Seven Churches in South Oxfordshire

Sermon – Terror

Belshazzar

Terror

(Daniel 5)

I am the centre of the world
I command, and gold runs
Like wine through my fingers
And a thousand princes gasp
With wonder and applause.
I am higher than the gods
I clap my hands, and as
A gesture we will drink with
Chalices from temples of the nations
Now you, my guests, are gods!
I am brighter than the stars
I click my fingers, and
The world laughs, praising my bounty.
Lifting high the running gold the crowd
Clamours adulation of the elemental spirits.
The music fades without my word, the cup is spilt
As a thousand trembling hands point behind
Where like a creeping insect at my shoulder
A living hand appears and in the silent lamplight
Writes in deathly quiet my incomprehensible fears.
I cannot feel my limbs, but see my own hands
Shaking, lifeless in my lap, white as my
Deathly face, weaker than my leprous legs.
The only motion, only life in this banquet’s corpse
Are the maggot white fingers ploughing the plaster at my back.
Four short words no-one can read?
Can no gold buy this knowledge?
Can nothing from my heaven unlock
The writing on the wall? My hand Shakes – I cannot click my fingers.
Accepted wisdom is too highly paid
For this disgrace to their profession!
A mother’s words of memory, an old
Old man of my father’s mad years,
limping white and fearless to my table.

This one will not worship, no he brings dread speech
Declaims my violation of heaven and earth
Declares my divinity is dead
And with pointing finger traces my fall
From God’s stolen gold to God’s judgement on God’ s palace wall.

I should have killed him where he stood
But my oath, mother’s memory,
a thousand witnesses and trembling hands prevented me.
Tomorrow the wall will be plastered, covered over
with my terror. But whose hand is that at the door?
©  Kevin G Davies
18/9/2001

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