Sunday, November 15, 2015

Anguished Endings or Joyous Beginnings

Daniel 12:1-3, 1 Samuel 2:1-10 “Anguished Endings or Joyous Beginnings” 11.15.15 Year B ACOB

Daniel 12 “At that time, Michael the great leader who guards your people will take his stand. It will be a difficult time—nothing like it has ever happened since nations first appeared. But at that time every one of your people who is found written in the scroll will be rescued. 2 Many of those who sleep in the dusty land will wake up—some to eternal life, others to shame and eternal disgrace. 3 Those skilled in wisdom will shine like the sky. Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and always.

It seems an appropriate Sunday to talk about anguish as people around the world suffer from violence inflicted brothers and by nature.
But I have to admit, that turning to the pages of ancient prophecy and reading predictions that sound like threats of violence, come just a bit too close to the proclamations of ISIS and their claiming that they are the soldiers of God’s vengeance.
Perhaps as we try to tap into the message for us, our feelings will help us identify with the key people in our scriptures.
Hannah to Daniel
We heard 3 scriptures in some form.
1. Hannah - at her lowest, NAME HER FEELING:   desperate? what else?
What did she do when at her lowest?

2. Hannah version 2 - at her highest, NAME HER FEELING:   exuberant… 

Her song celebrates, “Divinely initiated change of fortune.” (Harper Collins Study Bible)
What did she do when at her highest?

The story leaves me wondering and also comparing our own desire for “Divinely initiated change” and whether or not we respond as Hannah did? … or just bemoan the lack of change of our fortune….
3. Daniel - is a bit different, 
 Daniel was a prophet. (You more likely recall his childhood story with LIONS…especially since Big SS has been doing LIONS, and GIANTS, and WHALES… )  The book of Daniel is a favorite among conservative theologians who point to dramatic depictions of the End of the World using Daniel’s vision.  
Whether we are reading Hannah’s plea of anguish or prayer of rejoicing…or whether we are reading the front page of today’s paper, we don’t need Daniel’s prophecies to know that life is full of “tribulations.”

If we look in context of the Book of Daniel we learn, (thanks to Dr. Young)
Daniel 12 is part of a longer discourse that begins in chapter 10 and describes a vision of what the END OF TIME will be like. 
the setting
“A “man,” or angel, dressed in linen, with a face like lightning and eyes like flaming torches (10:5), speaks with Daniel, touches him, and gives him strength to stand (10:10-11,16-19). 
This angel, also called “one in human form,” explains to Daniel that he has been fighting against the “Prince of Persia” and will later fight the “Prince of Greece” (10:13, 20-21). (All this from chapter 10)
Alongside him fights Michael, (this is the part we need to hear today) “one of the chief princes” (10:13). The angel who speaks with Daniel tells him, “There is no one who contends with me against these princes except Michael, your prince” (10:21). (1)
now if you’ve seen the old movie (a relative term) from 1996, you might have an image of MICHAEL in your head that looks like John Travolta with beautiful large white wings, but dress in overalls and work boots. Who has a love of sugar.. . .
However you choose to envision Michael there are just a couple important things to remember:
The title “prince” in Daniel 10 and 12 refers to a superhuman, celestial being who has responsibility to protect a particular people (cf. Deuteronomy 32:8-9. LXX and 4QDeutj). 
The identification of Michael as the prince of Daniel’s people suggests that 
1. Michael has been their guardian from the very beginning of their existence. It emphasizes to Daniel and his audience 
2. that when they do not have power to contend against their enemies, the greatest of all princes fights on their behalf. (2)

A situation may seem hopeless, but what Daniel’s oppressed people can see and hear does not tell the whole story. Behind the scenes, forces more powerful than those on earth shape the destinies of peoples and nations.

How would Daniel’s message have helped Hannah?
How would knowing that there was a bigger story, “force more powerful than those on earth shape the destinies of peoples and nations.”
How does Daniel’s message impact you?
gospel prediction
One more story to add from scripture:
Mark 13 - didn’t read because we will hear Mt.’s version of it in 2 weeks as we begin Advent.

As Jesus left the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look! What awesome stones and buildings!”
2 Jesus responded, “Do you see these enormous buildings? Not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.”
3 Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? What sign will show that all these things are about to come to an end?”
Keep watch!
5 Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many people will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the one!’ They will deceive many people. 7 When you hear of wars and reports of wars, don’t be alarmed. These things must happen, but this isn’t the end yet. 8 Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other, and there will be earthquakes and famines in all sorts of places. These things are just the beginning of the sufferings associated with the end.

Jesus too was an apocalyptic preacher at times. Today of all days, “it may be an important reminder to hear an ancient prophet cry out  about the fragile nature of the world.”(3)
It is not just the news of TODAY that sounds like a time Jesus was predicting, we can always hear wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines…
How did Jesus react to the fears he encountered?
How did he deal with his own? (prayer)

Daniel’s underlying message then, seems to hold importance for many situations: (repeat) 
“What we can see and hear does not hold the whole story. Behind the scenes - [beyond what we can see] forces more powerful than [us] than earth’s - shape the destines of people.”

How does hearing such a message make a difference to us?
(push for answers)
What have we/you needed when we were at our lowest?
did we pray?
What did we/you do when you were at your highest?

What emotions drive our lowest points?
fear, of what?  (answers)
over the last several weeks we:
  • looked at how our expectations influence what happens, a jar of oil and a bin of flour - almost empty or never empty? How has God surprised ACOB in ways that kept our jars full?
  • looked at our deep family of saints, past and present and realized  We are often required to do some tearing down before God can enter in and do the building up that we need. 
  • looked at ourselves from the perspective that God must have, or at least we realized that we cannot make God in our own image, or make excuses for God.
and we were challenged to hold a “New image of God as a power for life. 
ONE who balances the needs of ALL creatures, not just humans
And WE acknowledged the deep interconnectedness of death and life, because DEATH is a vital part of circle of life, that restrains and nurtures each element in all creation.” (Carol Newsome adapted)

Each step of the way in our journey to listen to God’s Spirit and follow in Jesus’ way, we have something to learn.
…..Each day of our lives is a journey full of scary CHANGE (c-word), FEARS to overcome, TEARING DOWN, allowing GOD to make changes, and finding our expectations expanded again and again by “DIVINELY INITIATED CHANGE”.

we recognize that sometimes we rejoice at the change, like Hannah.
and sometimes we are reduced to tears, anguishing over our lot, wondering if this IS the end or even end times.

as complicated as our lives are, can we listen with hope to Daniel’s message?  
Returning to the simplest kind of trust
as Dr. Young (of Duke) reminds us, the
“The Prince of our people is fighting for US, standing over US, and working for OUR salvation in ways that WE cannot see. 
We ARE all God’s people, the holy ones of the Most High, who share citizenship in the kingdom of God with the holy angels. 

Can we face the changes tomorrow must bring as God’s holy people?

Will we recall the mission of Christ’s church and..
  • stand up in nonviolent resistance to injustice and persecution like the early church?
  • will we?
  • stand up in the face of oppression and even death? standing with others, evening dying with them?
  • will we risk?
  • looking at ourselves for who we are, honestly knowing that we too have sinful ways that rebel against God?
    • and yet remembering that God loves us and desires us to work alongside the Divine presence in the world.

Can we begin the journey of a church, once again, feeling OUR guardian ‘prince’ on our side?
and knowing WE ARE GOD’S HOLY ONES, and forces more powerful than those on earth shape OUR destinies.   

The end

full quote: Dr. Anathea Portier Young “Show them a path of nonviolent resistance to persecution and give them strength to stand up for righteousness in the face of oppression and death. Caution them not to look away from the legacy of sin, violence, and rebellion. And invite them to look to the lives of the martyrs and saints for the light of truth that will guide them in their hour of distress.”

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