Odd ()

Joan MacPherson, December 3, 2017
Part of the Sunday series, preached at a Sunday Morning service

(Daniel 3)
We didn’t make this up. Yes, we added in the sound effects but the details, the names, the words, the story - this is what is written in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. This detail and this curiosity are what scholars and theologians believe to be the accurate translation of the stories that after being passed orally through generations, were eventually written in Hebrew and now we read in English thousands of years later. And when they were written it was not on a computer with the ability to edit and spell check - it was painstaking, laborious and costly to capture each word on a scroll, hand written, character by character. In that reality people captured this level of detail and repetition and incorporated it to be part of our sacred story - part of the collection of writings that have been gathered with the intention of helping people to know about God, the power of God, the meaning of life and how to live in community and work to build a just world. The people that compiled these ancient faith stories may have lived in a very different time and place from us but they struggled with the same existential questions and challenges that we do. Our forebears in faith gathered in community, listened to stories about God and the people that God creates, loves, needs, accompanies and then they grappled with how to respond. We do the same today.
Our forebears passed along this story which has so many nuances and curiosities. Why ever did they do that? I do wonder. Then scholars offer it up as the reading for the first Sunday of Advent this year. Why ever did they do that? Could it be because to pay attention to Advent feels about as odd in today’s culture as these details and long names we heard in our sacred story? All around us the input is to shop or make a wish list so others can shop for you. Count downs on the remaining shopping days and calculating when you need to get packages in the mail. Its pretty obvious what we are supposed to be spending our time on and we can physically feel the pressure when we are falling behind. Its draining but a peppermint mocha hot drink will give a boost for a few more hours. When there is so much that needs to be done we need to stay focused and on task; we must do what is expected of us - in a season that, for the church, is all about anticipating God breaking into the world and our lives in new and unexpected ways.
Paying attention to Advent is as odd as this story from Daniel. Its odd to be trusting in God. It’s odd to be hopeful in a time of fear. It’s odd to love and learn from people that challenge us. It’s odd to be community and physically present to one another in the self selecting era of social media. It’s odd to be the church. It’s odd to be a community of hope. It’s odd to trust God. The story in Daniel makes that oddness quite plain with odd details every step of the way. Into the fiery furnace they went, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Their odd way of acting on their trust in God? It changed the heart of Nebuchadnezzar. He was apoplectic and threw them into the fire to die - and then he saw their faith and sensed the presence of their God. This wasn’t what he was expecting to happen. God burst into his life in a way that had never been imagined. God’s presence disrupted his life. Turned him around (until he issued his next order, faith is hard..) God burst into his life. God is all about bursting into our lives. Advent anticipates that bursting in, in unpredictable, life changing, ways. Dare we anticipate and seek out the unpredictable, odd, life giving God this season? Amen.

Joan MacPherson
Main Street Congregational UCC
December 3, 2017

Note: This manuscript was prepared for oral delivery only.
It contains excerpted material not properly cited.
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