Worship at Home for Sunday, November 14, 2021

Dear Friends,

We are approaching the end of the church liturgical year. This Sunday is the last time we will have a reading from the Gospel of Mark because John is always the gospel reading for the Christ the King also known as the Reign of Christ Sunday which is the last Sunday of the liturgical year and Totenfest.

Totenfest will be celebrated on Sunday, November 21. This is when we remember those who have died during the past church year. If you have someone whom you wish to have remembered, please let me know.

If you need anything, please call me at the church office (437-2779) or my cellphone (573-832-2475). If you would like to have a copy These Days mailed to you or home communion, let me know.

Announcements:

  • Youth to make Dog Treats (to sell at Country Store) on Sunday.
  • Pastoral Relations on Tuesday at 6:30pm
  • Choir on Wednesday at 4:15pm & Choir Practice at 6:30
  • Turkey Supper will be on Saturday, November 20. We are looking for people to sign up to bake pies. The Country Store will need donations of baked goods and crafts.
  • Ministerial Alliance Community Thanksgiving Program on Sunday, November 21 at 6:30pm at 1st Baptist Church.
  • We will decorate for Advent and Christmas after worship on Sunday, November 28 after worship.

Prayers and Blessings,

Pastor Stephanie DeLong

Scripture Lessons: Daniel 12:1-3, Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25; Mark 13:1-8

 

Sermon: "It's the End of the Word, Well Maybe Not"
 

This fall I have been focusing on the Old Testament lectionary readings. This Sunday and the next will look at passages from the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel is what is known as apocalyptic literature like the book of Revelation in the New Testament.

When we hear the word apocalyptic or apocalypse our minds often go to end of the world scenarios, but that is not what apocalypse means. Apocalypse is the Greek word for revelation. So apocalyptic literature is written to reveal what was previously unknown. Imagine trying to view the world through a window which is covered by a curtain. We can guess what is on the other side of the curtain by the shadows of light and dark that may be cast on the curtain. However, we can never be certain what is outside until the curtain is drawn back to reveal what is truly outside. Apocalyptic literature seeks to draw back the curtain to reveal God’s truth in the world.
 

This literature is meant to be prophetic and uses a lot of symbolism that may or may not be clear to us in this time and place. Much of the symbolism in Daniel and Revelation is drawn from other biblical texts and cultural references from the times when the books were written. (Reading the footnotes in a study Bible can clue you in on this.) The writers of this literature were inspired by God to give hope to the faithful in trying times. So, we need to be wary of drawing timelines and equating the symbolism in the books with our current situation even though that can be tempting. Rather we should read it with the goal to gain an understanding of who we are in relationship to God and to find hope in trying times.
 

Daniel is the human hero of this story that is set in the time after the kingdom of Judah has fallen to the forces of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Daniel along with three other promising young men is selected to be trained to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. The young men are given Babylonian names to replace their Hebrew ones, but Daniel is most often referred to as Daniel rather than his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar. The others have the Babylonian names of Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego.
 

You may have heard of the Daniel diet which was popular a few years ago. This diet was primarily vegetables and water which is what Daniel requested that he and his friends be fed during their training rather than the royal rations which might have defiled him and his friends. Their faithfulness to God and this diet resulted in the four of them being the best in their class.

Chapters one through six tell superhero like stories about Daniel and his companions. Daniel is the one who can tell the rulers about his dreams (chapters 2 and 4), interpret the handwriting on the wall (chapter five) and survive being thrown into the lions’ den (chapter 6).
 

Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego are thrown into the fiery furnace after refusing to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue, but they do not burn up and are accompanied in the furnace by a figure who has the appearance of a god (chapter 3). These superhero-like abilities help lead the Babylonian king and his court to sing God’s praises. The last six chapters of Daniel are about the visions that Daniel received concerning the end times.
 

This Sunday’s passage, Daniel 12:1-4 speaks of the resurrection of the dead to everlasting life at the end of time. These verses influence Christian views concerning the resurrection with words of hope for those who live righteous lives and warning for those who do not. Being human Daniel would like a timeline for these events, but when Daniel asks when this to happen and what will be the outcome, he is not given a concrete answer. Rather, Daniel is told “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:9)
 

Apocalyptic literature was popular in Jesus’ time and is still popular today. The stories and prophecies from Daniel and other sources would have influenced Jesus and the disciples. The reading from Mark is known as the little apocalypse as Jesus speaks of the destruction of the temple and the chaos to come. Peter, James, John, and Andrew ask Jesus to create a timeline and name signs for the coming destruction and chaos. Jesus declines to give one, but rather warns the disciples not to be led astray by false teachers and leaders who seek to lead us astray in troubled times and places of war, earthquakes, and famines.

Each generation often feels that they are living in the during of end times. There are many stories of groups of people who sold all they had and then sat and waited for Jesus to come again only to be disappointed.
 

Some, like my own mother, have memorable dreams and/or visions that they believe foretell the end of the world. In the fall of 1979, my mother had a dream that she believed predicted a major catastrophic event such as the end of the world. In her dream she saw a date in May on which all of this would unfold. She believed so profoundly in her vision of the future calamity that she stockpiled supplies in our basement. She told anyone who would listen about her dream. She wrote friends and relatives about her dream encouraging them to prepare for the end times. While away at college, I received phone calls insisting that I had to leave school before my final exams so that the whole family could be together. She called by sister’s boss at the county library to demand that Alice have the day off due to the upcoming end of the world. My sister was deeply embarrassed especially when her co-workers wrote on a blackboard, “Beware Alice’s mother says that the end of the world will be on May 21, 1980.”
 

Well, May 21, 1980, arrived and the most significant thing that happened was that “The Empire Strikes Back” was released in theaters. Yes, Mount St. Helen’s had erupted a few days early, but that did not have a major impact in Missouri. So, I can personally attest to the discomfort that comes from predicting the end of the world and not quite getting it right. My advice is to not even go there as tempting as it might be.
 

Jesus speaks about beginnings and birth pangs. We may just be in the middle of our own birth bangs of faithful living. Perhaps the lesson of apocalyptic literature is to orient us to lives of faith. Daniel sought to serve and worship God no matter what threats and trials he faced. We may not have Daniel’s superhero like abilities, but with God’s help we too can live faithful lives.

 

Prayer Almighty God, help us to be inspired by Daniel to be faithful in all times and places. Keep us from being led astray and give us hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer list: All who have been on our list in the past and Bev, Elizabeth, Beverly and Cheryl, Jim, Peggy. The family of Bonnie’s niece Mary who passed away from pancreatic cancer.

References: The Harper Collins Study Bible, Copyright © 1993 by Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., New York, New York.

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