Friday, November 23, 2012

Daniel 12:1-3; The Last Sunday of the Church Year; November 25, 2012;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;

“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:1–3, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Daniel was a dreamer. Not in the respect that he thought of big things in his future for him and his family, but he was given dreams by God. I'm sure there were many nights when he sat up suddenly, drenched with sweat. His dreams were very strange and yet very real. Daniel knew the stakes. He and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were among those who live their lives in exile in Babylon. They faced the anger of the King over there faithful worship of Yahweh, the only true God. You know the stories of the Three Men in the Fiery Furnace and Daniel in the Lion's Den. Nebuchadnezzar is shown who the real God is through these faithful young men. Daniel was given to understand dreams. He interpreted the King's dreams even when he didn't know what the dream was. And so here in the last chapter of the book of Daniel we have his final dream where God gives Daniel of vision of the end of time.

Here in this text, Daniel's dream, we see a great profound mystery that the world all around us denies. They simply deny that the Scriptures are true. They deny that Jesus is the only Lord and Savior of the world, that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to God the father to be saved unless they come through faith in Jesus Christ. And they deny that there is going to be a day of judgment when time will come to an end. They deny that God will raise all people from the dead, some will be with him in paradise forever, and the rest will go to eternal punishment in hell.

Yet, “In a culture that encourages people to celebrate the idea that life has no goal and urges each individual to find meaning wherever he or she can, the Church offers a very different description of reality. Our author Daniel gives the shocking prophecy that at the end of time the dead will rise; some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt!”

Daniel's dream gives us the truth. There is a time coming when we shall all stand before God's throne and receive judgment. It tells us that God will deliver the world from oppression, cruelty and the devil. This deliverance comes through the work of the one who came to Bethlehem's cradle, the long expected Messiah of God. This is Jesus Christ the one who lived, died on the cross for your sin, and rose again from the grave for you. This is the wisdom given you in faith that enables you and me to be counted among those who will shine like the stars.

But it is Jesus who shines brighter than the sun. His disciples witnessed this. St. John says,

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4–5, ESV)

and on the mountain of Transfiguration, St. Matthew tells us

And [Jesus] was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” (Matthew 17:2, ESV)

and even Jesus himself says

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” (John 8:12, ESV)

Here our Lord Jesus and Daniel are saying the same thing. Those who worship Jesus, those who have faith in him, will shine like the brightness of the stars. You and me, the ones who have the wisdom of faith, those who have seen the light of the gospel, should be shining like the stars of the heavens.

It's unfortunate that this doesn't describe us very often. Rather than living in the light, we walk in the darkness. Rather than letting the light of Christ shine through us we let the black deeds to the devil overcome who we are. Satan looks to divide. That darkness is there among us. We get angry with one another over the smallest things. We speak about our anger, not to the person who has offended us, rather at the coffee shop, the bowling alley, or even on Facebook. We let Satan drive a wedge between us because we disagree about the way the church should run. You and me so often refuse to put the best construction on everything as God commands us to do in the Eighth Commandment. We so often assign motive to other people's actions without discussing it with them first. Then we react and Satan uses our actions to drive the wedge deeper.

Beloved children of God, that is not who we are. We are God's beloved baptized children. We have our sins forgiven by our Redeemer who went to the cross. We have been reconciled to God and therefore reconciled to each other through his resurrection. Our names are written in the book of life. Don't let Satan rob us of the joy of working together. Bring your sins with me to the cross of Jesus for forgiveness. He is the one who carries our burdens and our sins. Take the opportunity that we are given to build each other up rather than tear each other down. Always try to think the best of your brothers and sisters in Christ as we work together here in the church.

Daniel writes:

"And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

He is describing our work together in the church, all the more important as the end draws near. Make no mistake the end is nearer today than ever before. The signs are everywhere. The times are indeed troubling for the church. Those who hate us are looking to find weaknesses to exploit. Listen again to Jesus as he describes what is coming:

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16, ESV)

Jesus says "be wise" and so does Daniel. While they are talking about being wise in the way that we do things, they also mean the wisdom that comes from above. That is the wisdom that makes a difference. It is the wisdom of knowing who our Savior is. It is the wisdom of seeing our sin clearly and seeing our Savior Jesus Christ even more clearly. In the face of all kinds of trouble this is the wisdom that shines like the brightness of the sky above. We, the church, are wise when point repentant sinners to Jesus Christ crucified. We, the church, are wise when we proclaim Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation. We, the church, are wise when we live in that wisdom ourselves. This is the way that many will turn to righteousness, that is turning to Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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