This reflection is from my trip to Detroit in July to attend the wedding of CBC alumni Justin and Samantha Miller. This reflection isn’t about their wedding - no allusions to them are intended here!!! - but I would be remiss not to say that the wedding, reception, and weekend were all fantastic! Kathy and I had a great time and were privileged to be part of the celebration.
The Beast: I wanted to have a book to read while we traveled so I looked through our house and found a copy of The Lord of the Flies by William Golding. In this fictional story a group of young boys, roughly ages 6 to 14, survive a plane crash on a tropical island; all the adults on board perish. The boys begin their community in an orderly manner but are also afraid that the island is inhabited by a dangerous beast. Eventually a power struggle emerges and their little community splits. They stop being boys and turn into savages, literally killing one another. Their fear of a deadly beast on the island turns out to be true but shockingly the boys themselves, and in particular those who ascend to places of power and influence, turn out to be the beast. The story, written post World War ll, is a sobering assessment of the human condition.
The Guardian: Justin and Samantha’s wedding ceremony was held in the Guardian Building in downtown Detroit. You can read about it at http://guardianbuilding.com/history/. The building is incredibly beautiful, interesting and ornate. It was built in a time of great optimism, the roaring 1920’s, when the economy was booming and Detroit was a growing center of commerce and trade. The building was once called the “Cathedral of Finance” and the notion of “guardian” is from its role as a banking center. The bank identified itself as a guardian of money, of business, and of prosperity. Ironically the building was completed in early 1929 before the famous stock market crash leading to the Great Depression.
The reading of the book and the location of the wedding were serendipitous but noteworthy to me in a couple of ways. First humans were created by God to be guardians, commissioned to extend the garden of Eden by filling the earth and subduing it, ruling in such a manner as to bring prosperity and peace. That was the admirable vision of the bank - to empower commerce and bring prosperity. But both the boys in The Lord of the Flies and the stock market crash revealed the beast in humanity through selfishness, abuse of power, greed, deceit, and pride. In the beginning humanity yielded to the temptation of a beast and ever since has succumbed to being beast-like themselves, predictably bringing destruction and death instead of prosperity and life. Humanity is a fallen guardian, like the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14 or the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28.
Second the guardian and beast motifs also remind me of our commission to make disciples. Jesus instructed us to be shrewd as serpents and gentle as doves because of the danger of the beast and the potential of the guardian. We know both the beast and the guardian in our personal histories and so we do our best to lead people into repentance, turning them away from the beast, and into new life in Jesus Christ, becoming guardians through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
I hope you have enjoyed my reflection. I look forward to a new year of ministry together, defeating the beasts and releasing the guardians around us!