Washington DC – the Seat of Power

The Fleeting Nature of Power

I’m currently on a visit to North America, sharing about the work and ministry of CMJ Israel.

I started my visit in Washington DC. I’d never been before, so I was delighted to stay with friends who live a few blocks from the Capitol. Washington is a lovely city; the absence of tall buildings makes it accessible somehow, and many of the buildings are very beautiful. Not all of them, mind. I was fortunate to be given a tour of the State Department building, named in honour of President Harry Truman. It reflects all the monolithic solidity so typical of late 1950s and 60s architecture, all right angles, concrete, and formulaic design. Inside, though, the reception rooms on the top floor that we were shown on our tour were beautifully decorated with historic furniture, paintings, portraits and other items that elegantly and eloquently spoke of America’s rich and fascinating history. It was a privilege to be there.

The Capitol in Washington DC

I also was shown around the Museum of the Bible, the city’s newest and surely one of its most majestic museums. It is magnificent, far more so than I expected.

Doors of the Museum of the Bible, Washington DC
The huge doors of the Museum of the Bible, with the text of Genesis 1 from the Guthenberg Bible

The architects, designers, and curators have made every effort to do everything excellently, and it shows. There is something about a quest for excellence that makes its own impression, that touches one for its own sake, beyond the message it seeks to convey. And so it is here. The layout of the displays, the quality of the presentation, and the beauty of many of the artefacts are all stunning. I was very impressed. One could spend days there; I hope to return.

Christ Church Jerusalem at the Museum of the Bible
I was delighted to catch a glimpse of CMJ's Christ Church in Jerusalem in one of the Museum's displays. Only the roof, but enough to remind me of home!

And then there was the Capitol, which I walked past several times. It is a beautiful building, much more so in reality than in the many television shows it appears in. I felt honoured to be there, to just look at the building, consider it, and to pray for those who work there and in the other government buildings in this great city.

Ceiling of the Museum of the Bible
The ceiling in the entrance hall of the Museum changes every few seconds

I suppose I could have felt any number of sensations: the immense responsibility of those who work there, the power they wield over millions both within and beyond the borders of this country, the intrigue, the betrayal, the spiritual oppression. And all of these thoughts and more crossed my mind as I thought about this small, critical square mile in the nation’s capital.

The Capitol, Washington DC
Another view of the Capitol

But my overwhelming sense was of the fleeting nature of power. How it can so easily, so quickly be snatched away. How men and women too often become proud, become arrogant even in their achievement of power, and lose the sense of service and humility that has to go with it. I was reminded of Psalm 75, which says,

“No one from the east or the west
         or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges:

         He brings one down, he exalts another.”
         (verses 6 and 7)

And Daniel 2 verses 20 and 21:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
         wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
         he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
         and knowledge to the discerning.”

Ah, that we would have leaders over us in these dangerous and fearful times who have wisdom, knowledge and discernment from above, and who, in their positions of authority, submit to the one who has all authority.

Something to pray for!

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