A Harvard student protects the candle flame from the wind during a vigil calling for peace in Ukraine, March 1. The Rev. Brenda Ann Brown, Pastor of the Massachusetts Avenue Baptist Church, asks for a moment of silence for the embattled country during her sermon Sunday. Photo by Jeffrey Blackwell/Memorial Church Communications.
By the Rev. Brenda Ann Brown,
Pastor of the Massachusetts Avenue Baptist Church
(The following is a transcript from the service audio)
It is good to be in the House of the Lord, one more time. If you agree with me, just say, amen.
And just let me prepare you, I am a Baptist preacher, so I like talking back to me. Amen? Amen. I am glad when they said onto me, let us go into the house of the Lord and we are in the House of the Lord this morning. If you don't mind, if you could stand with me for a brief minute in solidarity to Ukraine. (silence) Amen. Amen.
I've already given my thank you's this morning. I'm not going to long with you but I know I have a word from the Lord. I am Brenda Brown, Reverend Brenda Brown and I am the pastor of the Massachusetts Avenue Baptist Church which is right down the street in Cambridge, in Central Square Area. And it's good to be with you on today and to be with this wonderful congregation. And we've already said our prayer and I've already greeted you so let's go to the matter at hand.
I would like to start with this morning, as we read our scripture, and our scripture came this morning from Daniel. Daniel, chapter five. In Daniel, chapter five, there's a lot of things that went on but this morning, I'm just here to encourage you and to remind you that regardless of what it looks like, he is still in the midst. He is in the midst.
This is the most distracted that we have been or we have seen as a people that I could remember. There's things that's happening all around us. On top of us, on side of us. We are dealing with one thing or the other. We have a cell phone in one hand and a steering wheel in the other. We are waving to say “goodbye” and we are waving to say, “come forth.” And with all of that we've got going on, many of us get the news via internet or cell phones and just for three minutes, there is distraction.
There's a distraction that we're going through and still going through in a virus. There's a distraction with a war that's going on. But I want to get with our texts. Things have belong in the House of the Lord these days are now become trivialized by the Babylonians.
My brothers and sisters, God would quickly have something to say about it. God will quickly move to remind politician figures that God is still in control. If you're with me, just wink. I know we are in Harvard that you can't clap your hands, or if you can do it because we are free. I just want to let you know, in the midst, God is still on the throne. I could hear his voice from heaven, reminding the Babylonians during the midst of unrest, "Yes, that I am God. I am God."
Between the end of Daniel chapter four and then to chapter five, a time period of about 30 years elapsed and nestled between the chapters. A number of things change in this period of time. We see King Nebuchadnezzar had died and the crown of the world empire has passed on to his grandson. After changes that have been placed and definitely changes for the worst. In the midst, there's a prophet.
How many you know that in all the stuff that we go through, that he's in the midst? You don't even know who you sitting next to unless you came in the church with them or from your home. But you could be sitting right now next to an angel that somebody... that God had sent to deliver you or to comfort you. There's always a ram in the bush.
Daniel was Nebuchadnezzar’s right hand mind, ruler over the entire Province of Babylon. He has heard Daniel but wanted nothing to do with him. Daniel is a prophet of the Lord and he represented the word of God. His absence from the court of Babylon means the absence from God's word in the court. Don't you know that we are living in a time that we need to hear a word from the Lord?
My message this morning, that regardless of what happens, he's in the midst. But while he's in the midst, my brothers and sisters, there's something that we've got to take responsibility of. When we, as a people of a nation, turn our back on God, we are treading on dangerous waters. When we accept anything and stand for nothing, we are treading in dangerous waters. When programs are more important than worship, we are treading on dangerous waters. When we want more from the choir on Sunday morning than the preached word, we are treading in dangerous waters. I know this don't happen here but in my church it happens. In my church, we want to hear the choir. In my church, we want to dance and slide and miss the word of the Lord. In those instances, we are treading in dangerous waters.
Fact, Chapter Five, there are several concurrent events taking place while Balthazar is busy feasting with the nobles, wives, and concubines. The Army of Persia outside the walls of Babylon planning their assault in the city. The king was convinced and laughed at the invasion. Judgments are all about the fall. Yet people are merry and worshiping their own Gods. We see that today. We see that today. We worship cars, we worship investments, we worship children, but the one that we should worship is the Lord god Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. We barely, if at all, bow our heads in public prior to consuming a meal. As I said downstairs, I'm just a little bit over 21. Talk to God about it. But I remember as a child, we had to bless our food before we eat it. Sometimes I look at my grandchildren and I says, "You're forgetting something, give thanks.” We easily forgo prayer in our community or our auxiliary meeting. As I travel, I've heard complaints that we pray too long in church. It’s an act of embarrassment to pray in public places.
But let me fast forward this morning. The sins of Balthazar was that he used holy things for his own benefit, you heard it in the reading, and not for God and not for what God has intended. We, too, have taken things of God and all often do nothing more than play church. I am amazed at some of the things that I see go on in church in the name of God. Balthazar orders some cup that were a part of the temple treasures from Jerusalem, that were captured by Nebuchadnezzar. To be brought to him. What, for a party? Where they are used to drink for toast for their Gods. As this was going on, there appear to be a mysterious hand. Hand who wrote four words. Look at your neighbor in your mask and say, "The handwriting is on the wall". I don't hear you. “The handwriting is on the wall.”
I told you, I'm a Baptist preacher. If you want me to continue, keep going. The handwriting is on the wall. Come on now. Balthazar and the party goers grew fearful. He gathered musicians and astrologers. We always wanted somebody else to tell us what God is doing. Have you ever sat someplace? And you knew you heard the voice of the Lord, but you want la-di-da-ti and everybody to convince you that is the voice of the Lord. When God speak, he will speak to you, and you only. They call for astrologers and musicians. We are living in a time that we don't need an astrologer. We don't need a musician. What we need is a word from the Lord. Right now, we need a word from the Lord. He've got astrologers and musicians and tried to push them to read the handwriting on the wall.
I know when I was a kid and I was in school and you know I am a procrastinator, and I asked the Lord to deliver me from it. I know that I will have homework and it's due in a week and I wouldn't do the homework until that week, but I could see that the handwriting was on the wall. And it didn't send me to go ask the teacher, it didn't tell me to go ask my mama, all I had to do was do what I needed to do. Why? Because the handwriting was on the wall. In this scripture, we talking about the handwriting of the Lord. Don't you know, when the party crusher is God, that God will do what He want to do? Why would he do what he want to do? Because my brothers and sister, he is still the healer. He is still our redeemer.
He is still our savior. He is still the one that sits high and look low. I could hear my God saying, "I am in the midst". On this Lenten season, as we are talking about mask, no mask, vaccine, no vaccine, some of us has never been farther than an undergrad but all of a sudden we become doctors and lawyers and we know. No! We need to turn to the Lord. Why? Because he's in the midst.
Suddenly, suddenly God crashes the party in the midst. And he did it in a dramatic fashion. Sometimes, we need to... God need to get our attention. These folks were worshiping their own God. They were doing anything that they want to do. They were having a party. How many times you students are having a party in your dorm room and all the sudden you hear the RA knocking? How many times, how many times you've been to a party and you said this is my last one? And two hours later, somebody got to pilot you home. How many times has this happened?
Well, in the scripture, we see that there is a party crasher and every so often in our lives. We need somebody to play knock, knock? Who's there? The savior. With the handwriting on the wall, nobody, no face. There were nobody. It was no face just to write it. I don't know about them but they would've scared the bejeezus out of me. For me to look up and there's a... I'm having a good old time, my way. And all of a sudden, there's a handwriting on the wall. God knows where I would've been. The handwriting on the wall... Daniel, remember Daniel, the prophet. He was not invited to the party. He was not invited to the party but when God intervened on one, he was the only one that answers. He answers.
I'm here to tell you this morning, for this short, short few minutes be encouraged, be of good cheer, keep your focus. We are so distracted that we are off focus. We are looking at this and we are looking at that while the Lord is still in our midst. While the Lord is still with us. It may look gloom and doom but he's in the midst. Don't discount our savior. I don't know about you this morning but he woke me up this morning and he started me on my way. He put food on the table. I've got a hand that I could praise God. I got a month that I could give him the praise. Why? Because he is still my savior. He is in the midst. He's said in the word of God that "I will never leave you or forsake you". And we serve a God. It's not about people, it's not about color, and it's not about party. I am standing here this morning, addressing my brothers and my sisters that the Lord has given me.
Isn't he good? Isn't he good? Do not be discouraged. He said that he will always take care of you. My brothers and my sisters, the God that delivers. I said, Jacob, the God, that looked at the three boys in the lion’s den is the God that with us today. If you keep your focus on Him, he will, he will take care of you. He is the God that has no astrologer, no musician. And do you know, if you get to know the Lord for yourself, He will whisper to you. He will comfort you. He will see you through. My message to you this morning, he is in the midst. And we will pray for our brothers overseas. It look bad, it so bad, it feel bad. But my God of mercy, he is in the midst. Be of good courage.