10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
Dear Friends in Christ,
On Friday, we laid to rest Ron Wiste, a lifelong member of this congregation, a well known business owner on Main Street, and a cheerful sort of a guy who was pretty famous in our little town for looking people in the eyes, calling them by name, complimenting them, and consistently brightening their days. On the golf course he was a bit famous for accomplishing not one but two holes in one. At least twice, he had the perfect swing. He got it right!
The death and burial of every one of our loved ones is a great opportunity to ask ourselves is we are getting it right. Are we faithfully managing time, talents, and treasure in a way that is glorifying God and building others up in their Christian faith? Today is the first of three sermons in our stewardship emphasis as fix our eyes on the One Who got it right in every one of His days dwelling among us in the flesh. He got it right on Good Friday and He got it right on Easter Sunday and He makes everything beautiful in His own time and in His own way here and now in our midst. To use the language of our Vision Statement, He is transforming our lives with His Gospel with the desire that the culture around us will be transformed as we faithfully manage God-given vocations. The Christian question of vocation is “How can I be a Christian in this part of my life?” Today we give our attention to all three readings selected for today and ask the question, “How can I be a Christian in the way I manage my time?” Three particular temptations I invite you to think about with me today – the temptation to be too busy to pray, the temptation to be timid in terms of sharing the faith, and the temptation to live in such a way that we get the glory instead of God.
First, we learn from Daniel that God’s peace will be ruling in our hearts and minds to the extent that our prayer life is continual and settled. (Temptation #1 – the temptation to be so preoccupied with less important business that we are too busy to pray / listen) Luther writes about Daniel that he was a splendid and great man in the sight of both God and the world. First in the sight of God, he above all other prophets had this special prophecy to give. He not only pointed towards the Messiah, but was able to predict with certainty the times and years of the kingdoms that would rise and fall under God’s direction. In our first reading for today, we find a real secret of Daniel’s greatness. His real concern for doing the will of God drove him to his knees three times a day in prayer.
The context of these daily prayers was that King Darius had appointed 120 officials throughout the kingdom, and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one. Daniel distinguished himself with good behavior, and was about to be placed over the whole kingdom – at which time the other presidents and officials set a trap for Daniel. They persuaded King Darius to sign a document that insisted that any man who prayed to any god other than King Darius in the next 30 days would be cast to his death in a den of lions.
Daniel’s response was to keep on doing the will of God. He got it right day after day. He went to his house and with the windows open towards Jerusalem he got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Over time, God’s Spirit had worked the kind of faith in Daniel’s heart that moved him to be more concerned about the interests of God than the opinions of man.
Many of us have been blessed by parents and grandparents, especially our moms and grandmas, who taught us to pray in regular fashion. Today would be my dad’s 94th birthday, and my best memories in life include seeing my parents getting it right / reading their Bibles and their Portals of Prayers and saying their prayers day after day in their old age. Mom would do the reading and the praying and Dad would listen in. Even a stronger memory of mine is as a pre-school boy watching my mom get it right / even better than a hole in one / have an hour of quiet time every morning, reading God’s Word, praying out of her big green coming apart prayer book, pouring out her soul in praise and petition to her God. In later years, I became aware that Mom had prayed for each of her children and for dad by name in every one of our days. Her prayer times were as certain as her meal times and her brushing her teeth times and any number of other daily routines. Lesson #1 today is to repent as individuals and as a congregation the many ways in which we have been too busy to pray. How foolish and how lazy and how misdirected we are in so many ways and at such great cost. To have the peace of God ruling in our stewardship of time is to have a continual and settled prayer life focused on the Kingdom of God.
Secondly, we turn to Acts 23 where we marvel at the wisdom of the apostles knowing enough to pray for a spirit of boldness. (Temptation #2- timidity in terms of speaking and doing what God is asking us to do in our various vocations as husband and wife, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, teachers and students, employers and employees, etc.) The context of Acts 23 is that Peter and John had been preaching the resurrected Christ, about 5000 men had recently heard that Word and believed it, they were summoned before the Sannhedrin to explain themselves, they continued to speak with confidence that there was salvation in no other name than that of Jesus, they were imprisoned and then released, (On their way out of prison, they kept on getting it right. They knew enough to keep on praying. their prayer on their way out of prison was for God to help them stay bold, that He would keep on stretching out his hand to heal, and that signs and wonders would be performed in His Name. God answered them immediately. The place in which they were gathered together was shaken, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They kept on speaking the Word of God with confidence. (Let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us. Forgive our timidity. Do whatever you need to do and permit whatever you need to permit in this Church and School to shake us up and to give us your peace. Amen.)
A third lesson comes from Jesus Himself today in Matthew 6 and is in fact a bit of a paradox when compared to Lesson #2. Lesson #2 was to pray for boldness, and lesson #3 is to be careful not to speak and live in such a way that we get the glory instead of God. Jesus warns us not to practice our righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, not to fall into the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, not to be good stewards for the wrong reasons. A Lutheran commentator named F.W. Wenzel comments, “We should let our light shine and show our good works when we are tempted to hide them and we should hide them when we are tempted to show them.”
The kingdom of God is like who has learned the wisdom of looking in the mirror every day not just to comb his hair but to spend some time each day in searching his heart. Not just to shave his beard but to admit his messed up life. Not just to make sure he can look good on the outside but to come clean with his impure motives and to cry out for help to form good habits. Over the years, the Spirit of God has taught him how easy it is to be full of himself and how much better his life is when he takes time to get it right / to get on his knees and cry out for forgiveness and for wisdom and for boldness, in that order. Forgiveness, wisdom, and boldness. In recent months, he is learning more and more that he really doesn’t know what to say and so He bows His head in prayer instead.
Lord Jesus Christ, do what you need to do and permit what you need to permit in this place, that you could get and keep our attention in a stronger way, that you could help us get it right in this place, that we could manage our time in a way that gives glory to you and encourages others, that our witness would be bold and yet gentle, and that you would make all things beautiful in your time. Amen.
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