Thirty-First Day of Lent   17 comments

Nebuchadnezzar II

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Daniel 3:14-20, 24-28 (Revised English Bible):

He [Nebuchannezzar] asked them,

Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready to prostrate yourselves as soon as you hear the sound of horn, pipe, zither, triangle, dulcimer, a full consort of music, and to worship the image that I have made, well and good.  But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown forthwith into the blazing furnace; and what god is there that can deliver you from my power?”  Their reply to the king was: “Your majesty, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If there is a god who is able to save us from the blazing furnace, it is our God whom we serve; he will deliver us from your majesty’s power.  But if not, be it known to your majesty that we shall neither serve your gods nor worship the gold image you have set up.

At this Nebuchadnezzar was furious with them, and his face became distorted with anger.  He ordered that the furnace should be heated to seven times its usual heat, and commanded some of the strongest men in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego and throw them into the blazing furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar, greatly agitated, sprang to his feet, saying to his courtiers,

Was it not three men whom we threw bound into the fire?

They answered,

Yes, certainly, your majesty.

He insisted,

Yet I can see four men walking about in the fire, free and unharmed; and the fourth looks like a god.

Nebuchadnezzar approached the furnace door and called,

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, servants of the Most High God, come out!

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego emerged from the fire, the satraps, prefects, governors, and the king’s courtiers gathered round them and saw how the fire had no power to harm their bodies.  The hair of their heads had not been singed, their trousers were untouched, and no smell of fire lingered about them.

Nebuchadnezzar declared:

Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego!  He has sent his angel to save his servants who, trusting in him, disobeyed the royal command; they were willing to submit themselves to the fire rather than to serve or worship any god other than their own God.

Canticle 13 (from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, page 90)

(Mostly a rewording of the Song of the Three Young Men, verses 29-34)

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;

you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple;

on the throne of your majesty, gl0ry to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths;

in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

John 8:31-42 (Revised English Bible):

Turning to the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said,

If you stand by my teaching, you are truly my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

They replied,

We are Abraham’s descendants; we have never been in slavery to anyone.  What do you mean by saying, ‘You will become free.’?

Jesus said,

In very truth I tell you that everyone who commits sin is a slave.  The slave has no permanent standing in the household, but he son belongs to it forever.  If then the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.  I know that you are descended from Abraham, yet you are bent on killing me because my teaching makes no headway with you.  I tell what I have seen in my Father’s presence; you do what you have learned from my father.

They retorted,

Abraham is our father.

Jesus replied,

If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did.  As it is, you are bent on killing me, because I have told you the truth, which I heard from God.  That is not how Abraham acted.  You are doing your own father’s work.

They said,

We are not illegitimate; God is our father, and God alone.

Jesus said to them,

If God were your father, you would love me, for God is the source of my being, and from him I come.  I have not come of my own accord; he sent me.

The Collect:

Almighty God our heavenly Father, renew in us the gifts of your mercy; increase our faith, strengthen our hope, enlighten our understanding, widen our charity, and make us ready to serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Freedom is an interior state and a gift of God.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego lived in a foreign empire.  They faced the possibility of dying in a gruesome manner unless they abandoned their religion and worshipped false deities.  Yet they were free men because of their faith.  And God was with them.

In the twentieth century courageous men and women ranging from Mohandas Gandhi  to Nelson Mandela to Freedom Riders and other civil rights activists went to prisons unjustly and experienced great humiliations.  Yet they were free on the inside, and no jailer, warden, prison guard, unjust law, or racist could take that away from them.  Accounts from the U.S. South in the 1960s mention jailed civil rights activists singing with great joy in hellholes called cells.  Gandhi’s influence only increased with imprisonment, as did that of Mandela, who, as a prisoner, negotiated the terms of his own release on equal terms with the President of the Republic of South Africa.

The faith of certain Jews in the proximity of Jesus was fleeting in John 8:31-42.  It was based in a misunderstanding of our Lord and his teachings, so it did not hold up in the context of Jesus himself.  The truth sets us free.  And what is the truth?  The truth is that which is reliable, according to The Anchor Bible Dictionary.  (Philosophical point:  Reliability and accuracy are not the same.  A misleading statement can be factually correct.)  Jesus liberates us from the power of sin.  If we remain enslaved to sin, we are responsible for this fact.

KRT

Written on March 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/freedom-in-god/

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17 responses to “Thirty-First Day of Lent

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