November 29th Worship

Order of Service

Part I
PreludeComfort, ComfortChuck Parsons, organ
OpeningPastor Linda
Gathering SongLost in the Night
#243
Chuck Parsons, organ
GreetingPastor Linda
Canticle of Praise
Thanksgiving
from Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
Lighting the Advent Wreath
Prayer of the Day
Pastor Linda
Psalm 141from Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
Part II
ScriptureDaniel 6: 1-27Pastor Linda
Gospel Canticlefrom Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
SermonPastor Linda
Advent CreedPastor Linda
Prayers of Intercessionfrom Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
Lord’s PrayerPastor Linda
Blessingfrom Holden Evening PrayerHarry Johansen
Pastor Linda
Chris Johansen, piano
Closing HymnSavior of the Nations, Come
#263, vs. 1-2
Chuck Parsons, organ
PostludeSavior of the Nations, ComeChuck Parsons, organ

Part I

Part II


Prelude

Chuck Parsons


Welcome

Confession & Forgiveness

P: We gather in the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

O Lord our God, we stumble as those lost in the night.

C: Will not day come soon?

P: We live burdened by our sorrows and sins, by the cares of this world.

C: Will you help us soon?

P: We hear the promise of you Word made flesh, bearing your love for all, and to all, and in all:

C: Christ is coming soon!

P: We long for the light of your redemption for this earth, her creatures and people.

C: Come and save us soon! Amen


Gathering Song – Lost in the Night

1.
Lost in the night do the people yet languish,
Longing for morning the darkness to vanquish,
Plaintively sighing with hearts full of anguish.
Will not day come soon? Will not day come soon?

2.
Must we be vainly awaiting the morrow?
Shall those who have light no light let us borrow,
Giving no heed to our burden of sorrow?
Will you help us soon? Will you help us soon?

3.
Sorrowing wanderers, in darkness yet dwelling,
Dawned has the day of a radiance excelling,
Death’s deepest shadows forever dispelling,
Christ is coming soon! Christ is coming soon!

4.
Light o’er the land of the needy is beaming;
Rivers of life through its deserts are streaming,
Bringing all peoples a Savior redeeming.
Come and save us soon! Come and save us soon!


Greeting

   P: May the One who was, and who is, and who is to come, be with you in grace and hope.

     C: And also with you.

   P:  And may the light of the Christ shatter the darkness and shine on God’s people here.

Canticle of Praise
Thanksgiving

Holden Evening Prayer


Lighting the Advent Wreath

We praise you, O God, for this evergreen wreath that marks our days of preparation for Christ’s advent. As we light the first candle, rouse us from sleep, enlighten us with your grace, and prepare our hearts to welcome Christ with joy – whose coming is certain and whose day draws near.  Amen

Prayer of the Day

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. You heal the broken in heart and bind up the wounds of your people. Strengthen us in our weakness, dispel our doubts and fears. Renew our faith, restore our joy, grant us patience and calm. For it is you who promises life, and gives us life, and joins with us – in life and beyond.  Amen

Psalm 141

Holden Evening Prayer


Scripture Reading – Daniel 6: 1-27

Daniel was clothed in purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made concerning him that he should rank third in the kingdom. That very night Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was killed. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, stationed throughout the whole kingdom, and over them three presidents, including Daniel; to these the satraps gave account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Soon Daniel distinguished himself above all the other presidents and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king planned to appoint him over the whole kingdom. So the presidents and the satraps tried to find grounds for complaint against Daniel in connection with the kingdom. But they could find no grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption could be found in him. The men said, ‘We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.’

So the presidents and satraps conspired and came to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an interdict, that whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions. Now, O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict.

10 Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God. Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, “O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?” The king answered, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they responded to the king, “Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times a day.”

14 When the king heard the charge, he was very much distressed. He was determined to save Daniel, and until the sun went down he made every effort to rescue him. Then the conspirators came to the king and said to him, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

16 Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!” A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

19 Then, at break of day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?” Daniel then said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.”

23 Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. The king gave a command, and those who had accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world: “May you have abundant prosperity! I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:
For he is the living God, enduring forever.
His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end. 
He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth;
for he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”


Gospel Canticle

Holden Evening Prayer


Sermon

    Last week we heard from the prophet Jeremiah, whose life and ministry spanned the end of the kingdom of Judah, the first deportation of the Jewish people into Babylon in 597 BCE, the second deportation, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 587. Jeremiah fled to Egypt with some of the residents of Judah, but most of the exiles ended up in Babylon and the other conquered lands of the fertile crescent. Empires come and go. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians were eventually conquered by the Persians. King Cyrus allowed the conquered people go back home – and we hear about that in Isaiah, but Daniel is one of those who stays in exile. He is one living in the diaspora – in permanent exile within the Persian empire, and the issue for the scattered people of God was how to stay faithful when you are living in a foreign land. How do you practice and stay true to the tenants of your faith when the God you worship is not the god of culture? It’s still a pretty good question – and one we’ll circle back to.

The beginning of this Advent season takes us to the book of Daniel, chapter 6, in the midst of the Persian Empire. King Darius of Mede eventually succeeded Cyrus, and Daniel has distinguished himself to due to his “excellent spirit,” and intelligence.  He pleases the king, and rises to a place of responsibility and power within the imperial court. He remains an outsider, however, due to his devotion to Israel’s God. Both aspects of Daniel’s status – being favored and being an outsider – earn him enemies. The book of Daniel excels at storytelling hyperbole and drama, but don’t be fooled, Daniel is not simply an adventure tale of a long lost kingdom. Its themes and questions are very much alive today.

Within the narrative’s timeline, Daniel comes after the destruction of the temple, during the exile – but it’s believed to have been written much later than that.  It was likely the last book of the Old Testament to be written. It was a story told looking back because, under the Greek Seleucids – the empire that followed the Persians – the people of Judah and the Jews living in diaspora were severely oppressed. It was illegal for them to keep the sabbath, illegal to read or keep the Torah, illegal to practice their faith in the One God. Telling stories set in a similar point in their history offered a subversive critique of their current situation. It gave the people ideas and hope.

The same could be said for us – with these stories. Through them we see our own life with God and the pulls and strains of our culture. The similarities are what keep ancient scripture and these stories relevant. We are not persecuted, but our faith is challenged just the same. It needs to be – it ought to be – if we are to keep growing personally, and if we are to keep a prophetic critique of society as part of our Christian calling. Faith that isn’t questioned by what you see and hear and read, faith that doesn’t question you, faith that fits neatly into the package of your life, perhaps isn’t faith in the living God. God rarely leaves us unchanged, unchanging, it seems.

But, back to Daniel. This book, Esther, Ruth, Job, and Jonah are similar biblical books in ways. They are microcosms, up-close and personal stories about one of the people of God. They employ clever and fun storytelling – and so, often, are left to Sunday School lessons and picture books. But, like Jonah and Ruth and Esther, Daniel is very much a grown-up story. Daniel is resistance literature the way the Bible most often does resistance – sneakily, from the bottom up – through fidelity to God as push-back against culture, power and principalities.

The strategy of Daniels’ political rivals was to rid themselves of Jewish upstarts, former slaves and  exiles who were making a name for themselves in this new generation. Coming at things from the slant, they could remove troublesome Jews by making worship of other gods illegal. In mock humility they suggest that the king should write an edict: “For the next 30 days, if anyone should pray to someone, divine or human, other than to the king, they shall be thrown into a den of lions.” The unity of thought is astonishing. Anyone with experience in a board meeting will recognize the difficulty of reaching such a clear consensus: “All the presidents of the kingdom, all the prefects and the satraps, all the counselors and the governors are agreed … ” That’s impressive.

They used flattery and manipulation to subvert the king’s affection for Daniel. Once they secured a court ruling “according to the laws of the Medes and the Persians”, it couldn’t easily be revoked. King Darius is made out to be a bit shortsighted and foolish here, a bit too easily swayed by flattery, or by the miraculous agreement of all his leaders, but whatever his motivation, he goes along with their suggestion.

When Daniel hears the new law ending his religious freedom, he doesn’t change his religious rituals and remembrances, but continues to pray three times a day. The Satrap’s spies catch him.

When the king hears the charge against Daniel, and understands the consequences of his own behavior, he is distressed and determined to save his valuable political ally. Right up to the last moment of daylight, Darius makes every effort to rescue Daniel. But the king is unsuccessful.

The Satraps and prefects and presidents and governors win. Daniel is housed in the lion’s den for the night, sealed in with a great big stone. The king is forced to use his own signet ring to seal the tomb. Daniel had been at the heart of the empire and was now a victim of imperial sport. The lion was a tool of spectacle and the empire’s dehumanizing power… a clear symbol of control over life and death.

The king went back to his house but could neither eat nor sleep. At the break of day, he got up and hurried out to the den of lions and cried out anxiously, ‘O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God – whom you faithfully serve – been able to deliver you from the lions?” It’s kind of a funny line to picture – the king stooped over, bending in to listen through a large rock, hoping and fearing, wondering about the fate of Daniel and his faith.

And that’s where I want us to stop and stay for the day, for this first Sunday of Advent…. with that image… bending in to listen, hoping and fearing, wondering about the fate of Daniel and his faith.

Daniel’s great act of civil disobedience and resistance to empire was simply his own private prayer; to continue in whatever fashion he had available to him to serve and worship God. On the one hand, I would say we don’t give prayer enough credit in our daily lives. I would guess that not many of you think your prayers are acts of civil disobedience or quiet resistance to culture. We tend to picture big public protests like those we’ve seen during the Black lives matter demonstrations or those standing with the Native people at Standing Rock defending their sacred land and water source. Those things can be powerful acts of civil disobedience and are vital critiques of cultural, corporate and consumer-driven shame. But so, too, apparently, are the prayers you raise from your living room. So, too, apparently, is the counter cultural, quiet, lived integrity and faithfulness of your daily life.

How does the image of bending in to listen, hoping and fearing, wondering about the fate of your faith strike you in this first week of Advent?

How do you practice your faith and stay true when we can’t visit or gather or worship together? When the God you worship is not the god of culture? That’s the big question of this story. What difference does it make that we say we are Christian? What difference does it make if we say we believe that God’s concern, Christ’s vision, Jesus’ actions were about justice for all people, compassion for all people, love for God with all our heart and soul and mind, and strength? What does it mean to you to love God with all your strength – your actions, your work, your body, your values, your strength of will and strength of character? How does love of God show up in your life? What does it feel like in your soul, your emotional world, your spirit?

If Daniel is resistance literature – like the Magnificat is resistance literature – it is about God coming at us from the bottom, God lifting us up when we fall, God strengthening weak hands and making firm feeble knees as it says in Isaiah 35. It’s about God caring about you – who you are, what you do, how you feel and live, how you treat others in your family and community and culture and world.

            There are lots of competing claims on our lives, things that clamor for our attention, our time,  resources,  money – you might feel forced to conform to things that undercut your most basic convictions – things that run contrary to the values you hold. There is a living edge to these stories: there are genuine threats to our wellbeing, the diminishment of our lives, there are risks, genuine fears and oppression – the lions are real enough. The good news of quiet resistance – of prayer and integrity, is not that you will be spared the lions, the good news is that if there is going to be a promise of life, it will come from a God who bears you through the lions – so that you know and believe and feel and experience Christ coming, God entering, God intruding, God subverting culture and business as usual – because who among us really wants business as usual?

“O Daniel,” cried the king, “servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?”


Advent Creed

Of the Father’s love begotten ere the worlds began to be, he is Alpha and Omega,
he the source, the ending he, of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see, evermore and evermore.

This is he whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord,
whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
now he shines, the long expected; let creation praise its Lord evermore and evermore.

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father, and, O Holy Spirit, Thee,
hymn and chant and high thanksgiving and unwearied praises be:
honor, glory, and dominion, and eternal victory evermore and evermore. Amen

~verses 1,3,5 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” – Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, 348-413 AD

Prayers

Holden Evening Prayer


Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen


Blessing

Holden Evening Prayer


Hymn – Savior of the Nations, Come

1.
Savior of the nations, come;
Virgin’s son, make here your home.
Marvel now, O heaven and earth:
God has chosen such a birth.

2.
Not by human flesh and blood,
But the mystic Breath of God,
Was the Word of God made flesh,
Fruit of woman, blossom fresh.


Postlude

Chuck Parsons