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The Feast of All Saints, 11/06/2016

Sermon on Daniel 7:1-3.15-17, by Samuel D. Zumwalt

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18 © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]


In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another... “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’




Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


Having experienced Hurricane Matthew and its aftermath with so much flooding and death in its wake. Having listened to far too many political ads in this silly American election season with fears of the apocalypse mostly from the strident left and mainstream media. This preacher thought of his adolescence during the Vietnam War at the end of the turbulent 60s. And John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Bad Moon Rising” came to mind. If you haven’t heard it in perhaps a thousand video soundtracks, then you’ve heard some version of it sung at a World Cup Football Match. (That’s soccer to us Americans). But...just in case...here’s a link to the VEVO version from 1969 with lyrics. If you’re a baby boomer, be sure to turn up the volume. Your hearing is going!




Whether Daniel was stuck in 6th century BC Babylon under Chaldean rule or, at a later date in the 2nd century BC, afraid of Antiochus Epiphanes IV (the Greek nutcase who thought he was the manifestation of Zeus as he ruled over the Holy Land from 175-164 BC), one thing is clear. Like John Fogerty, Daniel sees the bad moon arising. Daniel sees trouble on the way. Daniel sees earthquakes and lightning. Daniel sees bad times today. So...“Don’t go round tonight. It’s bound to take your life. There’s a bad moon on the rise”...OK. You get the point. Daniel was very, very disturbed by his vision of four different beasts. This cannot be good. And it’s not good when your minds are set on earthly things...which is a deadly problem. Could that be so in your life?


Like Daniel, many of us don’t like the visions of the future we are seeing. In my Texas childhood, in the fall of 1964, the unelected President of the United States was a Texan, Lyndon B. Johnson. His opponent was Barry Goldwater, and the Johnson camp put out TV ads that showed a little girl looking at a daisy, and then it was replaced by a mushroom cloud. The inference was clear. If you vote for Goldwater, your kids are going to have no future. If you vote for Goldwater, he’ll start a nuclear war that will end the world. Two years before that we had lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis when many adults wondered if we were all about to die from a Russian nuclear attack. I remember my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, doing duck-and-cover drills with us. A few years later we learned how ludicrous such an exercise was in the face of a nuclear attack. But in 1964, there were very, very scary political ads. If Goldwater is elected, you’re dead!


By the time I was in seminary in 1976, Barry Goldwater was a beloved senator. He was a funny commentator on current events. NBC newsman David Brinkley loved to have him as a guest during political conventions. Goldwater had a marvelous deadpan delivery. But, the political ads in 1964 said Goldwater was crazy, a warmonger, and dangerous. The Johnson people saw cataclysm if they did not hold on to power. And the American people bought it. Four years later, the elected President Johnson announced he wouldn’t run again for office. Why? The news media and especially fellow Texan Walter Cronkite declared the Vietnam War was unwinnable, and they made it clear Johnson was responsible for all of that. The media snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, and the North Vietnamese generals said so after it was all said and done. That’s a fact, Jack!


Scary political visions, like heresy, are often partly true. If they were completely false, nobody would pay any attention. Daniel didn’t understand why he was seeing four beasts rising from the sea. He had to have it explained. Four kingdoms would rule over the Holy Land: the current ruler, the Chaldeans (whose capital was Babylon); Persia, the empire that would conquer the Chaldeans; the Greeks, who would conquer Persia; and the Romans, who would conquer the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) in the 1st century BC.


Today leftwing politicians, academics, mainstream media, and liberal billionaires have poured millions of words and a small fortune into casting a scary vision of the future. Their hyperbolic language has been over-the-top even considering the source. Words and phrases like apocalyptic, dangerous, the end-of-democracy, and crazy have been used to describe one of those two unlikable major candidates. Everywhere these powerbrokers look they see a bad moon rising. Yes, there’s trouble on the way. They see hurricanes and lightning. They see bad times today. Yes, they’re stridently insisting: “Don’t go round tonight. It’s bound to take your life. There’s a bad moon on the rise.”


But...have you stopped to ask: “Why?” Have you stopped to ask: “What are they getting out of this? What are they so afraid of losing?” Isn’t it they’re afraid of losing their ability to use money to gain power and influence to force their vision of the world through appointing liberal judges who time and again have overruled the majority rule of the people? To have more judges like those responsible for allowing the murder of almost 60 million unborn Americans. If that number fails to stun and shock us, then how can we be stunned and shocked by all the other mass murderers and genocidal rulers that have killed millions? The tide in America is turning, and more Americans find abortion abhorrent than support it. Hundreds of thousands of mostly young people march each January in the March for Life, and the mainstream media never publicize that. And yet the rest of us are supposed to have our tax dollars used to support what we despise? And we are supposed to accept their subjective lies and reject the objective Truth that every life is precious, lovable, and valuable? They say we Christians are bad at science, and yet who is it that is rejecting the biology all the previous generations have known to be true?


Daniel had his scary vision explained. Yes, four empires will rule over God’s people for a time: the Chaldeans (Babylonians); the Persians; the Greeks; and the Romans. But God’s Kingdom is coming. God’s King is on the way. The saints of the Most High God will suffer for a time under the demonic powers and principalities that are mightier than flesh and blood even of those earthly foreign empires. But, then, “the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever!”


And God’s King did come to this world not too long after Daniel’s vision was explained to him. God’s King was conceived in the Virgin Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit. God’s incarnate Son Jesus grew for nine months in His mother’s womb. God’s King was raised in a pious Jewish home by His mother and her husband Joseph. God’s King did not amass wealth or earthly power like those elite powerbrokers in Washington, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, or Hollywood. Instead He grew up using His hands as a carpenter and for prayer and worship until His Mama told Him it was time to be King.


Jesus didn’t pull strings behind the scenes like George Soros and those of his ilk. Jesus didn’t tell lies and half-truths. He didn’t say whatever He thought people would like to hear in order to be popular. In fact, the more Jesus told the truth, because He is the Truth, the more people hated Him. Those scared powerbrokers thought they could throw Jesus out of the world He made. Their unbelief didn’t change God in the slightest! And God the Father raised God the Son from the dead through God the Holy Spirit. God the Father gave His Son the name that is above every name declaring Jesus Christ is Lord of all. Yes, the one true God who is a community within Himself was God, is God, and will be God when all this world’s powerbrokers are dust and ash along with all the empires and kingdoms of this world. The saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever. And not just later...but already...yes, now!


On All Saints Sunday at the 11 a.m. Eucharist in our parish, Katherine Elizabeth will be baptized with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. According to King Jesus, that’s how you are born from above by water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5) and that’s how you make disciples who will need godly parents, godly pastors, and godly Sunday School teachers to teach them all that Jesus commands (Matthew 28:16-20) .


As Blessed Martin Luther wrote of the 2nd petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.” How does God's kingdom come? “God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity” (Small Catechism).



And so you see, dear saints of God, who are still struggling against powers and principalities that are more powerful than mere flesh and blood but not more powerful than the one true God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). You are citizens by birth of earthly kingdoms that are passing away, but your true citizenship is in God’s Kingdom. And sometimes we don’t get good choices. Sometimes we have to go to the polls holding our noses and not like those sore loser former candidates who just can’t bear to cast meaningful ballots for flawed, sinful, and even unlikable candidates for public office.


We the flawed saints in the Church Militant don’t get to sit out elections when our citizenship is, by Baptism, in God’s Kingdom. We flawed saints have to look past all the lies, damned lies, and statistics to see what is at stake. We flawed saints have to look at party platforms and remember that politicians tend to support their party’s platform once they are elected. And then we flawed saints have to ask which candidates are more likely to protect the unborn of every race and every socioeconomic group and to protect the rights of ordinary pious parents like Mary and Joseph who want to raise their children to be good citizens of earthly kingdoms but even more faithful citizens of God’s Kingdom.


So...when you and I bring these flawed, empty uplifted hands to the Lord’s Table to receive Christ’s True Body and Most Precious Blood as the medicine of immortality, our King Jesus forgives our sins. He strengthens our weak knees and even our weaker resolve so we can go to our daily tasks including casting ballots for flawed earthly leaders. We can go without fear of the future (Romans 8:31-39). We can go without trusting in rulers who are earthborn and soon decay (Psalm 146). We can go without that hopelessness and despair that the old enemy uses to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10).


We are, by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, saints of the Most High who most certainly will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever. Because it already is ours in promise...and the Promissor who is risen from the dead will never let us go! Now who’s afraid of a bad moon rising when God’s Son is already risen?


In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt
Wilmington, North Carolina USA
E-Mail: szumwalt@bellsouth.net