Heroes: More Than Reality
September 29 and 30
Daniel 6:1-28 / Rev. 5:1-5 / Mark 9:20-25
21 – Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before them, and also before you, king, I have done no harm…So Daniel was taken up out of the den (of lions), and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.”
Dear Christian Friends,
In this three part sermon series, we are exploring our way through the early chapters of the prophet Daniel to see what it means that God has called us to be heroes of the faith, to be part of this grand plan for heaven to be reaching out through every saint into the lives of others near and far.
Two weekends ago, we learned that Christian faith is so much more than the feelings that may be sweeping their way through our hearts, and we examined the question, “In those times of life where it feels as though God is far away, how do we hold onto the promises of God beyond our feelings?
Last weekend, we saw that Christian faith is so much more than the thoughts that might be driving us into a tizzy, and we asked the question, “In a culture that looks less and less distinctively Christian, how do we hold onto the promises of our God beyond our intellect?”
Today we see that Christian faith is so much more than what we are experiencing in our own particular circumstances. We ask one question, “When the things we can see and grasp seem to tell a different story that that of the Gospel, how do we hold to the promises of God?”
Mountain top experiences vs. the “ordinary”
Our three lessons for today give us three amazing stories of mountaintop experiences. In the case of Daniel, surrounded all night by wild and hungry beasts, the Lord sent his angel who literally shut the mouths of the lions, Daniel records that no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in the Lord. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus sees a crowd gathering around a boy who had been tortured by demon possession since childhood, he commands the mute and deaf spirit to leave and never come back, and sure enough, the demon causes one last and terrible convulsion and he comes out. Mountaintop experience #3 of course is recorded in Revelation 5, where the Lion of Judah, aka Jesus Christ offers up a once and for all bloody sacrifice and in so doing, he makes full and complete payment for the sins of the world, he defeats the devil in dramatic fashion, he conquers death itself for all who would be baptized into the promises of God and would hold onto those promises.
Of course, mountain top experiences are few and far between. Almost all of life is ordinary. That is to say, our day to day realities are the norm while dramatic and life changing incidents are the exception. And day to day realities are full of trouble, some days we try hard and fall short, other days, we don’t even try. Some days we take a step forward, many days we take two steps back. If we’re honest with ourselves, even though some of our suffering is inflicted by other sinful people and sometimes we suffer through no fault of our own or others, much of our pain in life is self inflicted. All of which leads us back to the question of the day, “When the circumstances of life seem to be telling a different story than that of a loving and gracious God, as in the case of Daniel and the father with a demon possessed son, how do we hold to the promises of God? Two answers we offer to that question, two realities we want to hold front and center in our minds, in our hearts, and in our souls.
Reality #1 is that around every corner, there is one prowling around like a roaring lion (looking to devour).
(Story of children’s lesson years ago, where our Silo Lutheran School had just put on an operetta that included kids dressed like various circus animals. A jr. high aged girl named Michelle had played the part of a lion, and so I arranged with her on Sunday morning to come on out dressed like a lion, I asked her to prowl around and roar and try to scare the 25 or 30 or so children assembled for the lesson. The problem was, when she came out, she was the non scariest lion ever, the kids knew who it was, and they laughed!)
The reality is that the devil and his demons are no laughing matter. Or to say it another way, every day, all of us wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness. That’s what we promise to do and to help one another do in our vows of baptism and confirmation, to spend our days renouncing the devil, renouncing every one of the devil’s ways, renouncing every one of the devil’s works.
To help us think through how to deal with the one prowling around like a roaring lion looking to devour us, we take a look at how Daniel dealt with the lions surrounding him. Three lessons we learn from Daniel about how to live out the ordinary days of life. Three lessons, one is from before the lion’s den, one is from in the lion’s den, and one is from after the lion’s den.
(Before) the lion’s den we know in chapter 6 that although he faced certain death if he did so that Daniel got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God. In last week’s sermon, chapter 2 of Daniel, although he and all the wise men of Babylon faced certain death, he went home, asked his three buddies to get down on their knees, and they prayed for mercy from God. Two weeks ago, in chapter 1 of Daniel, we find these same four men of God resolving that in no way, no how, never would they defile themselves with the king’s food or the wine he drank.
(In) the lion’s den, we don’t know exactly what Daniel did. We don’t really know if he went up and petted the lions and made friends with them, but we might speculate that he simply was still and trusted that God would be God.
After) the lion’s den we find Daniel giving testimony to the power and the might and the goodness of His God. He told the king what he had seen with his own eyes, that God had sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions, he reported that the lions had not hurt him, that he was found innocent in God’s sight, and that he had never been disloyal to the king. Although the king’s hands had been tied by his own decrees, God’s hands were not. Daniel had just learned one more time what Jeremiah had stated a half century earlier, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” Reality #1 to keep in mind is bad news, it’s tough news, it is that as we live out the routine and the ordinary days of life is that around every corner is the adversary, the devil and his demons, he is like a roaring lion prowling around, seeking to deceive, to demonize, to drag us around, to devour our souls as only he can devour.
Reality #2 on the other hand is good news, it’s as beautiful a message as a message can be, it is a truth superior to and going above and beyond reality #1. Reality #2 is that Standing in your corner is One Who is both Lion and Lamb (Who has already triumphed). Dear friends in Christ, today I invite you to bring all of your good intentions gone awry, all of the failures and faults that are tugging at your consciences, bring all of the bad habits that have crept into your lives and are causing such trouble, bring them to the foot of the cross, bring them to the empty tomb and see there Jesus standing in your corner. He is both the Lion and that lamb. He is the lion who was born of a woman in a little town of Judea and at the same time the lamb who takes away the sins of the world once and for all. He is the lion who even now fight for you and the lamb who has already triumphed.
As a boxer is inspired and coached by his manager standing in his corner, so are we privileged to have Jesus Christ and His Spirit standing in our corner in every one of our days, in every one of our challenges, in every one of our circumstances. Jesus Christ standing in our corner claiming one more child for God’s family every time the waters of Baptism splash. Jesus Christ standing in our corner correcting and coaching and encouraging us every time God’s Word is preached and listened to. Jesus Christ standing in our corner rejoicing every time we confess our sins, reminding us of who we are every time we pay attention to His promises, refreshing us with his forgiveness every time we eat and drink at His Supper believing these words, “given and shed for you for the remission of sins.”
And then out the doors into the real world we go, thinking about what it means to be heroes of the faith, what it means that heaven is reaching out through every saint in this next week. Three thoughts from our appointed lessons for the day about being heroes.
First, Being a hero first of all means (to be diligent in the use of the means of grace. Once in awhile, at a national youth gathering or at a very inspiring church service or when it seems as though the angels of God have worked a miracle in your life, you may have one of those mountaintop experiences. But for the most part, Christian life is the ordinary, it is the routine training sessions, it’s a matter of daily ploughing your way through your daily duties and responsibilities. Muhammad Ali, one of the most successful boxers ever, had this to say, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses—behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
Secondly, being a hero means being still and knowing that God is God. (Story of Jamie crying so hard at the snowmobile death of her boyfriend, she wonders out loud again and again, Pastor Griffin, what am I going to do? The answer that day was to cry, to be still, and to know that God is God.
Third, being a hero means looking every day for neighbors that you can love as much as you love yourselves. Or to say it another way, to go looking for people to love as you have first been loved, to go looking for people to forgive as you have first been forgiven, to go looking for people to serve as you have first been served, to go looking for people to rescue as you have first been rescued. In Jesus’ Name and for His sake. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters