Stories from the Night: Fiery Furnace - Reflections 5-31-17


 Daniel 3:1-29  

 My husband and I have a 2-acre prairie, aka a “native planting”.  When we first planted it (17 years ago!), we burned it off each fall. 

 Fire was a natural part of the native prairie ecosystem centuries ago, restoring nutrients and diversity. As fire was more and more suppressed, non-native plants – called exotic or invasive – out-competed the native grasses and flowers. We have had controlled burns for many years, at first to encourage our newly planted native area, and later, to maintain its health. In fact, we had one this past fall.

The final story of the Easter Vigil - and the final story of this series on the stories of the Vigil - is a story of fire.  Which, BTW, is kinda’ cool because this coming Sunday is also a story of fire – the fire of the Spirit swooping down on Jesus’ disciples to empower them to get moving.

The Vigil story is from the book of Daniel and is known as the Fiery Furnace. If you don’t know the story, do read it. It is written as a storyteller would tell it and just a delight to read, especially aloud. 

I also commend to you the Veggie Tale version called Rack, Shack, and Benny (Veggie Tales are animated vegetable morality tales, to borrow the description from a college student I knew). 

Each of the first 6 chapters of Daniel tells a story about 4 young Israelite men who are exiled because of war. Their captors changed their names to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They live far away from their home, their culture, and from their God - for the Temple of Jerusalem represented God’s presence. They were selected to serve in the court of Nebuchadnezzar so they live a pretty good life as far as captivity goes. These young men are exceedingly faithful to their religion even while living in a foreign place. These stories show what how to live faithfully in face of a system that goes against your beliefs and is politically oppressive.

That whole scene sounds like walking through fire, don’t you think? In the 3rd chapter of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego actually go through fire. They refuse to bow down to a golden idol of the society in which they serve. The consequence of their faithfulness to God as well as their political resistance, is death.  They are tossed into a furnace that burns extra hot. But… they live.

God wills life. That is what our 12 vigil stories tell us. Just when it looks like life has lost, God turns it all upside down, and life wins. Love wins. After the stories, we go to the font where we remember our own passage from death to life through baptism, and then hear the story of Life’s victory over death, a victory from which we all draw our life.


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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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