Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sermon #2--Daniel and the Lions' Den

Here's the second sermon preached on Daniel 6:1-28. The space this was preached in has a projector and screen, so I've inserted a few images here as well. (All images displayed are public domain or original photos).

Daniel. A den of lions. Lions. That’s something pretty scary. Or at least, we think so…but how on earth does a den of lions compute in our minds here in Wautoma, Wisconsin? I tell you, it’s not the easiest thing. My first thought was that most of us have probably seen lions like this...
Kids programs, movies, characters in a story…I mean, who hasn’t seen or heard of the Lion King?

But we’re trying to get more real…okay. Wild. How about this? 

Aww. For cute! I kind of want to go pick this little kitty up and play with it. I could handle that.

In reality, most of us—if we’ve seen a lion at all in real life—have seen it this way

Real lions, no doubt, and maybe dangerous, but removed by barbed wire or maybe electric fencing and a pit or some other expanse that keeps us—and them—at a safe distance.

That’s not too helpful either. In each of these situations, the threat just doesn’t compute. We’re not in danger, the lions are cute or caged or cartoons. We’re safe. We’re too removed. These aren’t in-your-face threats that can tear you apart before you blink.

Now we’re getting somewhere. I actually don’t really want to turn around and look at that one. Jaws ready to snap those razor sharp teeth; muscles tense, preparing to pounce; eyes staring you down in a look that says ‘You. Are. My. Next. Meal.’

Now we’re getting somewhere. Now we kind of get it. What Daniel was facing by being faithful to God. Danger. Consequences. Giving up our personal interests to follow God. Going way outside of our comfort zone.

What does that look like in real life? Stepping beyond our comfort zone? Putting aside our personal interests? Giving up part of our life for God?

Last week, the youth group from here traveled to Cass Lake, Minnesota. [5-Early Morning] They got up early—early enough to be here by 6am. They met some people they didn’t know—two leaders that brought them to a place they’d never been to meet more people they didn’t know. They took care of strangers’ kids, painted for days, and kept going. Even when they were tired and worn out, they pushed their own fatigue aside to bring the last bit of their energy out and give the community around them one more smile.

Outside of the comfort zone. Imagine yourselves doing that. Painting for days, meeting and playing with other people’s children—maybe people you wouldn’t approve of—and treating them like precious children of God. Giving them the last of your energy to keep a smile on their faces for one more hour. It’s not easy.

Of course, this was a mission trip, so that was the point. The point was to challenge and push yourself to do something for someone else. Here’s the flip side, though. In doing this, the youth also made connections, they met new friends that they got to know throughout the week, they laughed with the members of the community in Cass Lake, they made memories, they lived out lives as followers of Christ.  There was so much that happened beyond the simple pictures and stories even. These eight youth grew into the community they served, they dove in and followed as disciples of Christ. 

People asked me if I survived this trip when I returned. People—not just one person. Because it would be outside of my comfort zone. Because I would be the only adult from the congregation going. Because I hadn’t met any of the youth. Because this would take a lot of energy—maybe more than I had. It was a concern for those who asked me, I’m sure, and I appreciate the consideration. My response, though?

Survive—it was amazing! It was amazing to be able to invest in these young people, amazing to see them connecting with the community, with their faith. Amazing. Just from watching these things, you could easily tell that God was with us all that week. God was with us, and amazing things happened.

And now we’re back. That’s an awesome story, just as Daniel and the Lions is an awesome story. But now we face the same problem we did when we started. How does that look in our minds in Wautoma, Wisconsin? What does that mean for us? These youth stepped out to serve for a week on a Reservation in Minnesota, but how do we translate that to here?
I think…no I imagine…no I hope. Yes, I hope that it means we are encouraged to live faithfully in all we do. That we can know that God is with us always. I hope it means that we hear these stories and start to look for those places we’ve set barriers in our lives. Places where we know something is the right thing to do—we maybe see a ton of potential in some project or service—but we hold back. I hope we see those places and recognize that there is nothing to fear there. Because God is with us.

This church has already stepped out in several ways, from calling new staff to sending youth on mission trips to confirmation camp to Relay4Life this weekend to many other things supported here. Those are things to be excited about. Those are things to be remembered and rejoiced in. Those are things to tell the world. God is with all of us, and we get to step out and act like it.

I am excited to see what the next adventures bring. I am excited to see how Hope Lutheran inspires the community around it outside of these walls through the lives of the people who gather here each week. I am excited to see how God works through each and every one of you to serve God’s world and God’s people. God is with you. Go do something amazing.

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