Summary: Election eve sermon -- there are plagues in the body politic, created by inauthentic leadership; the best gift we can give to our national leadership is prayer, though we will likely see the haughtiness of politicians and smell the stench of plagues again.
He sat on his elegant furniture, in his fabulous house, surrounded by the glories of a wealthy nation, attended by efficient servants, powerful enough to command just about anything. But today he was miserable, miserable beyond words, because everywhere he looked they were there. In his way, spoiling his view, interrupting his conversations, disturbing his thoughts, menacing his health. Everywhere.
Frogs. Slimy, goggle-eyed frogs, jumping and jostling one another. Frogs everywhere. In the house, in every room of the house. On every stick of furniture. He could not sit down without chasing them off his chair. He could not lie in his bed, because they pounced in with him. He could not take a bath, for they swam in his tub and they bounced in his basin.
The last straw was the kitchen. Frogs in the kitchen. Frogs in the cupboards, frogs in the pantry, frogs in the ovens, banging against the sides with their legs, trying to jump out -- and, when they tried turning up the heat, the bump-bump-bump, instead of stopping, became bumpety-bumpety-bumpety-bumpety - a ceaseless and frantic pounding that in itself gave you a headache if you stood by too long.
The frogs even got into the pots and pans. Some idiot in the kitchen suggested that tonight’s menu should be braised frog’s legs, garnished with fried frog’s eggs, and for dessert, sweet little froggy tails. What a disgusting mess! Frogs. Nothing but frogs.
And it did not matter that the master of the house was the Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Egypt, whom his people called the living sun-god. It did not matter that he could dispatch armies up the Nile and into the far reaches of Africa or out the coastal roads to Palestine. It did not matter that Pharaoh’s very name caused men to tremble, that he had enslaved thousands to build him a pyramid worthy of his majesty. None of this mattered, because of these tiny, ugly, smelly, noisy beasts, fresh from the water of the Nile. Frogs!
So Pharaoh, in desperation, called for prayer. He reached out and summoned Moses and Aaron, the leaders of the poorest of the poor, the spiritual leaders of the nobody Hebrews, and he asked for prayer. When you have a plague in your midst, no matter how powerful you are, you find out that there is a power with greater than you. You call for prayer.
He sat on his elegant furniture, in his fabulous house, surrounded by the glories of his wealthy nation, attended by efficient servants, powerful enough to command just about anything. But today he was miserable, miserable beyond words, because everywhere he looked they were there. In his way, spoiling his view, interrupting his conversations, disturbing his thoughts, menacing his health. Everywhere.
Accusations. Stories. Rumors. Signs that everything was collapsing. It looked as though the government was stalled. Nothing productive was happening.
And it did not matter that the master of this house was the President of the United States, who had been re-elected in a landslide. It did not matter that he could dispatch armies to southeast Asia or to rebellious college campuses. It did not matter that millions had voted for him, that various minions had gathered intelligence for him, that others had pulled off “dirty tricks” for him. None of this mattered, because of the newspaper stories, the television reports, the crowds in the streets, the rumbles in the congressional hearing rooms, all these terrors fresh from the Watergate. Frogs again!
So the President, in desperation, called for prayer. He reached out to his advisor, whom he both trusted and feared, and together they fell on their knees, in prayer. With fevered brow and trembling lip, he cried out for prayer. For, you see, when you have a plague in your midst, no matter how powerful you are, you find out that there is a power greater than you. You call for prayer.
Whether it is Egypt thirty-four centuries ago, or the United States in our time, there are plagues in the body politic. But there is also power in prayer.
Ours is a nation with plagues. We have problems worse than frogs leaping around. We have plagues like crime, drugs, child abuse, pornography, murder, vandalism, you know the list. I do not need to repeat it. These things are plagues, and we can’t get free from them.
But these plagues have a meaning. There is a way to interpret them. I see these plagues as God’s judgment, God’s judgment on the self-centeredness of those with power, who oppress the powerless.
Ours is a nation with plagues. These plagues stem from the lust for power, so that the powerful crush the spirits of the powerless. When power becomes an end in itself, and the needs of the people are buried under the rhetoric of winning, then you can expect God’s judgment to fall. God’s judgment comes on pride and on greed.