Satraps and Chiasms (a Lesson in ‘Now’) (@FrDavidCloake)





Any the wiser?

Nor me. The Book of the Prophets Daniel is as accessible, in my humble opinion, as any part of John the Divine’s Revelation. I confess that all this apocalyptic stuff rides hard and fast against my pragmatic maleness, living in the right-now, which is to say that I receive the warnings of your common-or-garden apocalypse as a teenager does those wise words of his grandparents – ‘make the most of it dear; you’ll be my age before you know it‘.

Yes nan.

During the last Lent, now ended as I write in this Easter week, I pondered long and hard on a number of issues that lurked in the foreground of my thought. Some of this inner monologue resulted in ten meditations delivered during the Good Friday Devotions in my little London church. In summary, it was my contention that the drama of God’s Kingdom will unfold with or without me. If this is true, what part do I play in its unfolding storyline? Reading the account of Daniel reminds me that I am not a visionary in the sense illustrated within its pages, my dreams are more often than not forgotten – but when not they are about little that can be termed a Godly or even sensible. I have never enjoyed close proximity to a lion of any persuasion and history will only know me by the odd Vicar-board (and my progeny, maybe).

No, I need no comforting – for this is not false modestly. I am one brick in a very large and ever-growing wall and I have no illusions about that. It is for me to be a good brick – not one that crumbles to nothing and compromises the entire construction. How to achieve that seems, to me at least, to be the challenge placed upon me by God.

The words that forms the bricks of Daniel’s account give a wonderful tale of the supernatural. We are introduced to characters of such fantastic names that the prospect of reading them aloud fills me with dread. Yes, this is an apocalypse and therefore forward thinking; future focussed. The value of such accounts is not in what it is saying of the future end-times per se, but that they demonstrate what can be achieved by embracing the present moment with all proper perception and open-mindedness. This account, together with that which closes our Bible, are historic accounts of visions of the moment that paint a future. For every articulated apocalypse, there is a moment where true enlightenment was seized.

Yes, this world of ‘now’ suits me. I am enamoured with what I want and less so about the journey I have to take to attain it. As I grow older, I am more turned into the notion of ‘need’ when set alongside ‘want’, but the desire to get to that place by the quickest and easiest route remains. There have been times when I have cut corners mercilessly – and yes, when I was younger, I saw cheating (I think I regarded it as creative thinking at the time) as a legitimate means to an end. This world of ‘now’ is right up my street. If I want to listen to a piece of music, it is playing within 30 seconds. If I want to play a computer game, it is loaded within two or three seconds. If I want to change the TV channel, I don’t even need a doofer anymore – I have an App for that! Corner cutting; driving forward on the path of least difficulty; doing what is needful to get the job done. Sound familiar? Well, that’s who I have been on far too many occasions.

The example of Daniel is that ‘now’ can be the best of things. With the right tuning, time to listen and the right mindset, the ‘now’ can be a rich seam of truth and light. Daniel conditioned himself in how to be ready for his ‘now’, and entered into that process that so many of us did this Lent – he chose a harder path to avoid defilement. He limited himself to a fortnight of sprouts and spring water (chapter 1, verse 8ff) as a fit preparation for his ‘now’. Me? I gave up take-aways – for what? Daniel knew exactly what he wanted from his ‘now’ and worked towards it in very deliberate and specific way. Digitally speaking, the world is very much of the ‘now’. Instead of allowing me to relish the ‘now’ more through discipline, actually it becomes an accessory to a scatter-gun approach to life which is in grave danger of being ‘now’-inhibiting. If you want to know about satraps and chiasms I can reach for Google and tell you all about it in moments, a fraction of a second before my interest is taken by the next Swarm notification (and you have to bless Bp Alan and his chickens), the next utterance of a Vicarbot on Twitter, one of my plethora of games that is telling me that I have just levelled up, or YouTube telling me that Metallica have just uploaded another video. I never get to the end of a Metallica slip without the next news headline being bounced across my screen and so it goes. Lots of ‘now’ and no ‘now’ at all. 

It’s an integrity of purpose thing I think. Daniel was nearly made into the Plat du Jour but remained single-minded, going on to remain tuned into God enough to deliver yet more visions and prayers. Me? I would have been Googling how to avoid chunky cats and their carnivorous ways a moment before my head was divorced from my neck. Digital disciples are tested in every moment and in their integrity of purpose. We live out lives alongside overload and constant reminder.

“Happy are those who persevere … But you, go your way and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days”



About @FrDavidCloake

I am dad, husband and priest. I have a love for technology and all that it can do make manifest the Kingdom of God. I quite like cars and jets too. I say it as I see it, kinda. I am the Vicar of Ss Philip & James in Whitton, Twickenham having completed a wonderful curacy in the Parish of Aylesbury with Bierton and Hulcott.