Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Advent begins this weekend and I will preach on Daniel 6:6-27. This morning I was meditating on this text, and on the major themes of Daniel and how they tie into the grand story of God’s Promise. Here are some sketches to work through the ideas…
First, this is the art I made for the sermon title. I’m drawing on the Bible Projects riff on the idea that any time a human government turns into a self-exalting, power-hungry empire, it becomes a beast. Daniel surrounded by lions is a metaphor for this (as is the story of his friends that were thrown into the fiery furnace).
Our big theme for Advent is “Don’t Rush the Promise” because our theme for the whole year is “God’s Promise for Everyone.” This begs the question: What is the promise?
The driving force and purpose for creation is life. Life happens when it is in the environment of love, equality, and mutual interdependence. This is the portrait of the universe that is painted in Genesis 1. When all of these things are present, it is called Shalom, which is the Hebrew word for peace.
The only way that shalom can exist is when it is held together in a well-ordered system. That is what we mean by Law. Creation was the process of bringing order out of chaos. Every system, biological or human/civic, requires a well-ordered system (Law) that promotes Shalom. And God calls this very good.
The Power of Life is God. This is the role of the Holy Spirit: to power life. Whenever an individual or a human system seeks to claim power for itself, it inevitably replaces love with hatred/fear; equality with self-exaltation; and mutual interdependence with exclusive self-protection. This is the story of Genesis 2-11. God’s law is violated, fear and shame throw God’s preferred world into chaos, and blood is spilt between brothers. Then humans seek power and the tower of Babel is built, and the oppressive Empire is born.
God’s preferred world did not happen under Law (yet, law is still necessary for shalom). Empire always emerges. Yet, God has Promised that Shalom will prevail, in spite of our propensity for death and Empire. The rest of the Biblical narrative is God incarnating the Promised world in the shadow of human Empire. This is a gift. It is grace. It is the Gospel, and it requires the death of God.
It was incarnated in the Promise to Abram to bless all nations, and the Law of Moses brought order to their chaos.
It was ultimately incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ, who gave us the law of love, empowered us with the Holy Spirit, and gave up his own life for our life. This is the Gospel.
Now we, the church, are the incarnation of God’s Preferred World in the shadow of Empire. It is our job to stand with the oppressed, speak truth to power, and cling to the Promise that God has defeated Sin and Death through the death and resurrection of Jesus and will eventually restore Shalom to the Earth.
Until then, we often find ourselves surrounded by beasts, clinging to the Promise of God.