This is the final “Shrunk Sermon” from a series on The Book of Daniel called “Outnumbered. The Book of Daniel and Living As Christians In A Not-So-Christian-Anymore Society.” We have been considering how we might express our Christian faith in a society which has been pushing Christianity to the margins.
If you have been following along, you will wonder why we are ending half way through Daniel. This is a good place to shift gears, for the Book of Daniel itself shifts gears between chapter 6 and chapter 7, from being about the experiences of Daniel and his friends, to prophecies through, and to, Daniel.
Let us remind ourselves what we have learned thus far in Daniel chapters 1-6.
- Before we even opened the book of Daniel we considered why God’s people were in exile in the first place. Do we Christians take responsibility for finding ourselves in a strange land? We have watered Christianity down. We have added ingredients that do not belong. We have taken important ingredients away.
- In chapter 1 Daniel chose to not be assimilated into the Babylonians, but to be different. Yet he also chose to serve the Babylonians. Are we different from, and yet serving, our non-Christian neighbours?
- In chapter 2, Daniel related with others with both conviction and humility. Do we have the conviction that God has indeed spoken into our world? Do we have the humility to say we are no better than anyone else?
- In chapter 2 we discovered that King Nebuchadnezzar was accountable to God, his power was limited, and temporary. Are we working to build empires that do not last, or participating in the Kingdom of God?
- In chap 2 Nebuchadnezzar was thankful for Daniel. Are people grateful for the Christians in their lives?
- In chapter 3 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had courage to worship God and God alone. They knew that God alone is worthy of worship, no matter what happened to them. Do we know that?
- In chapter 4 Daniel helped Nebuchadnezzar connect with God. Daniel’s heart was affected by Nebuchadnezzar’s troubles. Nebuchadnezzar’s connection with God was a journey. God was doing heart work in Nebuchadnezzar. Are we helping people connect with God?
- In chapter 5 Daniel was a go-to person in a crisis, when there was a need, and opportunity, for a spiritual conversation.Daniel had a “divine spark,” was a man of great depth, and was helpful. Are we go-to people for anyone who may need or desire a spiritual conversation at some point in their future?
- In chapter 6 Daniel faced the lions. Daniel served king and country for many years.
Daniel’s faith and prayerfulness were evident to others. Daniel was quietly defiant when it became a choice between his devotion to the king and worship of the King of kings. King Darius was distraught over Daniel’s troubles. Daniel trusted God. Are we ready for lions?
To summarize, in all these things Daniel was living out the words from Jeremiah:
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:4-7 (NIV)
In other words; live as my people, but quietly among a very different people, making yourselves at home in a strange land. Reading between the lines, we might add; don’t form an army to try and fight your way back. Daniel quietly lived his life in devotion to God. He did not start a war. The early Christians followed a similar pattern as they lived as a minority group with very little influence on the governments of their day. They quietly lived Jesus focused lives and called others to join them in doing the same. They did not seek to start a war or fight for a privileged position.
Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12 Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (NLT)
Is it time to declare war on our changing culture? Or is it time to settle in, to live as a different kind of people, but harmoniously among others? The Book of Daniel invites us to consider the concept of the separation of church and state. The Book of Daniel invites us to consider the value of religious freedom. The Book of Daniel invites us to reflect on good witness to God’s goodness which begins with a good relationship with God and is borne out through a good relationship with people. The Book of Daniel also invites us to consider that “God’s got it.” We have not spent time in chapters 7-12, but a recurring theme of the prophecies found there is that the future is in God’s hands. Our government may pass laws we don’t agree with. It is not the end of the world. The end of the world is God’s prerogative. God can be trusted with the future of the Church. Therefore our focus is not on rescuing the Church, or the privileged position of Christianity. Ours is not to rescue the Church, but to participate in God’s rescue of people.
In chapter 9 there is something else that is a crucial part of the experience of exile:
So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. 5 But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. 6 We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land. Daniel 9:3-6 (NLT)
Daniel prayed a prayer of confession. He knew there needed to be a greater connection with God. Daniel’s prayer of confession is focused, of course, on Moses and the Mosaic law. Our prayers of confession will be focused on Jesus:
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NLT)
As we face a changing nation, as Christianity is pushed to the margins, is our focus on making Canada a Christian nation again? Our focus is to make the Church in Canada more Christian than it has ever been.