Daniel and the Lions

A few weeks ago, I decided to scrap the lectionary for a spell and wade into the waters of the Hebrew Bible, specifically lingering on stories that are often absent from the pulpit. While my heart's resident Episcopalian shuddered at the thought of dismissing the lectionary, I already feel a new and exciting spirit invading my sermon preparation. Which isn't to say that I'm ready to give the lectionary a permanent pink slip. It is an invaluable tool and it does establish a bit of unity throughout the congregations that abide by it. I just love so much of the scriptures that didn't make the cut, and/or I think of them in a differently ordered theme than the one presented by the RCL.

This week it's Daniel's excursion to the lion's den. The internet was no good for this one; I found links to really horrible commentaries and a bunch of children's lessons that were inconsistent at best. I think this is in part because poor Daniel hardly makes a cameo in the RCL, so few mainline Protestants have bothered to give him the time of day. Thankfully, I have the New Interpreter's Bible volume that includes good old Daniel (it was an ordination gift from Ms. Wilmington 2006). And it is by far one of the best commentaries of that series I've encountered, and possibly one of my favorite biblical commentaries, period. It's written by Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, a Quaker scholar who teaches (at least at the time of publication) at Loyola Marymount. What he says about the Book of Daniel and its implications gives me chills and makes me want to go back in time and pay better attention to my biblical studies classes. He writes, "... Daniel directs its severe judgment toward human rulers, and a serious assumption of the world is that the people of faith will inevitably find themselves in opposition to the state and its accompanying forms of political loyalties and idolatrous patriotism... The Book of Daniel calls people of faith to... a treason based on loyalty to the rule of God." He discusses Daniel's act of prayer as an act of civil disobedience, an intentional breaking of an unjust law. And he addresses the dilemma of the pastor who preaches in an empire not unlike Rome or Babylon before it.

The lions are fierce, indeed.

Edited to add: I've posted Sunday's sermon on Daniel 6 at the SBCC blog.

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