Monthly Archives: July 2012

07-22-12 THE CORNERSTONE

Sermon Audio Not Available

THE
CORNERSTONE

Ephesians 2:
11-22

Old cemeteries can sometimes have interesting epitaphs
on their headstones, aside from a person’s name, date of birth, and
date of death. In a graveyard a block off of the main square in
Princeton New Jersey there is a headstone that has this epitaph. In
quotes it reads: “I told you I was sick!” That’s a way to
skewer someone from beyond the grave! In Waynesville, North Carolina
there’s a headstone with this sentiment: “ Come blooming youths,
as you pass by, and on these lines do cast an eye, as you are now, so
once was I, as I am now, so must you be; prepare for death and follow
me.” Now I don’t condone graffiti on gravestones, but someone
underneath that saying wrote: “To follow you, I’m not content,
how do I know which way you went?” In Culver City California there
is a gravestone that has a sentence by a loved one of the deceased.
It reads: “He called Bill Smith a liar!” And finally on a
headstone in England a lawyer named John E. Goembel was buried, and
his headstone reads “The defense rests.” Those are some funny
and ironic sayings! Sometimes ministers are called on to do a funeral
for someone they do not know. I was once told about what an actual
pastor said and a very short eulogy at the funeral of a stranger. The
pastor stood up at the funeral home in the midst of those gathered
and just said: “I did not know Mr. Jones. But I understand that he
loved children. Anyone who loved children is alright by me.” And
then he went into his prayer! That was his message! I’ve actually
done a service for a man with the only one in attendance being the
paid guardian of his estate. That was an unusual one!

So why bring up all these anecdotes? Just this: have
you thought about what people think about you? Have you thought about
what you stand for? And have you thought about what people see in
you? When I sit with a family that is preparing for a funeral of a
loved one, I ask them about the qualities of the person. “What was
she like?” I might ask. “How would you characterize her?” “What
were his qualities? Then most families start out with descriptive
words. What words would characterize you? If someone, God forbid, had
to do that task for you one day soon, what would they say? I have
some people in this church who would like me to hold their funeral
before they die just to see what I’ll say about them! It matters to
them what I think, and it matters to them what others think! So in
today’s message, that I’m calling “The Cornerstone,” what is
the cornerstone of who you are? A cornerstone, symbolically or
actually, sets the direction, the angle, and the purpose of the
building being built. Sometimes it is filled with historic artifacts,
but it mainly serves to give direction, angle, and philosophical
purpose for what is about to be built. Today I wonder if you would
think with me for a minute about your life. Do you have a cornerstone
on which you base your convictions? This time we’re not talking
about headstones; we’re talking about the one or two ways that
people will remember you. What will they say? Some people would love
to hear that they have a cornerstone that might sound like this:
“Always kind,” “welcomed everyone,” “fair-minded,” or
“Lived by the Holy Book.” What do you hope they will say about
you? As Charles Dickens depicted with Ebenezer Scrooge in his famous
story “A Christmas Carol”, today is not too late to begin to
change your life for the better!

Christianity is filled with people who had conversion
experiences; of people who saw the light when they met the Lord
Jesus, not the least of them was the Apostle Paul. Paul, first called
Saul, was a proud persecutor and murderer of Christians, in fact,
giving the signal for the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr. Then
Saul became Paul when he met Jesus in a vision on the fateful day
that changed his life. Soon the cornerstone of his life became
Christ; Paul called him the Head of the Body of Christ, the church,
in Colossians 1:18; and he shared the message of the gospel on at
least four harrowing missionary journeys. He plied his craft as a
tentmaker just to support his work that made him the master crafter
of Christian theology. Paul was a man of God and an apostle; one who
loved Jesus as Lord. That was
his cornerstone.
His cornerstone was to preach Christ and make him know. But no one
needs to compare their qualities with Paul’s or anyone else’s.
This thoughtful exercise is not about comparison; it’s about a
moment in time when you can give serious reflection about your life
and your legacy. What are your values? What would you love for others
to say about you? And what might you do to continue, or to change,
the way you are living life today?

Do you realize that the Ephesian Christians, to whom
Paul was writing, had a hard life trying to proclaim Christ with
their words or actions? In reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians,
it’s hard to get a grasp on what Ephesus was like. The ruins of
this cosmopolitan pagan city still exist and can be visited. Groups
from our church have gone with me to see it. In the great harbor of
Ephesus was a giant statue of the Roman Emperor Domitian, as if to
say “All who come here will be welcomed and protected by me, and by
the Roman Empire.” This, however, is the same emperor who was in
power and described as “the beast” by John in his Patmos prison
cell as he wrote the book of Revelation. Imagine being a Christian
and living in those times! In our Vacation Bible School a few weeks
ago we imagined that we were in Babylon, a territory that contained
the legendary Hanging Gardens, called one of the seven wonders of the
ancient world. Well, Ephesus had another of the seven wonders of the
ancient world: the temple of Artemis, the female multi-breasted
goddess of fertility.
With a temple to Artemis
and a statue of the emperor in the harbor, one wonders how
Christianity survived at all in Ephesus! But it was due to Christians
there who kept their faith; Christians whose cornerstone was Christ;
Christians who were led by the encouraging and instructional words of
Paul. We have Christianity today, in part, due to people like them.

Today you have the chance to create your own
cornerstone: you may already have a track record of integrity, of
honesty, or of generosity. Good for you! But if your record of your
life needs a little editing, it’s not too late to turn over a new
leaf, or keep growing your tree of faith. What might people say about
you? Will they, like the hymn once put it “Know you are a Christian
by your love?” Are others glad to know you? More importantly than
what others think, what do
you think
of yourself? And what have you demonstrated to your Savior Jesus
Christ in gratitude for his salvation and example? In Paul’s letter
to the Ephesians, he was grounding new Christians in the faith,
imploring them to hold fast amidst a pagan city, and to not let go of
their love, their integrity, their faith, and their hope. He wrote to
them saying
“Now in Christ Jesus you who
once were far off have been brought near …. He is our peace …. So
then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are citizens
[not just of Ephesus, but] with the saints and also members of the
household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and
prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

In that hostile environment of Ephesus, Paul was giving an oasis of
hope and instruction. And he reminded them to let Christ, not Artemis
or Domitian or anyone else, be their chief cornerstone.

What will be your legacy? What is the cornerstone of who
you are? How will you be remembered? In the name of Christ, may you
work on qualities like, faith, hope, and love. In his name, may you
be one who keeps promises. And may you be one who, all your life, or
starting today, has chosen to ground yourself in the message of the
New Testament, with Jesus Christ being the Head and Savior of your
life.

Jeffrey A. Sumner
July 22, 2012

After
a message called “The Cornerstone” it is appropriate to sing
“Christ is Made the Sure Foundation, Christ the Head and
Cornerstone.” But today I’ve asked to do it a little differently.
Our Westminster Church is named for a Confession of Faith drafted at
Westminster in a section of London England in the 17
th
century. We will use a portion of the Confession of Faith in a
moment. But the great English musician, Henry Purcell, was a
chorister at Westminster Abbey and when he was grown, he became her
organist until his death, and he was actually buried inside the
abbey. He composed a tune that he called WESTMINSTER ABBEY to go with
this hymn we are about to sing. Imagine you are in that grand
sanctuary as we stand and sing the first two verses of our hymn with
Purcell’s tune, then we will finish the last two verses with the
more familiar tune called REGENT SQUARE, composed by Englishman Henry
Thomas Smart, and named after the English Presbyterian Church that
was in London called “Regent Square Church.” Let us stand and
sing!

07-15-12 CHOICES

Sermon Audio Not Available

At the end of the day, Herod is a
pretty normal guy, albeit one in a powerful position. He wants to make everyone
happy and do his job. Okay, yes, his personal life is screwed up on a level
equal to most Jerry Springer guests, and he happens to be a king, but beyond
that, he really is pretty normal.

And it seems as though Herod was one of John’s
admirers. Even though John had some critical words to say regarding Herod, the
king could see that there was something to this man. So he locked him up in
prison. After all, how could he have done otherwise? John had the audacity to
embarrass the king publicly. But he protected him, and respected him, and liked
to listen to him.

The Message translates the passage as: “Herodias,
smoldering with hate, wanted to kill him, but didn’t dare because Herod was in
awe of John. Convinced that he was a holy man, he gave him special treatment.
Whenever he listened to him he was miserable with guilt—and yet he couldn’t
stay away. Something in John kept pulling him back.”

What draws Herod Antipas, the power-hungry ruler,
Tetrarch of Galilee, son of Herod the Great, to the preaching of repentance,
forgiveness of sins, turning in conversion toward God?Something inside of him
must resonate to John’s message, and later, incites his eagerness to meet
Jesus.

Consider the many social and personal dilemmas that
Herod finds himself in here. He’s trying to balance the wishes of his wife
against his own wishes. The wishes of a holy man against his own desires. He is
eager to appear a generous and trustworthy leader among the Galilean society.

It is only human to care what others think and to
want to please those around us by minimizing conflicts. It is only natural to
try to please our spouse. To not want to rock the boat with the society we live
in. To follow the rules of our government so that it doesn’t look too closely
at us.

It was apparently no different for Herod, who also
found himself admiring John, almost in spite of himself. While we are not told
where and how Herod first encountered John, in today’s lesson we are told he
doesn’t quite know what to make of John. On the one hand he seems to be almost
afraid of him.  On the other hand, we hear that he liked to listen to
John. And then he makes a rash promise during his birthday party and is faced
with a horrifying choice. Behead this man who he had come to listen to, whose
words he liked to ponder, or break a promise and lose face before all his
guests and look like a poor ruler.

Well, we know what he chose, and John suffered for it.
But he didn’t have to follow that path.

Herod could have made a different choice, but the
empire had replaced God in his life. Though he loved to listen to John the
Baptist, he couldn’t risk his own reputation to spare John’s life. The empire
shaped his values and his decisions. Feeding hungry crowds was not on Herod’s
agenda.

Herod was interested in the message John had brought
from God, but he did not become involved with the message. He liked to listen
and think about it, but he had no interest in doing anything to follow up with
it.

Mark includes this gruesome interlude in the gospel,
because he wants us to take seriously that this is, indeed, the way of the
world. Those who stand up to City Hall often take a beating, and those who
advocate an alternative to the status quo can usually expect those who benefit
from the status quo to come down on them hard.

Mark is, if nothing else, a realist. He is writing,
after all, in the wake of the devastation caused by the Romans exercising their
brutal power by destroying the Jerusalem Temple. So part of why he tells this
story is because this is the world as he knows it, the world he lives in and,
by extension, the world we live in as well. Those who speak out face
consequences and those who listen are faced with difficult choices.

Herod was faced with such a choice. He took the wrong
path, but the fact remains that it was at the heart a choice all of us make all
the time. Will we do the easy thing, the thing that makes us look good in front
of everyone else, or will we do the right thing? We face that choice all the
time. Now as most of us aren’t kings and don’t have that kind of power, the
results of our choosing the wrong thing aren’t as immediate or dramatic. We
don’t see anyone dying directly as a result of our decisions. So we don’t
always realize when we’re making the wrong choices. When we choose the popular
path over the right one. The easy one over the hard. Our way over God’s.

We don’t see the immediate consequences when we
choose to hold a grudge, or when we lash out with hurtful words when someone
has hurt us. After all, that’s so much more satisfying than forgiveness. Than
turning the other cheek. We don’t always realize when we walk past someone that
God would have us stop and help.

Poet and essayist Kathleen Norris tells a chilling
story about a young man named Willie, who after rough years working oil rigs,
met some drug dealers putting together a new network. He fell in with them and
thought himself lucky to be working with experienced people. Then one day as he
was driving with his new partner outside a particular city, the man suddenly
pulled the car onto the side of the road. He had seen someone driving past in
the other direction and was wondering whether to turn around and drive after
him. “I need to kill him,” the driver said deliberately, and he
reached down under the seat and pulled out a gun Willie hadn’t known was there.
“I need to kill him, but he’s with someone and I don’t know who, so it’ll
have to wait.” “This was way over my head,” Willie told Norris.
He got out of his new business as soon as possible. Norris tells Willie’s story
as a story of salvation. “He was glad,” she writes, “that he had
been able to name something as wrong and walk away from it.”

We’re glad, too, when we have a clear choice to take
a meaningful stand. But clear choices in life are few, especially if we spend
at least some of our time living in a banquet hall where there is so much power
and so much entertainment and so much to eat and drink that the faithful choices
can become hard to see – until distant lives have been harmed or even lost and
we are somehow involved, if not directly responsible.

All we want is the ease of cheaper goods, but we
don’t see the consequences of the people working in sweatshops to make those
goods. All we want is an easier life, but we don’t see those who suffer to give
us that life.

Herod isn’t as different from us as we want him to
be. Alright, his family life is twisted, but at heart he’s just trying to be a
good ruler. To fit into the community. To be a good citizen of the Roman
empire. And John’s words are interesting. Tempting even. But the cost of
actually following those words is more than he’s willing to pay. Sure, he’ll
listen. And he’ll ponder them. And he’ll even consider following them. But not
at the risk of looking bad in front of others. Not if it is inconvenient for
him. Not if it makes him look bad.

This is an all too common way to look at religion. As
a matter of convince. Something to listen to and pay lip service to, but not
something to actually follow when it gets difficult. I find this story of Herod
and his poor decisions to be such an interesting contrast to our Old Testament
passage today.

In it, David hears that the ark of the Lord is coming
and he dances for joy in the streets. In fact, he is so full of joy, he dances
mostly naked in the streets, not bothering to stop and put on all of his
clothes. Now, David is the king. He is a respected ruler of these people.
Dancing in the streets is beneath his dignity. Dancing in his underwear isn’t
something that should even be considered. But he does because he is giving
himself over to true worship of his God.

And Michal, daughter of the old king, looked out and
saw him dancing and was full of scorn for his behavior. Even David isn’t immune
to the consequences of his decisions. But he danced anyway for his Lord.

We have here two rulers. Two very different ways of
seeing God. Two choices being made. What choices will we make? Which ruler will
we follow? As we go out into the world this week, I pray that we might all have
the courage to follow God’s difficult paths, no matter where they might lead.
Amen.

 

 

07-08-12 LISTEN

Sermon Audio Not Available
“Listen”

Really, Jesus was just a hometown boy. He never even left
Nazareth until he was about thirty. Why? Because his father had died young and
he was needed to support his mother and his brothers and sisters. It was only
when they were old enough to fend for themselves that he felt free to leave.
Even God’s mission had to wait for his family. I find this truly wonderful; God
going through the ordinary important parts of life. But he does go out and
begin his ministry, leaving his small town behind.

And in the passage today, he was coming back to where people
knew him as an infant. They knew him as a small child. They saw him grow up an
thought they knew who he was. After all, he had spent most of his life with
them. This was Mary’s boy. And while there might have been a bit of a scandal
around his conception and birth, he’d been a good guy since then. One of them.
They knew who he was.

So when Jesus started saying things that didn’t make sense,
that didn’t fit into their view of who he was in their world, they didn’t
listen. When he stated making outrageous claims, they got offended. Who does
this guy think he is? I knew him when he  
was just a child. How could he possibly think he can tell me what to do?

Because Jesus had lived in this little place for so long,
and because he was so well-known, when he finally returned to them, he was
rejected. Barclay writes: “Some times we are too near people to see their
greatness.”

How often do we dismiss what we are told, just because we
think we know something about the person saying it? How often do we tune out
what others are saying because we have heard it all before? Too often we go
through our days only half listening to what others are saying to us. And we
can be the most guilty with this when it comes to the people we are the closest
to. Spouses and siblings and children all get less than our full attention
because we know them. Because they are familiar. Because we think we know
everything they have to say.

Jesus has this problem. In the first passage, Ezekiel is
dismissed as being the crazy, ranting prophet. How many times has God tried to
speak to us in our lives and we haven’t listened? How many times have we gone
“Mmhmm.. That’s nice” when God is using a loved one to speak?

One morning a man in Washington D.C. stood on a subway
platform. By most measures, he was nondescript; a youngish white man in jeans,
a long-sleeved T-shirt, and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small
case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw
in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled  to face pedestrian traffic, and began to
play.  It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday,
January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the
violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by.  No one knew it, but this was one of the
finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music
ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made….

In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played,
seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the
performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on
the run — for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who
hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.

Most rushed by, ignoring the man with the violin.  The one giving a concert for whatever change
the crowd might give, when only days before the very same man’s concert tickets
brought in hundreds of dollars apiece, and those weren’t even the good
seats.  How often do we fail to hear what
is happening around us?  Male and female,
young and old, wealthy and working class, each demographic walked past in equal
measure.  All demographics that is except
one.  “Every single time a child
walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. 
And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.” 

If we truly believe that God can work through anyone, that
God is present in every moment, we cannot tune anyone out. We cannot nod and
smile politely while waiting for our turn to speak. We cannot dismiss the child
who wants to share her day with us. We cannot rush through the streets without
looking around and seeing who else is present.

We are called to listen in our daily lives. To listen for
God speaking through the mundane. And if we manage that, if we hear when God is
speaking to us, we are then called to follow that message.

After all, there is a second part to this passage. The flip
side of listening for the Word is going forth and sharing the Word ourselves.
Once we have heard God we must speak in turn. Listening comes first, but then
we must speak. We must work towards the will of God in the world.

This isn’t always the easiest thing to do. In the second
part of the passage, Jesus tells his disciples, and therefore us, to go forth
and preach to the world. But when we 
take the message outwards, there will be times when not everyone will
listen to us. There will be times when no one cares what you do.

Sometimes? No one will listen to you even though what you
have to say matters. Rather than getting hurt or upset, or trying to force the
message upon them anyway, Jesus tells us to move on and offer the message to
someone else. Don’t take other’s reactions personally. Just go and find someone
who will listen to you.

He tells his disciples, and us, that if we are unwanted
shake the dust from our feet and move on. Here’s the thing,  if we live long enough, all of us will be
rejected for who we are, in one way or another. 
This does not mean that we are out there being preachy in a door to door
obnoxious way.  If we are true to
ourselves in an honest but loving manner there will always be someone who will
reject us.

That is the delicate line of evangelism. We cannot force
belief on anyone. We can offer up our belief and others can chose to respond to
it or not. If they don’t, we are called not to lash out, but just find someone
who will. Too often Christian groups try to badger people into belief. But Christ
himself isn’t always listened to. Why do we assume we will be?

Most of the time, we aren’t comfortable with this. We don’t
like saying things that others reject. After all, who likes being rejected? And
it’s hard to let it go when people ignore us or ridicule us. We want to fight
back, to defend ourselves. But that’s not what Christ is asking us to do. We
are called like Ezekiel to speak. To offer up our faith. What God does with it
afterwards is out of our hands. The important thing is that having heard the
Word, we go out and speak.

Whoever we are at this moment is who God loves, and is
speaking through.  We are blessed by God,
and by our very being speak of God’s love without even using words, just by
being loving.  Jesus says if we are
rejected move on.  But if we move on
don’t think all is lost or we have failed. 
If we move on without rancor, resentment, animosity or malice, but with
love and self-possession we will leave behind a message from God.

The message this week is clear to me. God is at work in the
world around us. God is at work whether we see it or do not see it. Whether we
listen or don’t. God is at work outside the walls of our churches and outside
of our communities. By speaking we participate in the incredible work of God in
our world. But it begins with listening. Every day it begins with hearing God.

So as we go out this week, listen. Listen to all those
around us. Listen to the familiar and the strange. Listen with open hearts and
discerning minds to all that you hear. We never know where the Word may come
from.

Rev. Cara Gee

July 8th, 2012

07-01-12 DANIEL’S DREAM

DANIEL’S DREAM

Daniel 2: 26-49

 

Carl G. Howie, in his commentary on
the Biblical book of Daniel, writes: “The book of Daniel is one of the best
known and least understood books in the Bible. Its stories were learned in and
remembered from childhood, and their drama still captures our minds and grips
our attention…. One section is about Daniel
(chs. 1-6) while the other is said to be by
Daniel (chs 7-12). [Also] the book is written in two languages, part in
Aramaic, and part in Hebrew.” (Layman’s
Bible Commentary,
Vol. 13, 1961, p. 88) The parts we dealt with this week
were from the first six chapters. These are hero stories; stories told by Jews
and Christians year after year about a man who held fast to his faith and never
stopped praying to the one true God! As Ashpenaz and I related Daniel stories
to the children as they visited Daniel’s prison room in the palace, so children
for many ages before television would have had their father or mother, or
grandfather or grandmother, or Sabbath school teachers tell them stories about
Daniel! The stories have become legendary! Although some facts around Daniel
are difficult to nail down, here is what we know:

Daniel, it is likely, was not a young
man, but probably an older man, as were his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego. The book has been traditionally dated to the Chaldean period, during
the reign of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in 605 – 562- B.C. (Before
Christ! That’s a very long time ago!)
Babylon was an ancient city-state along the Euphrates River. Those who
would seek to find the legendary hanging Gardens of Babylon that were called
one of the seven wonders of the ancient world would begin to look near Al
Hillah, in Babil province, in modern day Iraq if you could get there! Those of
you who were with us this week might especially be interested in this: it is
said that the king had the beautiful gardens built to please his wife! I guess
in some ways the king was a smart man! But he was also a conqueror, and it was
under his rule that his armies sacked the Southern Kingdom and its capital,
Jerusalem, in 587 B.C. It was his armies that took all the faithful Jews
captive as he destroyed the Temple. For that act of destruction, history is
relentlessly accusative toward this powerful man. But as Daniel and the rest of
the 12 tribes of Israel were taken from their homeland, they had choices to
make: certainly there were some who were taken to Babylon, worked for the king,
bowed down to the king and his giant statue, ate Babylonian food, and married
Babylonian women and men. Some may have even abandoned the one true God and
began to worship the many false gods present in Babylon. Today we may think
that such an idea would be quaint, that people wouldn’t worship other gods
today as they did back then. But think again; some give huge devotion and
allegiance to a singer or an actor or a band; they might spend hours Facebook,
watching television, or watching sports of any kind. When people devote daily
hours of time, not just occasionally, but constantly, to such activities, does
God wonder what their priorities are? Even today we have choices, like Daniel
and his friends had, between giving devotion to many things, or giving primary
devotion to the one true God. The issue of allegiance is still with us all
these centuries later.

 

In another hero story in the Bible,
Jacob’s young son Joseph ended up in Egypt. There Joseph too could interpret
the dreams of Egypt’s pharaoh better than any other man could do! Pharaoh ended
up putting him in charge of the distribution of grain, and he not only saved
Egypt, he also saved his family, and he forgave his brothers. In our story this
week, Nebuchadnezzar also began to trust Daniel little by little. He first had
him in prison elsewhere, but this week Daniel had earned the right to be
guarded in the King’s palace, even though he was still a prisoner. The king
trusted him only so far. To symbolize that, this week I had on gold shackles,
but not made of real gold. When children asked me about them, I reminded them
that only the king used real gold, but he gave me imitation gold to wear, in
part since I was in the palace, but the other part was to remind me that I was
still a prisoner. Daniel in the Bible could never forget that the powerful king
could turn on him at any time. One way that Daniel won the king’s favor was
with not only interpreting his dreams, but also describing his dreams! This
week I asked the children to guess what the king dreamed, and, of course, no
one could easily guess what another person dreams! And, I warned them, if
Daniel guessed wrong, the king would see him as a fraud and throw him to the
lions sooner as he threw Daniel’s three friends into the fiery furnace! So
Daniel was not interested in guessing. I taught the children that Daniel did
two things before he approached the king with his dream: First, he sought the
wise counsel of those he could trust. In Daniel’s case this week, he sought the
counsel of his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but he also sought the
counsel of his new Bible School friends. They gave him papers on which they
drew what they thought his dream was about. Daniel carefully considered each
one of them before he went to bed one night. But before he went to bed, he did
the second important thing: the first one was that he sought the wise counsel
of those he could trust, and you can do that even today by talking to pastors,
teachers, administrators, counselors, family members, or friends. The second
thing Daniel did you can all do today too: he prayed; he prayed that God would reveal
the dream to him; and God did! He was
sure of it, and we heard in the Scripture passage today what he found out the
dream was: the king had seen a huge statue made up of many different materials
like gold, iron, bronze, ceramic, and silver. He described how a stone cut out
of a mountain by an invisible hand hit the statue, first smashing its feet. In
Bible School this week that was depicted by Ashpenaz coming to Daniel to show
him the gold toenail of the great statue that the king had built. In the dream,
not only did the feet get smashed, but soon every part of the huge statue was
smashed to bits! “That,” Daniel said to the King, “was your dream.” The king
was speechless. Then Daniel continued. “Now I’ll interpret the dream for you,
mighty king.” He then acknowledged Nebuchadnezzar as the most powerful king on
earth, and for that time period, it was true. Daniel then slipped in that
God—the one true God—is the one who put him in charge of all these things!
(Very clever of Daniel!) But he had bad news at the end: he said another king
would be defeating him in the future, and later another king would defeat the
second king, and then another king later would defeat the third king! That’s
what the many materials of the statue represented, different nations and their
natural sources of different metals and elements. The king was certainly
crestfallen to hear Daniel’s interpretation of his dream, until Daniel told him
what was true then and is true now: there are many kings and leaders in the
world; always had been; always would be. But the one true God has a plan, a
plan to build a kingdom, not made by hands, one that will never be destroyed! That
was what was meant in the dream by a stone cut out of a mountain by an
invisible hand that ended up destroying the statue. That was God; God saying
there is no true kingdom but mine! In the end, Daniel told the king that the
other human kingdoms would crumble, and the Kingdom of God would begin to take
their places, the kingdom spoken about by prophets of the one true God, and
later by the Son of the one true God, Jesus Christ! As Jesus said to his
questioners about the Temple, “Tear down this Temple an in three days I will
rebuild it.” He wasn’t talking about a man made temple made of earthly
materials. He was talking about the temple of his body, and he was ushering in
the Kingdom of God, a kingdom not made by hands!

 

This week, we were reminded that
people all through the ages have had daily choices to make regarding their
belief in God. If Daniel’s three friends had just worshiped the Babylonian king
they would not have been thrown into the fiery furnace. But they said no! And they came out of the furnace
safely, and Nebuchadnezzar began to wonder about their God. They witnessed to
him, like you can witness to others by your decisions! Daniel would not have
been thrown into the lion’s den if he had just bowed down to the king or the
kings’ statue! But he would not do it! Although he was afraid, he kept trusting
God; and the Bible says that the lions simply could not open their mouths to
hurt him! Daniel was safe because of his faith! You too will have times in life
when you might want to compromise, or think that God won’t mind if you put
other things, or other persons, before God. This Bible story tells us plainly that
God would mind! God does mind if the ones he loves, (us,)
follow someone else, with all the pain or heartache that comes with it. Today
and every day of your life; choose life. I pray that you might choose to follow
the one true God, as Daniel did!

 

Now let’s sing this song about the
One True God!

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                          July
1, 2012