Tag Archives: Daniel

Tempted but the truth is discovered

Your hand will lay hold upon all your enemies; *
your right hand will seize all those who hate you.
You will make them like a fiery furnace *
at the time of your appearing, O LORD;
You will swallow them up in your wrath, *
and fire shall consume them. (Psalm 21:8-10)

It’s so tempting, isn’t it? To want victory in the same terms as our “enemies” enjoy it. To believe that victory means power and control over others.

Immediately after we read Psalms 20 and 21, we finally reach the climax of the opening chapters of the Book of Daniel that we’ve been reading all week. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel’s Hebrew companions at the court of the king of Babylon, refuse to worship the great gold statue that Nebuchadnezzar has erected, so they are thrown into a fiery furnace.

The Book of Daniel probably came later in the compilation of the Hebrew Bible — it seems to reflect a post-Exile sensibility — but I’m tempted to believe that the Psalmist is wishing to have victory like the Babylonian king, victory that everyone can see, victory that burns up his enemies.

After our reading from the Book of Daniel, we respond with Canticle 12, appointed for Saturday mornings (BCP 144). Canticle 12 is known by three names: “A Song of Creation,” the Latin first line Benedicite, omnia opera Domini, and the descriptive title Song of the Three Young Men.

Yes, those three young men. What were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego doing in the fiery furnace? They were praising the God of creation.

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord, *
O heavens and all waters above the heavens.
Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew, *
all winds and fire and heat.
Winter and Summer, glorify the Lord, *
praise him and highly exalt him for ever. (BCP 88)

The mighty king of Babylon is astonished. His power has no effect on these young men. It even looks like they are walking around in the furnace with a fourth figure. An angel?

He yells at them, “Come out, come here!”

And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them. Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. (Daniel 3:27-30)

What is victory?

Is it burning your enemies up in a fiery furnace? Is it winning control? Is it having power and prestige?

Or is it praising God in all circumstances? Is it yielding up your body rather than serve any power but God?

The three young men seem to know the answer. Jesus, meeting the devil in the wilderness after his baptism, seems to answer temptation in the same way.

Truth is, for us whose faith is formed by the Hebrew Bible and given flesh in Jesus and powered by the Spirit, victory means yielding ourselves, not lording over others.

Truth is, victory is “to worship the Lord [our] God, and serve only him” (Luke 4:8).

No longer strangers and sojourners

genuflect

I stretched forth my hand against myself;
I have broken my covenant.

My speech is softer than butter,
but war is in my heart.

My words are smoother than oil,
but they are drawn swords.

Cast your burden upon the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous stumble.

(Psalm 55, adapted)

The class I’m taking this fall at Bexley Seabury is called “This Dangerous Book” for a reason.

We’re together investigating how texts, images, and sounds in juxtaposition can help us experience the Bible at a heart level rather than in our heads.

Our exercise last night was to do some free association on a text appointed for All Saints’ Day. The reading from the Book of Daniel stirred up in me various “beasts” like Daniel saw “in the visions of his head as he lay in bed.”

I saw in my vision by night
the four winds of heaven
stirring up the great sea
and four great beasts
came up out of the sea
different from one another.
(Dan. 7:2-3)

Though I am struggling with several “great beasts” — various kinds of sin in my life — the experience of the saints reassures me that I am not alone. I am not unique in my struggles, and in fact I can learn how to live from those “who have come out of the great ordeal” before me (Rev. 7:14).

In many recovery programs, those who have gone before are called sponsors; in our tradition they are called saints. Thanks be to God that we are not left to deal with our “great beasts” alone, that we are not left to swim the great sea by ourselves.

We are no longer strangers and sojourners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19).

It’s still beautiful

Local Hero

The film Local Hero is the story of a Texas oilman sent to Scotland to buy a fishing village so his company can put up a refinery. As the villagers dream about becoming millionaires, the oilman begins to fall in love with the peace and quiet.

The oilman’s Scottish partner, Danny, is also falling in love. Marina is a mysterious figure, a lovely marine biologist with an enigmatic manner.

After the ceilidh celebrating the conclusion of the deal, Danny and Marina are out on the beach looking at the Northern Lights.

Danny: Holy mackerel! What’s happening?
Marina: That’s just the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis. High-energy protons spilling over into our atmosphere. They get through the magnetic shield where it’s weak, at the poles.
Danny: It’s still beautiful, I don’t care what you call it. How often does this happen?
Marina: Any old time, although it’s best when the sun’s active. That gets the solar wind up and that’s where the protons come from.
Danny: You say the darnedest things, Marina.

We have another Danny in today’s Daily Office readings, and he’s the one saying to God, “You say the darnedest things.”

I heard but could not understand, so I said, “My lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?” He said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” (Daniel 12:8-10)

From our Easter perspective we know the meaning behind the signs. As Julian of Norwich says of Christ, “Know it well; love was his meaning.”

It’s easy to get tangled up and confused in speculations about dates and times and the mechanics of how God acts in history. It’s easy to lose sight of the meaning — God’s love for us, reaching down and remembering us “in our low estate” (Psalm 136:23).

As our first Danny says, “It’s still beautiful, I don’t care what you call it.”