Weekly Sermons

Weekly Reflections for Sunday Morning Worship Sharing
at the Meetinghouse and via Zoom

11Feb24 Blessed are the MeekSUNDAY, March 17, 2024

Sermon on the Mount Series #9

(Links to #1 – #8 at end of reflection) 

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry…. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.           Psalm 34:15,17,18
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.       Matthew 5:10
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you…. If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.        I Peter 4:12-14,16
Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted for Righteousness….
In another “accident of the calendar,” our consideration of the eighth Beatitude has fallen on St. Patrick’s Day.  Sometime around AD 400, a raiding party of Celtic pirates from Ireland landed on the northwest coast of Britain and attacked the estate of a wealthy local government official of a Romano-British city there.  They stole what they could carry away, and they also kidnapped Patrick, the sixteen year-old son of that official.  He was taken back to Ireland and was enslaved as a shepherd and laborer for the next six years.  Patrick later wrote that although his grandfather was a priest and his father a church deacon, his family was not actively religious and he himself was not a believer in Christ in his youth.  For most of his six years in captivity, Patrick was made to tend flocks of sheep in remote, desolate places.  Lonely and often afraid, he found solace in using the time to recall what he had been taught in childhood about Christianity, and to pray.  That led to his spiritual awakening and to his becoming a devout follower of Christ.   
After six years as a slave, Patrick wrote that while praying at age 22, he sensed a voice telling him to prepare to return home to Britain.  Soon, he discerned a leading to flee from his “owner” and make his way to a port city 200 miles away where he would find a ship that would transport him back to Britain.  Patrick escaped and made that trek to Ireland’s eastern coast.  He found the ship and succeeded in persuading a reluctant captain to take him aboard.  After a three-day sail, they landed on Roman Britain’s west coast.  A group of the passengers packed up what supplies they could carry and hiked inland for a month through what Patrick in his writings called “wilderness.”  The group ran out of food and began to despair that they would perish without reaching civilization.  Patrick urged them to put their faith in God, and he prayed with them for the group to be rescued.  Shortly thereafter, they encountered a herd of wild boar and were able to kill, roast, and consume some of them to renew their energy and continue their journey.  For the rest of the trip, Patrick was held in high esteem by his fellow travelers.  After several more adventures, he finally reached his family’s home. 
Called to Ministry      Patrick wrote that while back at home, he experienced another vivid spiritual leading when an angel told him in a dream that he was to return to Ireland as a missionary.  Knowing that he needed more education in the scriptures if he was to fulfill that calling, he made his way to France and studied for several years with priests there.  About fifteen years after his escape from Ireland, Patrick was ordained to the priesthood and began preparing to go back there to minister to the few Christians who were there and to evangelize the polytheistic Celts.  There are records which indicate that he encountered opposition to his plans from some fellow-Christians, perhaps over fundraising to support the mission, but he went ahead with it anyway.  When Patrick finally made his way back to Ireland, the Irish where he first landed quickly let it be known he was not welcome there, forcing him to sail to another port farther north.  Locals there soon became inhospitable as well, causing Patrick to travel overland to the western part of the island before finally settling. 
             His writings indicate that he got right to work.  Patrick preached and led converts to Christ, “baptizing thousands.”  As the Christian community grew, he ordained priests to lead congregations and consecrated nuns to help them, often despite opposition from their families.  He evangelized even the sons of local kings who resisted his work as a challenge to their authority.  When those kings and other officials tried to buy Patrick’s favor with money, he chose not to accept it, to make clear his loyalty to Christ alone.  His teaching and writings were at times met with insult and ridicule.  He reported that some of his converts were taken and held as slaves by pagan kings.  On multiple occasions, Patrick was arrested, beaten, robbed, and threatened with execution. 
Saint Patrick      Despite that strong opposition, Patrick persisted and is credited with “introducing Christianity to Ireland.”  Part of his success in that is attributed to the six years he spent there in his youth as a slave, during which he learned the culture, idiosyncrasies, fears, and superstitions of the people.  Knowing those things enabled him to tailor his message and work to address them with Christ’s Truth.  Part of his genius was his incorporation of Irish culture and symbols into Christian worship and practice without trying to eradicate them, but also without allowing them to alter or supplant the message of the Gospel.  Over the years, Patrick became recognized as “the father of Irish Christianity,” but he was never canonized as a saint by the Church because that formal process did not exist until hundreds of years later.  Nevertheless, he has for centuries been considered a saint “by popular acclamation.” 
Blessed are those Persecuted for Righteousness        Reading about St. Patrick sounds very similar to the apostle Paul’s description of the hardships he encountered in his life of ministry (II Corinthians 4:8,9 and 11:21-28) – imprisonment, beatings, shipwreck, robbery, hunger, and betrayal by false Christians.  In my view, both of those men are lived examples of the truth of the eighth Beatitude.  When many people read the words of Matthew 5:10, their first reaction is “that can’t be right — no one enjoys being mistreated, especially for doing something good.”  The blessedness of this Beatitude, however, comes not in sensory enjoyment, but in the joy of knowing God’s presence and help when obediently expressing his sacrificial love in a way that provokes opposition from his eternal enemy.  Just like the previous Beatitudes, this one rests and builds upon the Truth and spiritual depth gained by climbing all the previous steps into the spiritual life of God’s kingdom.
             In my non-theological, non-academic way of expressing the big picture, God created a world in which righteousness was the norm and standard.  The angel Lucifer and his followers rebelled against that and got expelled from God’s presence for their failed attempt to overthrow him (Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18).  They have continued working at that ever since.  Because Satan now has no access to God, he does the next best thing to hurt the Lord – he attacks human beings, created in God’s image and loved so much that Jesus died for them.  He seeks to separate people from God and goads them into participating in his persecution of those who live for God.
Light Offends Darkness    So wrote Methodist professor Gene Davenport in Following the Call.  He points out that Christians’ calling is to carry mercy into mercilessness, purity into duplicity, and peacemaking into violence.  We must know in advance that those ministries will provoke a hostile, angry response from Christ’s enemy and people who are invested in the ways of this world.  Darkness seeks to destroy light, not just ridicule it.  We must not be surprised that spiritual faithfulness makes us vulnerable to persecution from this world’s “powers.”  Committed discipleship threatens the world’s ideology, values, social structures, and “systems.”  Shortly before his assassination while preaching in El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Romero said that “the Church will suffer for speaking Truth, for denouncing and uprooting sin.  Discipleship has costs.”  Even in dark times, Jesus’ followers still can by faith rejoice in the blessedness that Light’s promised life and deliverance are already breaking in.
It’s a Way, Not a Competition       Clarence Jordan in Sermon on the Mount points out that Jesus’ disciples don’t go out trying to get persecuted, or more persecuted than the next guy.  It’s just that, to people who are loyal above all else to themselves and to the world’s ways, Christian discipleship appears to be subversive and dangerous, and that evokes strong opposition.  Jesus often warned the disciples of the difficulty of following him, but he constantly prepared them to resist sin’s opposition, and he promised he would always accompany them by his Spirit to help them.  In Jordan’s assessment, the intensity of the persecution Christians receive is not determined by the low level of morality of the persecutors, but by the high standard and “intensity of the Christian community’s witness.”  He summarizes his thoughts with two questions:  “Do we get off so easy in our time because our light is so dim that the persecutors don’t notice it?  What are we Christians doing at present that is worth persecuting?” 
It’s About Jesus, Not About Me       In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who received the ultimate persecution of being executed for opposing Hitler) stressed that living the Beatitudes life shames the worldly without even trying to do so.  Merely seeing a reminder of how God created life to be lived, in contrast to their personal reality, can evoke insults, slander, anger, and violence from them.  Bonhoeffer saw that their hostility was actually (but unknowingly) directed at Jesus.  It just got expressed toward his followers.  Bonhoeffer urged his friends to remember that just as Jesus took the penalty of their sin upon himself, we are now privileged to bear people’s reproach and disdain meant for Christ when he is seen in our witness, character, and living.  That is how the disciples responded in Acts 5:41 after being insulted and flogged for speaking about Jesus – they “left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
On a trip to Ethiopia in 1987, Pam and I got to have dinner with a few Ethiopian Mennonites who were quietly working to keep their church viable during the regime of an oppressive military government.  They all had jobs and families, but it was clear that their Christian discipleship was central to their lives.  A number of their members had been imprisoned in recent years for the crime of gathering for worship in a group larger than a handful.  Some of those we met were actively caring for the families of some of those imprisoned brothers and sisters.  They were able to meet only in private homes in very small groups.  We were deeply moved and impressed by their courage and the quiet joy they conveyed despite their harsh daily reality.  We were even more impressed when they told us that their church had never been as strong before the repressive government came in as it was at that moment, during that regime.  They sounded a bit like those disciples in Acts 5.  They were living the Beatitudes life and were experiencing its promised blessedness, despite the risks they were required to take. Their witness and lives were a testimony to us that Jesus’ words were just as true in the 20th century as they were in the 1st.  We all now have the opportunity to show others that they are still true in 2024.  The way to begin is to take the first steps in the Beatitudes stairway to the spiritual life, and keep on climbing.  Let’s do that.  Let’s be Friends.
–Ron Ferguson, 17 March 2024
Queries for Worship-Sharing and Reflection
1)  What about the life of St. Patrick do you find most encouraging or inspiring?
2)  Why do you think the Ethiopian church was stronger under a repressive government than under political freedom?
3)  Describe a time when you experienced, or saw someone else experience, mistreatment due to spiritual witness.
4)  How would you answer Clarence Jordan’s two queries at the end of the “It’s a Way.…” paragraph above?
 Sermon on the Mount Series Links
Sermon on the Mount Series #1 – Diamonds Aren’t Forever 
Sermon on the Mount Series #2 –  Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
Sermon on the Mount Series #3 –  Blessed are the Meek


May 7, 2023
150th Celebration
April 30, 2023 150th Celebration with Jay Marshall, speaker
Winchester Friends Meeting, est. 1873
Celebrating 150 Years of Ministry
Meeting for Worship      April 30, 2023

With Guest Speaker Jay Marshall
Friends Minister, Author, Seminary Dean (ret.)
When the Spirit Calls
I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost.  There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how he will answer my complaint.
Then the LORD said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.
This vision is for a future time.  It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.  If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.  It will not be delayed.
Look at the proud!  They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked.  But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.”
Habakkuk 2:1-4, New Living Translation
Queries for Reflection and Response
1. What is the call or sense of mission that motivates you personally? What motivates the Meeting?
2. What are some of the ways you have learned to discern what is from God and what is simply chatter?
3. What made the memorable occasions that have shaped your understanding of faith and ministry?
4.  If you are a reflection of the five closest people in your life, what are you reflecting?
5. Imagine for a moment that you have climbed a watchtower in downtown Winchester.  Where could the Meeting’s gifts bring hope and healing to the community?
If You Could See What I See
All of my life I have dreamed that somehow love would find me
Now I can’t believe you’re standing here
If beauty is all in the eye of the beholder
then I wish you could see the love for you that lives in me
And you would know you have my heart, if you could see, what I see
That a treasure’s what you are, if you could see, what I see
Created to be the perfect one for me, if you could see, what I see
I know there are days when you feel so much less than ideal
Wondering what I see in you
It’s all of the light and the grace your belief in me drives me to say
That I promise you a faithful love, forever true
If you could see then you’d understand why I fall down to my knees
And I pray my love will be worthy of the One who gave his life
so our love could be, if you could see what I see
You’re created to be the perfect one for me, if you could see what I see
If beauty is all in the eye of the beholder,
then I am beholding… true beauty
–Geoff Moore (CCLI 649965), sung by Judi Marshall
We Are Called
Come, live in the light!  Shine with the joy and the love of the Lord!  We are called to be light for the Kingdom, to live in the freedom of the city of God. 
We are called to act with justice; we are called to love tenderly.  We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.
Come, open your heart!  Show your mercy to all those in fear.  We are called to be hope for the hopeless so hatred and violence will be no more….. 
Sing!  Sing a new song.  Sing of that great day when all will be one.  God will reign, and we’ll walk with each other as sisters and brothers united in love….  We’ll walk humbly with God…..
–David Haas, based on Micah 6:8; arr. Mark Hayes  (CCLI 649965)
Winchester Friends Ministry & Oversight
State of Society Report – Annual Report for 2020-2021
June 2021/ October 3, 2021
Lives That Speak
Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your  carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone….       –Friends founder George Fox
As the Ministry & Oversight began discussing the state of spiritual life at Winchester Friends at the close of the 2020-2021 church year, it was nearly impossible to think about the past twelve months in any framing other than that of the changes caused and necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Each M&O member offered reflections on what they have observed and sensed about our life together in the past year, and their hopes for the days yet to come.  The following is a summary of their thoughts.
Trials of 2020-2021    For all of us, the past year was one of significant losses and profound sorrow.  At least fifteen participants in our faith community tested positive for coronavirus infection and experienced various degrees of illness.  A number of our Friends lost close or extended family members to COVID or other causes during the year and often did not have the comfort of gathering to mourn together.  Added to that was the sadness of watching the number of pandemic deaths in the US steadily climb past half a million.  It was a year of lost chances for close fellowship, handshakes and hugs, a long period of isolation and loneliness.  One M&O member compared it to the pupae stage of a butterfly’s life when the caterpillar “shelters in place” inside the chrysalis to await favorable conditions outside.  It was a year without the encouragement of singing “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together” (Colossians 3:16).  Many ministry activities had to be suspended, meaning lost inertia and momentum.  In some cases, people who may have had only minimal interest in participating in the Meeting simply withdrew and have not reappeared.  Because the pandemic changed so many things in our lives, we all were required to expend large amounts of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy to accomplish in different ways what used to be fairly simple, routine tasks.  Work, school, social, travel, and meeting schedules were disrupted, with resumption in many cases still uncertain, making planning very difficult.  In the community and society beyond the Meeting (and potentially within as well), economic stress and civil unrest have led to fraying of the social fabric in ways that make many relationships tenuous.
Encouraging Surprises of 2020-2021     The M&O clerk pointed out that none of us should be surprised that the pandemic has not changed God.  For those who have remained engaged and have continued seeking the Lord, the pandemic has provided a new or renewed sense of God’s identity and character.  Technology was adopted and adapted to our Meeting’s unique needs in a way that has allowed us to maintain relationships and a surprisingly deepened sense of community.  In the butterfly analogy, meeting by Zoom has helped break open the isolation of the chrysalis stage to make new life possible. The shift to a worship-sharing format on Sunday mornings has found encouraging success in nudging Friends to be participators rather than spectators, and it has taught us to listen more carefully for “that of God in others.”  Meeting via Zoom has made it possible to welcome local newcomers, distant former Friends and family members, and other faraway friends into our fellowship in meaningful, delightful ways that none of us had imagined before the pandemic necessitated these changes.  Despite the financial uncertainties and hardships that the pandemic has imposed on so many people and organizations, the Meeting’s finances have remained healthy due to the faithful generosity of so many of our Friends.  That consistent support has given us confidence to continue sharing resources from the Best Trust to help “make Christ’s love tangible and visible” in the community and world around us.
Outcomes of 2020-2021      The past year has given us – and all in the Meeting, we hope – a deepened sense of Christ’s faithful presence with us and care for us, no matter how dire our circumstances might get.  Worship in a more semi-programmed manner than before has shown many Friends the importance of giving verbal witness of God’s love and Truth within our fellowship when the Spirit prompts them.  That hopefully has strengthened and improved their ability to do the same in their relationships beyond the Meeting.  Our meetings for worship online have shown the importance of engaged participation by everyone, whether verbal or not – the things said by many Friends on Sunday mornings are most meaningful when heard and absorbed by everyone.  Hopefully we will move into 2021-2022 with a new realization of the importance of showing up consistently, whether we end up sharing what we have learned, or we listen deeply to the helpful words of other Friends.  Each of us has learned many things about ourselves and our calling to daily ministry during the “inactivity” of the pandemic months.  If we’ll let it, that knowledge should equip us for effectiveness in the new environment of the upcoming church year.  Returning to the butterfly analogy, the caterpillar-transformed-into-a-butterfly hangs in the opened chrysalis, gaining final form and strength to prepare for flight.  That is the hopeful picture of Friends being readied to begin “walking cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone” – letting Christ’s light shine through us, letting our lives and our living speak (Luke 8:16) in the world that the pandemic has left for us to inhabit.
Hope for 2021-2022      The Ministry & Oversight members are determined to learn and grow from the hard lessons of 2020-2021, and not to squander the unexpected blessings and opportunities that have come out of the unprecedented church year just completed.  We desire to remain highly attentive to the Lord’s constant, consistent presence.  We acknowledge that although we do not yet know everything we will need to understand for effective ministry in the post-pandemic world, we know we cannot just go back to what was “normal” before.  We acknowledge that it will require the input and participation of every Friend in the Meeting if we are to successfully fulfill the Lord’s desires for our faith community.  We gratefully recognize that the blessings we have enjoyed during the difficult past year are due in large part to a core of Friends who have remained committed to the Meeting and its ministries.  They have done so because of their love for the Lord who has saved us, their love for one another in this community of believers, and their dedication to our shared spiritual life.  Moving forward, we hope to find relevant new ways of letting Christ’s timeless light of love and Truth shine through us.  We long to help the minimally involved to renew their seeking.  We desire to welcome the uninvolved to discover the benefits of living by faith – especially young adults and families in this overly secular era for whom the pandemic has been a rude awakening to human frailties and mortality.  Like the butterfly that has been protected and nurtured inside the chrysalis, we know we must in faith release our grip on the refuge of “what has been” and fly into the unknown future in order to fulfill God’s calling and purpose for us.
We invite every Friend in the church to join us in that journey.  Like Paul appealing to the Corinthians (I Cor. 2:1), we cannot depend on eloquent words or superior human knowledge (or slicker technology and flashy entertainment).  We welcome you just to let your daily lives speak, both in words and actions, of God’s love, Truth, and presence.  As George Fox discovered, it’s the way God enables us to “walk cheerfully” throughout our lives, and to forge rich connections with others who desire to know and live for the Lord.  In the world’s present turmoil, he needs every one of us to get involved.  Thank you for letting your lives speak in ministry through Winchester Friends.
Winchester Friends Ministry & Oversight, June 2021:  Cleo McFarland, clerk;  Sharon Reynard; Dave Longnecker; Linda Groth;  Doug Baker;  Ellen Craig;  Marsha Kritsch, ex officio;  Pam Ferguson, ex officio;  Ron Ferguson, ex officio
 Lives That Speak — Lives of Resilience and Hope
The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery (of the king’s dream).”       –Daniel 2:47
Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants!  They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”           –Daniel 3:28  
Let your light shine before people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. 
–Jesus, Matthew 5:16        
Today is World Quaker Day, an initiative of the Friends World Committee for Consultation to remind Friends that in every time zone around the world on the first Sunday of October, Quakers will gather in the presence of the Spirit of Christ.  We meet to worship the Lord who unites us in a global community of faith, and to pray for one another’s effective witness in the challenges and opportunities we face.  Clearly with the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises in mind, FWCC selected “Resilience and Hope:  Drawing Strength from our Faith” as the theme for World Quaker Day 2021.  As in the past several years, Winchester Friends’ Ministry & Oversight has chosen to present their State of Society Report for the recently-completed church year during worship on World Quaker Day.  The theme of their report (“Lives That Speak”) turned out to dovetail almost seamlessly with FWCC’s focus, and with the past week’s Through the Bible chapters centered in the Book of Daniel.
Daniel was one of Judah’s young “best and brightest.”  He and hundreds of other skilled and educated Hebrews were exiled to Babylon in 605 BC after the Babylonian army forced the surrender of Jerusalem, helped themselves to Judah’s treasures, and turned Judea into a client state.  Part of Nebuchadnezzar’s strategy for keeping conquered nations weak was to deplete their human capital as well as their treasury.  Daniel and three other young Hebrews featured in the first half of the Book of Daniel – Hananiah (Babylonian name Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) – were chosen to undergo three years of language and other training to become servants in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace (Dan. 1:3,4).  As part of that assignment, they were fed rich food and wine from the king’s own table, food that had been offered to idols and included things that violated the dietary instructions of Moses’ Law.  Rather than follow orders and spiritually defile himself, Daniel resolved to obey God and requested permission from their Babylonian boss to eat only vegetables and drink only water.  The Babylonian feared he would be blamed for underfeeding the Hebrews, but he reluctantly agreed to a test.  After ten days, the Judeans looked and performed better than their counterparts who ate the rich food.  Their diet was switched, and at the end of their training years the king found them superior to all his other wise men and advisors.  Their lives spoke.
When I was around five years old, I watched “Popeye the Sailor Man” cartoons on TV each Saturday morning.  My brother and I became convinced that if we ate enough canned spinach, we too could get strong enough to rip the top off a can and eat the contents like a beverage.  We got our mother to fix us some spinach.  After I had choked down a couple of spoonsful, I went outdoors to play and saw our neighbor Mr. Carmichael working on his lawn mower in his driveway.  I ran over and told him I had eaten some spinach and was now as strong as Popeye.  I asked him if he wanted to see.  He didn’t reply right away, so I flexed my skinny biceps for him, then slugged him on the shoulder.  I was only five, but I’d bet it hurt a little.  I am horrified every time I remember that incident.  It makes me wonder how many parents persuaded little kids to eat canned spinach by telling them they’d be strong like Popeye.  They probably should have told us more about the virtues of Olive Oil.  I’m pretty sure that my siblings and I were told the Bible story of Daniel and his friends a few times, too, to persuade us to eat our vegetables and stay away from wine.
Daniel 2 tells the story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling dream, and his demand that his advisors tell him both what he had dreamed and what it meant.  When the advisors had no idea what the dream had been, the king ordered them all killed (including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego).  Daniel was given a chance to plead his case with the king and was allowed time to seek the Lord.  After the Hebrews prayed, the Lord revealed the complicated dream and its meaning to Daniel.  When he laid that all out to Nebuchadnezzar, the king acknowledged the sovereignty of Yahweh (Dan. 2:47, above) and spared the lives of his wise men.  Daniel 3 tells us of Daniel’s three friends’ courageous refusal to bow in worship to a statue of Nebuchadnezzar, even on the threat of death.  After the Lord miraculously accompanied them through the fiery furnace and enabled them to emerge unscathed, the king again praised Yahweh’s omnipotence (3:28, above).  Several years later, following the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon, their ruler Darius made Daniel one of the most powerful administrators in his kingdom (Daniel 6).  Other officials, jealous of Daniel’s power and friendship with Darius, fooled the king into signing a decree sentencing to death in a lions’ den anyone who prayed to any deity other than Darius.  Daniel’s life had spoken.  They knew he prayed three times daily towards Jerusalem — the City of Zion where the presence of Yahweh dwelt — and would not cease doing so.  He was arrested and thrown into the lion’s den, but God “sent his angel and shut the mouths of the lions.”  Darius witnessed Daniel’s miraculous survival and issued a decree praising Yahweh as the one true God (6:26,27).
In young adulthood, Daniel and his three friends were forced into a horrible situation they never would have chosen.  Rather than giving in to Babylonian cultural religion and surrendering their deepest identity as children of the Living God, they held tenaciously to their faith and made the best of their difficult circumstances.  They were resilient.  In faith, they never gave up hope that God would allow the Hebrews to return to Jerusalem and Judea, and would help them live more faithfully than the people had whose disobedience and idolatry led to Israel’s captivity.  Their determination to obey the Lord in all things first, then deal with whatever consequences resulted, spoke volumes about God and about themselves to anyone who was paying attention. 
We in 2021 face a combination of challenges – pandemic, climate crisis, economic upheaval and disparity, armed conflict, social and racial injustice — that may add up to nearly equal those which faced the Hebrew exiles.  And due to modern communications technology, a lot more people are now paying attention.  The Lord’s message to us today through Daniel’s examples is that the resilience, hope, and resolve to “seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness” which they displayed 2600 years ago are still available to all who wish to live lives that speak to others of God’s holiness, loving compassion, and eternal promise.  All he needs is our invitation to allow his Spirit to live fully in us.  Let’s help one another to let our lives speak for God in all we are, in everything we do.
–Ron Ferguson   3 October 2021
Queries for Worship-Sharing and Reflection
1)  What have been your greatest trials or discouragements of the past 18 months?  How has God helped you with them?
2)  What do you think “spiritual resilience” and “spiritual hope” will look like in 2021 and beyond?
3)  What encouraging surprises or positive changes have you experienced in the last 18 difficult months?
4)  Why is it important to consider what others will conclude about God and faithful living when they watch how I live?
5)  What are your most fervent hopes as the world and our community slowly emerge from these months of pandemic?
Winchester Friends Church           765-584-8276
124 E. Washington St.      Winchester, IN  47394