Resist

Sermon from Daniel 6, November 27, 2016 (The first Sunday of Advent)

Resistance is futile. I’m not a Trekki but I know this phrase is from Star Trek and could be the mantra of our story today for Daniel. He’s in exile, having been dragged from his home after the Babylonian conquest. His freedom to practice his Jewish faith is on the line. His actual life is at stake for worshiping God. This is the context for the book of Daniel. Some books of the Bible are poetry, some are prophecy. The book of Daniel is resistance literature. It is a book that tells the story of resisting the powers of the world to follow the God of Israel. And Daniel lives to tell us. Hear this story with new ears today not as a cartoon-like episode but instead as a story of resistance in the name of God.

It all begins with jealousy over who has power and who doesn’t. The other government officials are jealous of Daniel, a foreigner, who has made a name for himself and has been promoted over them. And so when they couldn’t find any dirt on him, they appealed to the king to change the rules. Evidently they’d been paying attention to Daniel’s prayer life and knew this would be just the thing to get him in trouble. Pray to only King Darius or else.

This sounds like no big deal to the king and he signs it, as far as we know, without thought or regard for Daniel or anyone else who prays to God. And the plan of the government officials works just as they hoped. They catch Daniel praying and then run off to tattle to the king, exclaiming: “Did you not sign a decree forbidding anyone to pray to any god or man except you for the next thirty days? And anyone caught doing it would be thrown into the lions’ den?” 

I imagine the king, straightening up, ready to be insulted and furious, quoting the laws of old to further establish his new law as important: “Absolutely! Written in stone, like all the laws of the Medes and Persians.” Then they break the news that it’s Daniel who has broken his important new law, his most trusted official, and he tries to find a loop hole in his edict, working on it all day until he is reminded by his cronies: Remember, O king, it’s the law of the Medes and Persians that the king’s decree can never be changed. So, he orders Daniel to be thrown to the lions and then tells Daniel, Your God, to whom you are so loyal, is going to get you out of this. Almost as if he says, “Since I failed you, rely on the one that you are loyal to in the first place.”

Daniel is abandoned and betrayed by his colleagues, his boss. Yet Daniel resists following them even to save his own skin.

This is the perfect story to start this season of Advent: a season of resistance to the culture of Christmas. A season of watching and waiting for the hope of the world to be born in us again.  Daniel ushers us into a season our culture widely ignores. Resist, return, repair, rejoice.

So this Advent, I call you to follow Daniel’s lead and to resist. Resist the pressures that tell you to schedule more and eat more and do more. Resist the powers that tell you to pray to God only after you’ve prayed to the power of the dollar, to your calendar, to your busyness.

You cannot resist by your own power. Follow Daniel’s lead and pray to God. Pray to God as you drive and as you work and as you make dinner. Listen for how God will prepare you to resist.

And while you pray and resist the temptation to normalize a breathless schedule that scatters your life hither and yon, know this: it is God who re-members you.  And I don’t mean recalls us as a memory but, instead, physically re-members us. Puts you back together as a whole person, as a whole community. Brings the outsiders in. Erases the category of “other.” God re-members us, reminds us we belong to each other.

You are re-membered by God. And God’s love for you will never fail. That is what Daniel shows us in his faithful resistance.

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