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The Inhuman Kingdom

Like many this morning, I’m fighting the urge to do little more than sit, slack jawed, at my computer, trying to process the news coming out of the Ukraine. It all feels so ominous and heavy and infuriating and sad. So terribly, terribly sad. After an hour or so of impotent doom scrolling, I closed my computer and decided to pray. I had no idea what to pray, so I borrowed better words than I could ever summon on my own.

The following excerpts come from a liturgy called “A Prayer of Intercession Against the Kingdom of Death.” from Every Moment Holy, vol. 2. Perhaps it will give you language appropriate for the sorrow and rage of the day, as it did for me:

The human heart, apart from your light,
O Lord, is lost in those dark shadows
cast by death. The human heart,
apart from your love, will drink itself
to ruin on the wine of unholy communions
of hate, of envy, of fear, of prejudice, of pride,
of greed, of resentment, of self-pity,
of envious entitlement, and rage,
and every other ugliness that festers
in the wounds of a broken race.

This is our unlawful claim,
bounded by the embattled trenches
of our rebellions.
Here is our own broken kingdom—
shoddily established, ever precarious,
beset by endless war, propped up
by a usurped power preserved only by
the spilling of blood, peopled by
cracked women and splintered men,
a world swerving wildly
through the guardrails and over
the precipice of anything good and true.
This is our illegitimate puppet kingdom—
free-wheeling, death-dealing,
downward spiralling, making-it-up-as-we-go,
fashioning the world in our own shattered
image and unto our own twisted ends…

Pressed together we writhe and seethe
and teem with chaos and disorder,
debased as dogs scrabbling for scraps—
but blind enough at the same time
to somehow believe ourselves above all
rightful authority, insisting against all evidence
that we will, by our strength, our intellect,
our goodness, our inevitable progress,
build some better Babel
apart from you, O God.

Does creation laugh, or weep,
when those fragile structures collapse
beneath the impossible weight of our ambitions
and all that we are left with are the orphans,
the widows and widowers, the grieving parents,
the bombed-out villages, the ruined
communities, the uninhabitable spaces,
the tortures, extortions, executions,
gross injustices, tyrants, and victims who—
so long force-fed on resentment—
often reveal themselves as cruel as their
oppressors, the terrorists of every stripe,
the users-of-others, the abusers,
the statisticians who deal in the
demonic economies of collateral damage,
the ones who make the world less hospitable,
who plunder and desecrate your creation
in service of their own greed, those who
inhumanly employ human shields, the enslavers,
the exploiters, the manipulators and pirates and
profiteers—those parasites of suffering…

This is the human kingdom.,
now unmasked as
the inhuman kingdom.
This is the inhuman kingdom,
revealed at last as the kingdom of death…

And when the darkness parts
just long enough that for an instant
we perceive our monstrous need,
the horror of the things we have become,
and done, and left undone,
held up against the light of God,
reduces us, deluges us, enrages us,
or breaks our hearts
and drives us to despair,
for the settling weight of such a great
conviction is more than we can bear;
to see ourselves defined in stark relief,
too wretched, enslaved, and powerless
to effect our own release or absolution.

Where then is our hope,
if we have hope at all?
Who will rescue us now
from this kingdom of death
with which he have so long been aligned;
these toxic roots and thorny vines
in which we’ve grown
so desperately entangled,
so deeply intertwined,
in deed, and heart, and lineage, and mind?
Have we no hope? Where is our hope?

Haste that day, O Lord!

Remake the world.
Reclaim creation.
Destroy death forever, O Christ.

Give to your children resurrected joy,
in resurrected life.

Even here, even now, in these shadowlands
where death presumes to reign, let our lives
be lived in counterclaim. Even in the manner
of our dying let us give good witness to
the hope your triumph brings.

Destroy the works of death, O Christ.
Tear down this deathly kingdom for all time.

And in its place, plant glad, eternal cities,
plant good, eternal gardens,
that nourish and delight, producing joy,
reflecting love,
sustaining life.

Destroy death forever. Let death finally die.

For you, our Christ and King,
are the resurrection, and the life.

You, our Christ and King,
are the resurrection and the life.

Amen.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Harold Schlegel #

    Thanks for this post, Ryan.

    February 24, 2022
  2. Amen. Thanks for sharing this well-chosen liturgy prayer.

    February 25, 2022
  3. David Lawrence #

    Ryan, thank you for sharing this. I am not familiar with the source and would have missed these words completely had it not been for your post.

    February 25, 2022
  4. “Ukraine” happens every day.

    He is our hope. Prayer is the language of hope.

    Thank you, Pastor Ryan.

    February 25, 2022
  5. jeffkisner #

    Thanks for posting!

    February 25, 2022
  6. Elizabeth #

    Strong, impactful words and when I read them aloud I find them terrifying. “This is our illegitimate puppet kingdom — free-wheeling, death-dealing, downward spiralling, making-it-up-as-we-go, fashioning the world in our own shattered image and unto our own twisted ends…”

    Ryan, is the world such a disastrous place? As a good christian are we supposed to oppose and despise our time on earth? I don’t disagree with the depiction, but it honestly hurts my heart.

    March 7, 2022
    • Yes, the words are stark and bracing. They’re not easy words to read, but I believe we need words to name our reality honestly. In this way, they function similarly to the psalms of lament in scripture (e.g., Psalm 88).

      I do not despise my time on earth in any way. I think the world is a place characterized by staggering beauty and goodness and soul-numbing evil (i.e., what’s happening in Ukraine) at the same time. Sometimes our hearts are supposed to hurt, I think. This is part of what it means to be human this side of eternity, while God’s will is not yet done on earth as in heaven.

      March 7, 2022
      • Elizabeth #

        It has been a recurring challenge in my life to read anything stark and bracing. Thank you for your explanation.

        March 7, 2022

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