First Parish Congregational Church
United Church of Christ, Yarmouth Maine
Rev. Kate Dalton
July 14, 2019
Scripture: Bel and Dragon v1-11, Numbers 21:8-9
Take a few moments and in your mind run through this past week. Make a note of what you did each day. Start with last Sunday – maybe you were here in worship, maybe not. What took up your time? Move on to Monday. Maybe you have a job that you go to most days. Maybe you have kids that are in camp or worse yet at home for the summer. Maybe you volunteered here at First Parish getting ready for the Clam Festival. Take note of how you spent your time on Monday and then move on to the rest of the week – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
Now take a moment and consider – was this a typical week for you or was something different? Note anything that was out of the ordinary and what might have been more typical.
Make yourself a little summary. Categorize how you spend your time. Put the items in order – what takes up the most time, what takes up the least?
Now think about what each category says about your values. If you give your time to something – chances are you are motivated by some underlying belief about the value of the activity. So, think about the values that inform how you spend your time. For example – work. You might give time to work because you believe your work makes a difference in the world and you value giving back. You might also value being economically self-sufficient. You might value having financial resources to fund your kids’ activities. Or you might just value having something to do – not being idol with your time.
This morning’s story is a familiar theme in Christian scripture. Cyrus the Persian places his faith in a God named Bel. Daniel places his faith in Yahweh. Cyrus believes that Bel must be real – after all there is physical evidence. Daniel knows otherwise and concocts a plan to prove to the King that Bel is not what he seems.
Take a look at how you spend your time. What could it say about your faith? I’m not talking about do you go to church and pray without ceasing. I’m talking about what do your values say about how you understand the world.
Do you understand the world as a place where hard work and living right means you’ll live a good life? Do you understand the world as a place where life is unpredictable but you value following the laws of the land? Do you understand the world as a place where those who are “good” thrive and those who are “bad” suffer? What is your understanding?
Cyrus understood the world as a place where it was important to please Bel. He went to great lengths to please Bel – feeding him precious food and devoting time to his worship. Daniel understood the world as a place ruled by Yahweh. And so, Daniel gave his time to being in relationship with Yahweh.
Where do you give your time? What is valuable enough to you that you spend time on it?
There are of course endless articles about the false idols that people “worship” in 2019. Things that shape how people live their lives. But there was one article in particular that really resonated with me. The article , posted on Bob Russell Ministries website in 2016, asserts that the number one false God in America is….sports.
The article says,
Take note of how many people’s consuming passion is their favorite athletic team. They proudly wear the team colors and logo. They paste their team’s name on bumper stickers and brag about their team’s accomplishments – all at the risk of alienating fans of rival teams. But the same people are reluctant to ever share their faith in Christ lest someone be offended. They memorize statistics and hunger for more inside information about their favorite players to the point of idolizing them, but they get bored studying the Bible. It used to be that we worried about losing our kids to sex, drugs and alcohol when they went off to college. Now we lose them at a much younger age to traveling sports teams.
He goes on to share this from New Morning Mercies a daily devotional book by Paul David Tripp.
[Tripp writes] today the true love of your heart will be revealed by what you grieve and what you celebrate…Every day we are sad, mad, upset or disappointed by something, and every day we are excited, happy, joyful, pumped or thankful for something. It is at the intersection between sadness and celebration that the true love of our hearts is exposed.
Ours is a complicated world with many idols vying for our attention and devotion. It is easy to lose sight of God’s role in our lives and in the world. May our time here together help renew our connection to God and remind us where to focus as we have this human experience. May we know God’s presence as we continue to journey and find God in what brings us joy and sadness. Amen.