Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sermon August 2

Hello again. So, for my first weekend preaching at my first call as a pastor, I decided to try and write two sermons--one for Thursday night and the other for Sunday morning. The first is posted below, and is based on the Spark Story Bible version of Daniel in the Lions' Den.

Darius was tricked. Daniel was trapped.

That’s what our story says. Daniel was the King Darius’ advisor. He was doing well at his job—too well, actually. His fellow advisors—his co-workers—decide that something needs to be done. They have to get him fired. The problem is, he isn’t doing anything wrong…so they devise a plan. They go to the king as a single group. United as one unit, they suggest that the king pass a law…people must rely on him and him alone for everything.

Darius was tricked. Daniel was trapped.

The punishment for asking God for anything is being tossed into a den of lions. Daniel doesn’t change what he does, though, and the other advisors go back to the king. They ask about the law. “Remind me about this law from last week. Is it absolute? Was the punishment being tossed into the den of lions?

The king confirms everything to them. Then they reveal that Daniel—the king’s top trusted advisor—is the one who must suffer the punishment.

Darius was tricked. Daniel was trapped.

Close your eyes. Imagine for a second a den of lions. What do you see? Is it cozy? Furry, fluffy overgrown cats? Do you picture Aslan? Mufasa and Simba? Some other illustration? I mean who hasn’t seen at least pictures of The Lion King or Narnia or the Wizard of Oz? I’d want to be around any of those characters. Sign me up for that. They’re funny and friendly, right?

These aren’t cartoons, though. They’re not stage characters. These lions are beasts. Killers by nature who hunt for their food daily. Their claws are sharp knives meant for tearing; their teeth are long, pointed, fanglike spikes that drip with hunger. Their muscles powerful enough to pull a body apart with one strike. These are the lions that wait in the den.

Darius was tricked. Daniel was trapped.

There are many people we could probably relate to in this story. Daniel is the obvious one. We can probably look around us from day to day and see the obstacles that threaten to shake us from doing what is right. The people, the social conventions, the risks that stand in our way of doing something we know needs to be done. It might seem easy for us to think that Daniel could’ve just skipped a few prayer days. I mean, he wouldn’t get thrown to the lions, and who would really notice? But it wouldn’t be right.

We can look to Daniel for inspiration. When it seems like talking to a certain person, supporting a particular cause, inviting another person to church would get us weird looks from the neighbors, we can think of Daniel and his faithfulness. The king certainly admired him. We might think for a minute that we, too, will be respected by the kings—the Dariuses—in our lives. Our bosses, friends, spouses, children, etc. But we also have to be aware that there are more than Dariuses in the world.

And...Darius was tricked. And Daniel was trapped.

Then there’s Darius. The king. The boss. The administrator. We can think of those situations where we’re in charge of people or projects. Maybe for you that’s your role at work, your life as a parent, your position as chair of this or that committee in the community here at church. Now, all the people that work for or with you call you to a meeting where pretty much all of them are there. They go on and on about how great you are, what a wonderful job you do.

Wow, does that feel good. You have worked hard, after all. Then they come up with this idea that will improve communications and make you and all the people you’re in charge of more efficient. Awesome! Everyone is working together, finally, and they see the work you do, too. So you agree without really examining the idea.

Darius was tricked. Daniel was trapped.

We will make mistakes like that. My point here is that we can understand where Darius and Daniel got stuck. Here’s the twist in the story—it works out for both of them. Even with the advisors conspiring against them, good wins out and God’s plan is still served. Despite the obstacles and evil in the world.

God’s plan keeps developing. God’s plan is working through the sorrow, fear, and struggles going on. Darius, who up until now had just tolerated Daniel’s faith—comes to share it, and believes in God. Wow. But we can’t forget the lead up to it.

Darius was tricked. Daniel was trapped.

The advisors. The tricksters. What about them? They see Daniel getting promoted ahead of them, even though he’s the new guy. The stranger in town. He’s doing good—too good. This needs to stop. They should be getting those benefits, that favor. Jealousy takes root and they move to destroy him.

Now, I have to admit, I understand this, too. Having a slightly competitive streak—especially when I was in high school (music competitions were the worst)—I know that need to be the best, and I’ve worked pretty hard since then to rid myself of that. It still flares up from time to time, though. Can you find it in yourself, too? That project that you just want to go well…that you want credit for…that you want to be recognized for?

What do you do when you notice those feelings?

Darius was tricked. Daniel was trapped.

Thinking like that is perhaps human nature. We are both sinners and saints, after all. There are times we will be immeasurably good, and there are times we will fail. Jealousy, however, is ultimately self-destructive for the tricksters in our tale. We see that in the verses after this story. The tricksters are thrown to the lions, and they don’t make it. They allowed their jealousy to consume them, and it ultimately does—it consumes them. It destroys them. If there’s anyone to avoid being like in this story, it’s these other advisors.

The advisors tricked Darius. The advisors trapped Daniel.

Again, there will be tricksters in our lives. We may even be tempted to be that sometimes. The point is to not give in to that destructive side, and to know that if we become like Darius or Daniel—if we do get tricked or trapped—God is with us. God is still working through us. No matter how bad it gets, God never abandons us.

God is watching us. God is with us.
God is holding us in the palm of God’s hand.

That’s the promise we hear here. As for our response, there’s a theme running through this, if you can’t tell.

We have a caution in this story, yes, to not be destructive—it huts us and it hurts others—but we also have assurance. We can live doing what is right. We only need worry about that, our own actions. After all, we can only control that—our own actions, not what others do. So that’s what we worry about, not about the many imagined shadows that might not approve. We do what we do. Praise God. Live faithful lives.

God is watching us. God is with us.
God is holding us in the palm of God’s hand. Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment