Weekly Sermons

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

SUNDAY, June 9, 2024

Sermon on the Mount Series

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

GOD said to Moses: “The tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly, fast, and offer a gift by fire to GOD.  Don’t work on that day because it is a day of atonement to make atonement for you before your GOD…. It is a Sabbath of complete and total rest, a fast day.         Leviticus 23:26-28,32  (The Message)
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven….  When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.          Matthew 6:1, 16-18
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.      I Corinthians 9:25
Hidden in Plain View:  Fasting
As we’ve already seen in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his listeners in Matthew 5:20 that to enter the kingdom of heaven, their righteousness must surpass that of their official religious teachers.  He said that the selfish, harmful inner motivations – not just the outward actions – of murder, adultery, broken covenants, revenge, and hatred of adversaries would have to be cleansed from their souls.  He taught them that true righteousness is only possible when outward compliance with the Law arises out of that replacement of sinful motives with inward devotion to God.  As Matthew 6 begins, Jesus then issued a general warning against the selfish pretense of performing outward acts of righteousness to be seen by other people in order to get praise for oneself.  He gave three specific examples they all had seen in the Pharisees and scribes of that quest for the acclaim of others – their prideful, public giving of alms to the poor and tithes to the temple treasury; their pompous, wordy praying in the temple and out in public; and their extra efforts to make sure people knew when they were fasting for religious reasons.
We all have probably had those days when we awaken feeling unwell or we haven’t slept well, and when we meet people while in that shape, they say (or at least think), “Are you OK?  You look terrible.”  Our face may be unwashed, our hair askew, our eyes puffy or droopy, our expression downcast.  They are visible signs that something isn’t quite right.  As his third example of “righteousness” performed to gain people’s praise, Jesus cited the religious teachers who went out of their way on fasting days to make themselves look like that.  They needed everyone to know they were feeling hunger’s discomfort by following the Law and the rabbis’ teachings.  It had little to do with devotion and obedience to God, but everything to do with selfish pride and reputation.
Does Fasting Really Matter?     People often ask why fasting was one of those three examples Jesus gave.  Unlike giving and praying, it’s not usually something to be done at church.  Most of the time, we feast, not fast.  Bible scholars point out that the only fast actually mandated in the Old Testament Law is the one which is part of the Hebrews’ annual Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27) as an expression of sorrow for sins.  By the time of Jesus 1400 years later, various rabbis and teachers had added other required fasting days to their definition of righteousness.  In Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), the proud Pharisee checked all three boxes.  He was at the temple praying, and he bragged to God about tithing ten percent of his income and fasting two days each week.  In contrast, John the Baptist’s followers came to Jesus (Matthew 9:14ff) specifically to ask why he and his disciples didn’t regularly fast.  Jesus answered with the illustration of new wine and wineskins to teach that his disciples would indeed practice fasting in their spiritual lives, but at the prompting of the living Holy Spirit, not as a rigid legal ritual.  
             Jesus is his own best example of what he meant.  After his baptism by John in the Jordan River, Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the desert” to be tested and trained for the ministry he came to earth to fulfill (Matthew 4:1-11).  The experience began with a 40-day fast (close to the human survival limit in sub-optimal conditions).  The very first temptation Satan then threw at him was to satisfy his physical hunger by using power over the Creation to turn stones into bread.  After that came temptations to use spiritual power to force God to save him, then to accept socio-political power in exchange for his soul.  To each offer, Jesus answered with eternal Truth which negated Satan’s attack and caused him to depart.  His fasting and prayer in the wilderness equipped Jesus to confront the most powerful basic temptations humans ever face, and to emerge victoriously enabled to announce and reveal the Kingdom of God.
Why Don’t Christians Fast?      When our Friend Richard Foster was doing research for his 1978 devotional classic Celebration of Discipline, he wrote that he could not find even one book published between 1861 and 1954 about fasting.  He cited two likely reasons for that gap.  First, emphasis on inner spiritual life waned among Christians during those years, and strict outward legalism took its place.  People reacted strongly against excessive fasting and other harsh treatment of the body, and fasting was largely abandoned.  Second, Foster pointed to “the landscape dotted with shrines to Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples,” and to the deluge of food advertising, as reasons people think fasting is “out of step with the times.”  Twenty years ago, our Meeting sponsored the “Fast Once A Month” project among area Friends to encourage prayer and fasting for the end of war and hunger.  At that time, people with chronic blood sugar problems let us know it was probably unwise and could be harmful to them to fast — and that is certainly a legitimate reason to abstain.   In more recent years, there has been a bit of renewed interest in fasting, but its motives tend to be more medical and social than spiritual.  It remains little wonder that our culture encourages the belief that indulging every human appetite is a positive virtue, and fasting is its opposite.
Why Would Christians Fast?      There are many reasons for us to practice this discipline.  As with giving and prayer, Jesus said in Matthew 6 “when you fast,” not “if you fast.”  He expected his disciples would do so after he returned to the Father (Matt. 9:16,17).  By his example, he taught them that voluntary sacrifice and voluntary suffering were part of God’s agape, the love they were to have for him, for one another, and for their neighbors.
             Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Cost of Discipleship that Christians need to learn spiritual fasting because self-control and self-discipline are such important parts of true discipleship, and without them it is difficult to train to serve Christ well.  Sinclair Ferguson concurs, writing that Jesus assumed his disciples would show an increasing mastery of their own desires, and that requires intentional effort.  Ferguson stressed that such discipline is not legalistic compliance, but rather eternal freedom from bondage to fleeting worldly pleasure.  In Celebration, Foster made a similar statement that part of the value of fasting is its ability to reveal the things that control us.  
             When Pam and I taught a relationship class to sixth graders many years ago, we always told the kids that scientists say our strongest biological drive is for survival, meaning air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat.  The second strongest drive is for procreation.  It stands to reason that learning to discipline the strongest drive should help us control that second-strongest one and others too.  That strikes me as a message our culture really needs to hear.
             In Sermon on the Mount, Clarence Jordan pointed out that the original motive for fasting on the Day of Atonement was the people’s deep sorrow upon realizing their own sinfulness, its effect on their relationship with Yahweh, and sin’s impact on everything and everyone around them.  It has been my personal experience that such sorrow robs me of my appetite for a time, and fasting occurs then as a natural result.  Jordan also wrote that he thinks the word “fast” came to be used as it is because God saw all the worldly distractions and impediments that slowed down people’s access to the good things he had prepared for them.  He wanted them to remove and withdraw from those worldly influences so they could “faster” receive his blessing, gifts, and instruction.
             Richard Foster lists a number of incidents in scripture in which God’s people fasted when faced with a crisis they didn’t know how to deal with (Joel 2:15, Jehoshaphat in II Chron. 20:1-4, Ezra 8:21-23).  Before risking her life to ask her king to stop the planned genocide of the Hebrews in Susa, Queen Esther asked Mordecai to have the people fast for three days and nights in supplication to God for her success – and the Israelites were saved. 
             In our Fast Once A Month project, participants are asked to skip a meal, offer its cost to a hunger relief agency, advocate for compassionate public policy, and to pray for the hungry.  Fasting from that meal helps the participant to show solidarity and compassion – to “feel with” – people who are hungry. 
             When his disciples were unable to exorcise a particularly aggressive evil spirit from a young boy (Mark 9:17ff), Jesus cast it out of the boy and restored his health.  The disciples asked Jesus why they had not been able to accomplish the healing, and some early biblical translations report that Jesus replied, “this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”  More modern translations omit “and fasting.”  Whether or not Jesus included fasting in that statement, he knew from experience that combining the two spiritual disciplines was exceptionally powerful in confronting the forces of evil. 
It Doesn’t Have to be Food      I have thought a lot over the years about the people whose health prevents them from spiritual fasting, wondering what alternatives we could suggest.  The more I think about it, the more I see that we all should consider fasting from a lot of benign or even good things which can so easily limit or crowd out devoted discipleship from our lives.  We all would probably benefit spiritually and in daily practical ways if we fasted regularly from some entertainments, from social media, fossil fuel use, consumption of things we want but honestly don’t need, and the “noise” of modern life.  How might your spiritual life improve if you fasted from the need for the approval of others?  How might our souls benefit if we fasted from our need to get our own way?  All of those things can be obstacles which block the Spirit’s access to our hearts, minds, and souls.  They should not control our friendship with the Lord.  We should control them.
Only For the Right Reason      It is important in closing to say again that Jesus’ main purpose for addressing giving, prayer, and fasting as a “package” in the Sermon was to contrast the religious teachers’ flamboyant, attention-seeking practices with the humble hiddenness God desired.  As stressed in previous devotionals, unless we are hermits, we often will be seen or heard giving, praying, and fasting, and it can be a beautiful prophetic witness of Christ’s life in us.  The caution of Jesus in Matthew 6:1 is about our motive – we must never do those things for the purpose of being seen by people.  If we do, their fleeting acknowledgment or praise is the only reward we’ll ever receive.  In contrast, giving, praying, and fasting for the Lord, and only for him, carries blessings and rewards that are both immediate and eternal.  In grateful love for his salvation and his acceptance of us as his children, let’s learn to live every moment for Christ, and only for him.
–Ron Ferguson, 9 June 2024
Queries for Worship-Sharing and Reflection
1)  Why do you think spiritual fasting is now considered “out of step with the times” by so many people, even Christians?
2)  Why is disciplined fasting a good preparation and training for a life of daily ministry for us, as it was for Jesus?
3)  What other things, besides those listed in the next to last paragraph, might be wise to fast from for our spiritual health?
4)  Why is it essential that spiritual fasting be grounded in, and give expression to, God’s sacrificial agape love?
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