- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Brian Clark at Riverside Presbyterian Church in Sterling, Va.

When we look at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego , we see three guys who knew how to live even when the furnace was hot. They didn't lose their way.
On vacation in Newfoundland, I continued my interest in reading about shipwrecks. It's amazing to learn that ships don't sink from the storm, but in the confusion afterward, when they lose their way. They crash on the rocks like those around that dramatic coastline.
We can lose our way, too, like the salesman who once told me of how he was struggling with his work. He would say anything, exaggerate, make promises — anything to close a deal. So I asked why he continued. "I can't not do it, or I'll lose my job, " he said. Think of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when King Nebuchadnezzar threw them into a flaming furnace. They knew where they were going. They knew something about how to live their life. My friend the salesman, even after he'd retired, was still bothered. He went through life without really living it.
Now, for our kids who take notes during the sermon, I'm going to make three points — things to know about life. You don't have to be thrown in the furnace to know that often people place ridiculous demands on you. Back in Babylon, things were fine until Nebuchadnezzar had a great idea. How many of you have had a boss who had a great idea? Well, the king decided to make a 90-foot gold statue of himself, and everyone would bow.
It was a crazy idea, but more crazy was that only three people disagreed. Maybe 100 others who worked for the king said, "OK, we'll go along and bow down." I believe that part of the stress of life comes from trying to live up to ridiculous expectations. We put those demands on each other, don't we? Even on the ones we love. Spouses on each other, parents on children.
The second point for our living is about the decisions we make. Decisions change how we live. Those who bowed to the statue liked their lives as they were. What happens if you decide not to give in to ridiculous demands? If you don't in your marriage, then you won't do the same to your wife or husband, right? If you say to your boss, "That's a ridiculous demand, " you may lose your job. But maybe you will then find something better.
Occasionally, we make decisions that are bigger than life itself — our third point. Life can be short. Yet when we think of God we are talking about eternal life. This is God's gift that is bigger than this life. A year after the Columbine High School tragedy, we still had inspired stories of the young people who died, but died in hope. For the anniversary, a work of music was composed [which the church symphony begins to play] that was not about tragedy, but about hope.
I still remember my senior year in high school. It was really a time to make final decisions. Was I going to live for God or for myself? Those are decisions bigger than life. Jesus Christ came to help us make those decision forever. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego looked at the furnace and said, "There is more. " From high school I also recall one particularly hard calculus test. My classmate wrote on the bottom of the test, "In two billion years when the Earth is a frozen snowball, who is going to care? " The teacher wrote back, "In two billion years, no one will care about this test. But today I do care."
Some decisions we make, even today, will matter a million years from now. How you respond to God will matter that long. Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am? " Peter said, "You are Lord. "
Do you have God in your life, like our predecessors, those three men in the furnace? They faced the flames without losing their way. They saw something bigger than life.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Andrew Sloane at St. Paul Episcopal Church in the District.

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