Remaining Faithful Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Advent 1 (2016) There is a well known biblical character that named Daniel. Some scholars doubt if he was an historical person, but the story of Daniel is one that people, even those who aren’t religious, at least know in part. Like other biblical characters, Daniel was a dream […]
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Advent 1 (2016)
There is a well known biblical character that named Daniel. Some scholars doubt if he was an historical person, but the story of Daniel is one that people, even those who aren’t religious, at least know in part.
Like other biblical characters, Daniel was a dream interpreter, and his interpretations pointed toward a future where tyrants would be toppled, the oppressed would be liberated, and the injured would be healed. Daniel represents hope for the future, a waiting for better days.
But Daniel was more than an interpreter of dreams; he was also a person of faith, a community leader, and a survivor. Spirituality, activism, and enduring hardship all worked together to help Daniel believe in a future filled with infinite possibilities.
Daniel was from Jerusalem and lived during the time of Babylonian captivity, and then in Persian captivity after the Persians overthrew the Babylonians. The new Persian king, Darius, appointed 120 governors to help oversee the empire and the governors were to be accountable to three ministers also appointed by the king. One of those ministers was Daniel.
Even in the midst of exile and domination, Daniel maintained a good attitude. Even in hardship, he managed to flourish. He hoped for better days, but as he waited, he did what he could to flourish where he was. Daniel represents the indomitable human spirit. Daniel is a representation of grace equal to every need!
Well, the other ministers and governors didn’t celebrate Daniel’s success. They were threatened by it, jealous of it, and they started to conspire to take him down.
Daniel was a person of integrity, so they knew they weren’t going to catch him being unfair or unethical or breaking current laws, so they worked to pass a new law criminalizing his faith.
The other ministers proposed a new law for King Darius to sign. They asked the king to make a binding decree that for one month anyone praying to anyone other than the king would be punished by being fed to lions.
Darius thinks, “worshiped for a month? That doesn’t sound too bad. Where do I sign?” And the decree was made.
Now they’ve got Daniel. Daniel is a faithful practitioner of Judaism. He isn’t going to spend a month not praying, and he certainly isn’t going to pray to his boss. So, three times a day, like always, he continues to face Jerusalem and pray to the God of his understanding. He doesn’t make a big show of it. He goes home to pray in private, but he continues worshiping faithfully.
One day, while he is home praying, his home is raided. Daniel is caught red handed praying to the God of his ancestors. He was not praying, as the law stated he must, to King Darius.
And so he was arrested and taken to the king.
The king realizes the decree was short-sighted, and so he wants to pardon Daniel, but the other ministers remind Darius that his decree is irrevocable.
Darius is devastated because even he can’t save Daniel; and so, Darius whispers to him, “May your God save you.” And David is then tossed to the lions.
The king was so sad about putting Daniel in harm’s way, he spent the night not sleeping or eating. When morning broke, Darius rushed to the lions’ den to see what happened to him; and to his delight, he found Daniel alive!
Somehow, the lions weren’t interested in Daniel. Daniel attributed the good fortune to the ministry of angels (I attribute it to good storytelling), but in any case, he was alright.
The king ordered Daniel released and had those who plotted against him thrown to the lions (ps, they didn’t fare as well as Daniel did).
Daniel survived the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, and a den of lions. He met challenge after challenge, and through it all he remained faithful. It was his faith, actually, that gave him the strength to endure the difficulties. He waited for things to get better, and while he waited, he remained faithful.
That’s a good message for Advent. Advent is the time before Christmas. We wait for the special time of celebration, the joy of Christmas, and while we wait, we remain faithful. We adopt new disciplines, perhaps reading a spiritual book for Advent, attending midweek Advent bible study, praying, like Daniel, at certain appointed times throughout the day. We wait, and we remain faithful.
But Advent is more than waiting for the Christmas holiday. Advent is also waiting for what we have traditionally called the return of Christ.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I am with you always.” How does one who never left, return?
The anointing on Jesus’ life is on the church, and on holy leaders of every faith. What we are waiting for isn’t for a person to come back from the great beyond, but for us to recognize the Christ within us so that we will express Christ qualities for a world that still needs them. We are waiting not for Jesus to come fix everything, but for us to grow to the point where we can do what Jesus did…which is dare to be Christ in the world. When will that happen? No one knows the day or the hour (the scripture says); so we continue to work and wait.
Charismatic healer Agnes Sanford wrote, “[Christ] did return, in…spirit at Pentecost, and so [Christ] returns to each of us today.”
That is why we try to be faithful, so we can be the means of expressing the light of Christ. We wish to be faithful because we wish to be Christ in the world, and that takes practice, faithfulness.
Corrie ten Boom, who said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God,” was one of the ways Christ returned to us. Her family lived in the Netherlands during WW2, and even though they were Christian, they hid Jewish people in their home to keep them safe from the Nazis. Corrie and her family were the presence of grace to people in need, to people who were criminalized because of who they were, because of their heritage, and because of how they worshiped. The Booms even observed the Jewish Sabbath with their guests.
Christ returned to earth in and as the Boom family as they risked their own privilege and safety to keep others safe during a time of oppression. Instead of condemning people because of their faith or heritage, the Boom family chose to be Christ in a world of pain.
We seem to wait long periods of time for a return of that kind of Christ-like compassion and courage, but it does come. We are called to be faithful in case we are the ones through whom the spirit of Christ should return again to offer healing to a hurting world. Advent is our chance to get ready…to love more, the hope more, to recharge our spiritual batteries so we can do more. We could actually be the return of Christ someone is waiting for, and that many people desperately need. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2016
For the healers in our world,
For the justice-seekers,
For those who share your love…
Thank you, God.