This Sunday, February 21st, is the first Sunday in the season of Lent. Our worship theme this season is Darkest Before the Dawn. Within every moment of deep darkness lies the certainty that the dawn is coming.
Most people have felt, at one time or another, that everything seems hopeless. This is true for people of deep faith and people of no faith. It is true for the people we encounter in the Bible. Oftentimes, these moments of utter darkness tend to take place right before a great healing or deliverance or even resurrection. Just as deep hopelessness sets in, there is the dawn of hope.
In this season of Lent, many of us are experiencing some of these moments of darkness, in all kinds of areas and in all kinds of ways. I invite you to be a part of our Lenten journey, as we travel together through the darkness to reach the dawn of hope — and the glory of Easter Sunday.
Each week we’ll be experiencing a story from scripture that follows our theme. On this first Sunday we’ll experience the story of three people from the book of Daniel in the Hebrew scriptures: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These faithful and courageous people refused to bow down and worship other gods, as commanded by King Nebuchadnezzar. The king was so enraged that “his face twisted beyond recognition.” He ordered that the furnace be heated up to seven times its normal heat and had the men bound and thrown into the furnace as punishment. Now, that’s a pretty dark, hopeless situation.
But, that isn’t the end of the story. They weren’t alone in the furnace and they escaped the furnace unscathed — their hair wasn’t even singed. So impressed was Nebuchadnezzar that he released them and praised the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
It is one of the many stories of deliverance that we find in the Bible. What does that mean for us as we face our own fiery furnaces in whatever form they come? What is the message of this ancient story for us today?
I look forward to sharing with you this Sunday in Sanctuary worship. It is a special time not because it is the first Sunday in the season, but because we are resuming limited in-person worship in the two services that take place in the sanctuary: The Gathering at 9:30 and the more traditional sanctuary service at 11:00 am. You can learn more about our COVID-19 protocols for safety and how to pre-register to attend at fumcfw.org/inperson. Of course, the services will also be livestreamed at fumcfw.org/sanctuary-live.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Common English Bible
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar: “We don’t need to answer your question. 17 If our God—the one we serve—is able to rescue us from the furnace of flaming fire and from your power, Your Majesty, then let him rescue us.[a] 18 But if he doesn’t, know this for certain, Your Majesty: we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you’ve set up.”
19 Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and his face twisted beyond recognition because of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In response he commanded that the furnace be heated to seven times its normal heat. 20 He told some of the strongest men in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace of flaming fire. 21 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound, still dressed in all their clothes, and thrown into the furnace of flaming fire. (22 Now the king’s command had been rash, and the furnace was heated to such an extreme that the fire’s flame killed the very men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it.) 23 So these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell, bound, into the furnace of flaming fire.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in shock and said to his associates, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?”
They answered the king, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He replied, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around inside the fire, and they aren’t hurt! And the fourth one looks like one of the gods.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar went near the opening of the furnace of flaming fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. 27 The chief administrators, ministers, governors, and the king’s associates crowded around to look at them. The fire hadn’t done anything to them: their hair wasn’t singed; their garments looked the same as before; they didn’t even smell like fire!
28 Nebuchadnezzar declared: “May the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be praised! He sent his messenger[b] to rescue his servants who trusted him. They ignored the king’s order, sacrificing their bodies, because they wouldn’t serve or worship any god but their God.