Sunday’s Scripture ~ Daniel 3:1-30
This week the Tuskawilla Community will be led in worship by our Children’s Theatre Group, which is part of the ever-growing TUMC Fine Arts Ministry. These pre-school, elementary, and middle school age students have met every Wednesday over the summer to study the scripts, scores, and Scriptures on which their musical – Survivor Babylon – is based. Many thanks to Tim, Hope, Diane, Samantha and all of the parents of our students that have worked together as a team to make this musical offering possible.
This Sunday we will see and hear a telling of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s time in the fiery furnace. These three faithful Jews would not bow down in prayer and worship to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image and were sentenced to die in a blazing furnace heated seven times hotter than its regular temperature. Three men were thrown into the fiery furnace, but four persons were seen in walking around in the fire. The fire did not harm Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego because of God’s security and provision. This was a miracle! And Nebuchadnezzer praised God for protecting these three men saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his messenger and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God” (Dan 3:28).
In 2011 I completed a 20-week chaplaincy internship in a Central Florida hospital. At one of the campuses I walked past a three-story tall painting depicting an operating room complete with medical personnel, equipment, and a patient. What stood out about this painting was that nestled between the doctor and nurse leaning over the patient was Jesus. Jesus was present in the operating room, not hugging a wall, but in the middle of the unfolding drama and life-saving work.
I always thought this painting was curious. It was one thing to think about Jesus’ presence in an operating room and it was another thing to see his presence physically depicted. It was astonishing. It stopped me in my tracks. I think my feelings were akin to those experienced by Nebuchadnezzer when he observed God’s presence protecting Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace.
The reality is that God is with us everywhere. Jesus is with us everywhere. We may not physically see our God with us, but this does not mean that God is not there. How would our outlooks change if we fixed our eyes on God in our midst rather than questioning where God is when we feel disconnected or alone? How would our actions change if we recognized God in our midst when our behaviors are not becoming of the gospel we claim as truth?
As I walked the corridors of the hospital I would see this and other paintings of Jesus “staring” at me at all times and in all attitudes – when I was happy to be there, when I would be happy to be anywhere but there, when I was tired, angry, broken, struggling, and weary. Looking at Jesus looking at me usually altered my outlook and attitude. Seeing Jesus filled me with hope. Seeing Jesus renewed my courage. Seeing Jesus reminded me that our God is Lord of all and is present in every circumstance.
God is always present. God is always protecting. God is always providing. God is so good. Let us join in praise with Nebuchadnezzer, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent – and sends – his messengers and delivered his servants who trusted in him.”
Prayer: “Be not dismayed whater’er betide, God will take care of you; beneath his wings of love abide, God will take care of you. Through days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you; when dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you. All you may need he will provide, God will take care of you; nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you. No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you; lean, weary one, upon his breast, God will take care of you. God will take care of you, through every day, o’er all the way, he will take care of you, God will take care of you.”* Amen.
*”God Will Take Care of You,” The United Methodist Hymnal 130.