Speak Up! Our World Can’t Wait

So, like, here’s my question. Have you ever been in a fix? In a pickle? In the soup? Anybody wanna name a time?

Oh, I imagine lots of us could say amen. Now here’s m’ next question. How many of us could say we’ve spent some time in the furnace? The fiery furnace! What was it [that] put you there? Doubt. Pain. Illness or diagnosis. ‘Some decision or dilemma. ‘Some urge to act or speak up, shut down by some need to stay quiet and take the safer course? Could it be your faith that licks like flames on the feet of your soul, convicted you need to bear a witness, but cowering at the thought, or in the moment? Hmmm… how many of us have been taught that silence is golden? Just as I thought: Scripture has something to say to that. Often, for God’s sake, for Christ’s sake… our silence is nothing more (or less) than fool’s gold! Our lessons today bear bold testimony that it’s time to speak up! ‘That the world can’t wait for us to speak, in the name and for the cause of Christ.

Three names we know (at least some of us). One, nobody knows, and yet he speaks for us and all time.  There’s dear old Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The Bible’s original Three Amigos. Then there’s the centurion, at the foot of the cross. ‘His name long gone. His word, out there on the wind, forever and ever. The amigos are Jews. Jews carrying out the business of overseeing other Jews in a foreign land, or under occupation. It’s a role played over and over, into modern times. Some might have thought them collaborators! Apparently not. They’ve done what was right for their people in God’s eyes. But that’s never alright with the man who would be king, Nebuchadnezzar. It never is. “These men, O king, pay no heed to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” Result: a furious royal rage. “Stoke up the furnace, Stanley, 7X hotter than hot!” (Ain’t that always the way?!) The other soul-to-sample today, belongs to the Captain of the guard. The centurion who sacrificed Jesus. ‘For much the same crime: failure to worship the idols of the day. ‘Insistence on “a more excellent way.” Well, it’s the centurion who gets it. And says it at the cross. THIS is God’s Son. Four souls, one commonality. Because the world can’t wait, they speak up, for heaven’s sake!

O, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. ‘Wouldn’t bow down to the petty princes and insistent idols of their ancient day. And for that, it’s into the oven, the MACROwave oven, 7X higher than high! But there’s a problem. A surprising problem. Not their problem but the king’s problem. Lookin’ into that Babylonian barbeque pit, he sees four figures loose. Unhurt. And the extra one looks a lot like a heavenly helper. Well anybody knows you can’t toast God! So out they come, spared becoming spare ribs! Hallelujah! Daniel goes on to say: even the king comes to praise God! Now I ask you. How is it we know this story? Was it only by Nebuchadnezzar’s decree? Shucks, he made many decrees! How many of his others do you know? (I got time. Just list’m!) Ahh, we are silent, but  S/M/A were not. We know because of what they told! …See, when the world presses in, everybody wants to know. “Is there anyone who will come to be with me in the heat and flame of that fiery furnace?!

Let there be a witness, even you and I dare to tell our testimony, and you’d be amazed at how many will come into the company of our God! Why Nebuchadnezzar himself will acknowledge God as the Most High! So… if you’ve ever been in a fix, a pickle, the soup, or the furnace… and right in the middle of it with you… you’ve seen an angel, felt the Presence, been touched by the Hand… and walked out and walked away… who(m) have you told?!

Speak up! The rest of us can’t wait! Lois can tell us! Gerry! Jim! John! Catherine! Bill and Ann, too! And somebody ask Traci & Ali about “another day in Paradise!” There’s somebody, near you, who needs to hear about the One who’s brought you outta the furnace. ‘Just so they too can stay cool, clutch the comfort and come out of that furnace of their own!

Our world can’t wait. God in God’s Self needs us to speak up. There are more kings than Nebuchadnezzar, more powers than penned in The Book of Daniel, more idols and pretenders than we can name. They all want our worship. Our praise. Our attention, our loyalty, our surrender, yes, even our souls. But maybe as much as anything, they want our silence. They don’t want us to expose them to the light of the Light of the World. Or reveal their utter lack of saving grace. The Cordish Companies have had their day in court. Their Arundel Mills Casino is a “go”, or so… it seems… if we who bear witness will just keep silent now. Surely BP would prefer no one give voice to the fish of the sea or birds of their air. (Sorry, Ps. 8) If we speak up about the wrongs we may see at work, our companies are more likely to open the furnace for us than to afford us a raise. Challenge a classmate about drugs, a school pal about cheating or a friend on facebook about what they reveal. Which is more likely: thank you or forget you?! “Shhh” has always been the devil’s desire for us. And that’s before we get to the great big things like war and peace, unnecessary hunger, undeserved illness and gratuitous suffering. I am reminded of powerful words from Elie Weisel. “Perhaps the first sin is to be indifferent to someone else’s hunger. For food, liberty, happiness, love, humanity itself .” [KH] For the hope to see God’s angel in the midst of their own fiery furnace! Weisel’s words would draw Jesus’ own amen, “To forget the victim is to kill twice.” This Auschwitz survivor bears a witness that is a severe mercy. “I’ve never doubted God’s existence, only his presence, his whereabouts!” O friends… in Jesus Christ, this is precisely our job, our mission. To tell God’s whereabouts! To bring and show God’s presence. To break the silence. Jesus says on the way to the cross, when implored to silence his followers, “I tell you if they were quiet, even the rocks would cry out!” I invite you in this hour to give the rocks the day off. Let’s us be the ones to speak to the furnaces, the Faithfulness of God in Jesus Christ!

Surely that brings us to the cross. And principally to Him who dies upon it, for the sins of the whole world, and for ours! He would not be silent! His last words from that place are recorded as a shout, not a whisper or a whimper! And that brings us to that anonymous centurion who said what no one else would dare. (We hardly ever stop to notice the risk in his remarkable refrain, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”) Only God knows where that soldier’d been. Traipsing the Mediterranean World in allegiance to an Emperor-god with no power to save. Inflicting punishment on behalf of the Peace of Rome that brought no peace. Wielding weapons that could kill, but not quell the will for something more. That nameless soul had many times looked into the fiery furnace, but this day, he finally saw that angel, that Son of God, face to face, with the power and the heart to bring him out, and us with him.

He could not be silent! Neither can we.

The world can’t wait. Speak up! Speak up! Speak up!

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