Narrative Lectionary Reflection
November 29, 2020
Read: Daniel 6:1-27
Between ages 7 and 10, I took swimming lessons at the YWCA and YMCA. I had a good time in the water and loved to use the paddle boards and make big splashes in the pool.
But there was one thing that scared me to death…the deep end of the swimming pool. You see, I could touch the end of the pool on the shallow end. However as you moved farther away from the shallow end, it became harder and harder to touch the floor. You would get to that point where you couldn’t touch the bottom of the pool and you get a bit scared. Of course, the reason I was in a swimming class is to learn how to swim, even in deep water, even in the places where I couldn’t just touch the bottom. Swimming was suppose to teach me how to handle the deep end, how to manuver in a place that seemed scary. The swimming instructors were teaching me to trust the skills I’ve learned to tackle the deep end. Not to get cocky in my skills, but to trust what I’ve learned to prevent me from drowning.
This is the first day of the new church year, so I guess I should say Happy New Year. This is the first Sunday of Advent, that season before Christmas where we await the coming of the Savior and also are reminded of why we need to Christ to come and save us and there is no one more deserving of salvation than the character in today’s text.
Daniel and the Lion’s Den is one of the first Bible stories children learn about. Daniel, an Israelite in exile, is a faithful worker in the court of King Darius of Persia. Daniel does such a good job in his position as a chief administrator that the king is interested in promoting him to be the second in command in the Empire; only the king would be higher than Daniel.
His fellow administrators can’t stand that this foreigner is showing them up, so they devise a plan to trick the King into sending Daniel to the lions where he would meet his end.
When the days comes to send Daniel into the lion’s den. The administrators are joyous because they have this foreigner where they wanted him and soon, their troubles would be gone. King Darius is nervous; he hates to lose such an able worker and he probably feels this charge is all trumped up. But he can’t do much other than hope Daniel’s God would save him.
The king didn’t sleep all night. The king races to find Daniel is safe and sound, while Daniel’s rivials and their families face the lions and meeta cruel fate.
What an odd text to start Advent with! But maybe it isn’t so weird. Daniel was facing an unjust punishment. God comes to the rescue and save him from devastation.
Advent is a time of waiting for Christ, waiting for salvation. Daniel waited for salvation as well and God did save him. But the story here is not that God won’t let us face bad times. The list is long of good people, faithful people who were killed by despots past and present. The story here is that God will prevail even when it seems that evil will have the last word. Even if Daniel were swallowed by the lions, this would still be a tale of God winning over evil, because God is bigger than corrupt administrators or a fumbling king.
The thing that scared me about the deep end of the pull is that I would be engulfed by water, that I would drown. Daniel could have been scared about how the lions would pull him apart and then devour him. But he has faith in God and is able to face down the lions because God is faithful. The lions might kill him, but they have no power over him.
As I said before, trusting God doesn’t mean you won’t face trials. We wait and hope for salvation, but that doesn’t always come in the way we want or expect. Martin Luther King, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Oscar Romero and countless other disciples and followers of Jesus did not come to happy endings and yet they believed in a God that would save them, a God that never allowed evil to have the last word.
We wait in Advent for the coming of Jesus. Jesus will not take away all the bad things in our lives. We will still get cancer. Our loved ones will still die. We will get laid off. The lions are always there waiting to have a midnight snack. But we have hope. Hope not that things will be okay, but that God is with us and will never ever let evil win. We wait knowing that Jesus is coming to be with us, to be with us in all of the dark times in our lives and to give us the faith to stand up to intolerance because the forces of darkness will never ever have the last word.
By the way, I’m still scared of the deep end of the pool. But I also trust what I learned in swimming class. May God give us the same courage in all the deep ends of our lives.