Week of Proper 29: Thursday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Daniel

Image Source = Urharec

Good Reason for Hope in Dark Times

NOVEMBER 30, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 6:1-28 (Revised English Bible):

It pleased Darius to appoint a hundred and twenty satraps to be in charge of his kingdom, and over them three chief ministers, to whom the satraps were to submit their reports so that the king’s interests might not suffer; of these three ministers, Daniel was one.  Daniel outshone the other ministers and the satraps because of his exceptional ability, and it was the king’s intention to appoint him over the whole kingdom.  Then the ministers and satraps began to look round for some pretext to attack Daniel’s administration of the kingdom, but they failed to find any malpractice on his part, for he was faithful to his trust.  Since they could discover neither negligence nor malpractice, they said,

We shall not find any ground for bringing a charge against this Daniel unless it is connected with his religion.

These ministers and satraps, having watched for an opportunity to approach the king, said to him,

Long live King Darius!  We, the ministers of the kingdom, prefects, satraps, courtiers, and governors, have taken counsel and are agreed that the king should issue a decree and bring into force a binding edict to the effect that whoever presents a petition to any god or human being rather than the king during the next thirty days is to be thrown into the lion-pit.  Now let your majesty issue the edict and have it put in writing so that it becomes unalterable, for the law of the Medes and the Persians may never be revoked.

Accordingly the edict was signed by King Darius.

When Daniel learnt that this decree had been issued, he went into his house.  It had in the roof-chamber windows open towards Jerusalem; and there he knelt down three times a day and offered prayer and praises to his God as was his custom.  His enemies, on the watch for an opportunity to catch him, found Daniel at his prayers making supplication to his God.  Then they went into the king’s presence and reminded him of the edict.

Your majesty,

they said,

have you not issued an edict that any person who, within the next thirty days, presents a petition to any god or human being other than your majesty is to be thrown into the lion-pit?

The king answered,

The matter has been determined in accordance with the law of the Medes and the Persians, which may not be revoked.

So they said to the king,

Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles, has disregarded both your majesty and the edict, and is making petition to his God three times a day.

When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was greatly distressed; he tried to think of a way to save Daniel, and continued his efforts till sunset.  The men watched for an opportunity to approach the king, and said to him,

Your majesty must know that by the law of the Medes and Persians no edict or decree issued by the king may be altered.

Then the king gave the order for Daniel to be brought and thrown into the lion-pit; but he said to Daniel to be brought and thrown into the lion-pit; but he said to Daniel,

Your God whom you serve at all times, may he save you.

A stone was brought and put over the mouth of the pit, and the king sealed it with his signet and with the signets of his nobles, so that no attempt could be made to rescue Daniel.

The king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no woman was brought to him, and sleep eluded him.  He was greatly agitated and, at the first light of dawn, he rose and went to the lion-pit.  When he came near he called anxiously,

Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to save you from the lions?

Daniel answered,

Long live the king!  My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths and they have not injured me; he judged me innocent, and moreover I had done your majesty no injury.

The king was overjoyed and gave orders that Daniel should be taken up out of the pit.  When this was done no trace of injury was found on him, because he had put his faith in his God.  By order of the king those who out of malice had accused Daniel were brought and flung into the lion-pit along their children and their wives, and before they reached the bottom the lions were upon them and devoured them, bones and all.

King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world:

May your prosperity increase!  I have issued a decree that in all my royal domains everyone is to fear and reverence the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God, the everlasting,

whose kingly power will never be destroyed;

whose sovereignty will have no end–

a saviour, a deliverer, a worker of signs and wonders

in heaven and on earth,

who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

Prosperity attended Daniel during the reigns of Darius and Cyrus the Persian.

THEN RESPONSE #1:

Canticle 12, Part I (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord,

O heavens and all waters above the heavens.

Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord,

Praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew,

all winds and fire and heat.

Winter and summer, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,

drops of dew and and flakes of snow.

Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days,

O shining light and enfolding dark.

Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

OR RESPONSE #2:

Psalm 99 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is King;

let the people tremble;

he is enthroned upon the cherubim;

let the earth shake.

The LORD is great in Zion;

he is high above all peoples.

3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome;

he is the Holy One.

4 “O mighty King, lover of justice,

you have established equity;

you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and fall down before his footstool;

he is the Holy One.

Moses and Aaron among his priests,

and Samuel among those who call upon his Name,

they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.

He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;

they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.

8 “O LORD our God, you answered them indeed;

you were a God who forgave them,

yet punished them for their evil deeds.”

9 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and worship him upon his holy hill;

for the LORD our God is the Holy One.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:20-28 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But when you see Jerusalem encircled by armies, then you may be sure that her devastation is near.  Then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills; those who are in the city itself must leave it and those who are out in the country must not return; because this is the time of retribution, when all that stands written is to be fulfilled.  Alas for women with child in those days, and for those who have children at the breast!  There will be great distress in the land and a terrible  judgement on this people.  They will fall by the sword; they will be carried captive into all countries; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by Gentiles until the day of the Gentiles has run its course.

Portents will appear in sun and moon and stars.  On earth nations will stand helpless, not knowing which way to turn from the roar and surge of the sea.  People will faint with terror at the thought of what is coming upon the world; for the celestial powers will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When all this begins to happen, stand upright and hold your heads high, because your liberation is near.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I must attend to some history before I get to my main point.  Here is a partial list of Persian kings and other crucial dates, courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004):

  • Reign of Cyrus II (the Great) = 559-530 B.C.E.
  • Capture of Babylon = 539 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Cambyses = 530-522 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius I = 522-486 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Xerxes I = 486-465 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes I = 465-424 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius II = 423-405 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes II = 405-359 B.C.E.
  • Exiles begin to return from Babylonia in 538 B.C.E.
  • Second Temple completed in 515 B.C.E.

So, given the contents of Daniel 5 and Daniel 6, the king’s name is really Cyrus.

Now, for the substance….

These are troubling readings.  This day’s lesson from Luke 21 is part of the small apocalypse from that gospel.  The horrific images and dark warnings were past tense for the original audience of that book, written after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  And, as for Daniel 6, I understand that, according to Deuteronomy 19:16-19, the penalty for bearing false witness is to suffer the same potential fate as the one of whom a person lied, but what did the wives and children do?  Furthermore, Darius/Cyrus was the most powerful man in the empire; he could have lifted the original edict at any time.

Yet there is hope in dark times.  Yes, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E., but the Jews and their religion have survived.  Yes, the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians demolished the Kingdom of Judah in 587 B.C.E., but the Persians conquered them, allowed Jewish exiles to go home, and facilitated the construction of the Second Temple.  Yes, Daniel got in trouble because he did his job better than some jealous peers, who manipulated the king into trying to execute him, but God saved Daniel.  And even when one dies for one’s Christian faith, the blood of the martyrs waters the church.

The readings take a dark turn toward the end of the church year, but the darkness has not extinguished all light.  In a few days I will, God willing, begin writing devotions for Advent.  (I am working a few months ahead of schedule, obviously.)  Advent is about preparing the birth of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah.  As the Revised English Bible (1989) renders John 1:1-5,

In the beginning the Word already was.  The Word was in God’s presence, and what God was, the Word was.  He was with God in the beginning, and through him all things came to be; without him no created thing came into being.  In him was life, and that life was the light of mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never mastered it.

Amen.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/good-reasons-for-hope-in-dark-times/

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16 responses to “Week of Proper 29: Thursday, Year 1

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