1 In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream: 2 I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, 3 and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 15 As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. 16 I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: 17“As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever—forever and ever.”
This week, we will be leading up to All Saints Sunday, where we will remember and give thanks to God for all the saints, who from their labors rest.
The first reading comes from Daniel. The introduction to this verse that comes along with our weekly lessons says this: “The book of Daniel was written in the second century bce, when the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes was severely persecuting the Jews. Daniel’s vision of the four beasts serves to proclaim the message that human kings will come and go, but the kingdom will ultimately belong to God and to God’s people.”
Colleague and friend, Phil Heinze, shared his thoughts on this passage. He refers to “Year A” and “Year C.” The readings we use for worship come from “The Revised Common Lectionary” which suggests readings for every Sunday for three years – A, B and C. A focuses on the Gospel of Mathew, B focuses on Mark with quite a bit of John, and Year C (in which we currently find ourselves) on Luke. The Old Testament and Epistle lessons often tie into the Gospel lessons for the day.
Whith that background, Heinze writes these words in his blog “Living the Lectionary:”
I prefer the Year A lectionary text from Isiah to Daniel in Year C. There is nothing troubling or terrifying about the fine wine feast of fat things on God’s holy mountain in Isaiah 25:6-8. Unlike Daniel’s troubling visions, which misread, prompts people to preach terrifying versions of the future where God condemns the vast majority of humanity to eternal punishment while saving a pitiful few who possess the secret password to paradise.
That troubles me because I think I’d prefer to be left behind than be a part of a vision that contradicts the cross of Christ – God so loved the world. But then maybe I’d hear it differently as a persecuted minority longing for home while held captive in a foreign land.
The popular notion is that prophecy is prediction but it is first and foremost proclamation. This prophetic word is a promise to the holy ones, who in Daniel’s context are the lowly ones, a promise that despite their present circumstances they will possess the kingdom, while powerful kings who persecute them will be brought low.
In that sense it is a word for all who live through overwhelming circumstances that trouble the spirit or terrify the mind in the lonely watches of the night. “Do not fear little flock,” is how Jesus spoke the same word to his disciples, “for the Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” “Has been pleased” as in already has given the kingdom.
Jesus takes Daniel’s “wait for it” and proclaims the forever future kingdom in the present which means nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten, which of course is what we celebrate on All Saints.
Let us pray: Almighty God, strengthen us in our resolve to not be troubled or frightened, but to trust your promises and follow in your ways. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen