks of God’s love and desire to save rather than judge the entire world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) The Epistle reading urges us to experience God’s salvation — to enter God’s Sabbath rest — by believing (Heb. 4:3) and obeying (v.6) God.
Mr. President, the biblical understanding of judgment and salvation seems especially relevant for our own time. But the human impulse throughout history has been to pronounce and mete out judgment on others in our desperate but futile attempts to save ourselves. Today’s texts stand as poignant reminders that we should not repeat the mistakes of history. In the midst of the current turmoil, may we be still and know and trust that God will both appropriately judge and deliver.
I close with the prayer of a tribal leader of the Sault Ste. Marie (Michigan) Tribe of Chippewa Indians:
We pray to you, Spirit of God.
Complete the work you have begun in us,
Prevent the evil we are capable of doing,
And inspire us toward what is good;
To faithfulness and patience,
To compassion and gentleness,
To unity and peace.
Waken in us friendship for every living being.
Fill our minds with Truth.
Fill our hearts with love.
Fill our days with joy and loving service.
Praise and honor to you Father.
By your risen Son in unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.
May this be your prayer and mine for this day.
J. Daryl Byler