Hang with me for a moment… there is a point to this and perhaps worthiness hanging around for…
Early today I posted a sermon from 10 years ago. That sermon was posted today because it tells my sister Sally’s story with rare disease and today is rare disease day… and that sermon has become probably my most memorable sermon for the way that story preaches. But that sermon was never about Sally. And I think that’s important. Let me tell you that story of how that sermon came to be…
You see. I fell in love with the Book of Daniel. Such a weird little book. So misunderstood and underutilized. We know of Lion’s dens and giant bunnies (thanks Veggie Tales)… we know of the “writing on the wall” and the fiery furnaces… and then we know very little because it gets really weird. like really weird. So we stop tracking.
That’s where Sally came in… you see Daniel 12 comes up in the lectionary for the Reign of Christ which loves apocalyptic texts… it came up one day while I was assigned to preach and I gravitated to it because I had just fallen in love with Daniel in a class and part of my struggle when I came to it to preach it was: how do we understand these texts? How do we preach a text born out of religious persecution at the culmination of generations of oppression? How do you preach that to…. mostly affluent Americans?
That is when I realized that we do know futility, the death of hope, and need for resilient love… I knew it as well… I knew it in my sister’s story (and today I would say in the stories of several of my family members who might continue to wonder… what did we do to deserve this and how do we surviving it???). So I told Sally’s story.. or a small portion of it. Not to tell her story but to tell OUR story. As Frederick Buechler says in his book Telling Secrets, “My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours…it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.”
In 2008 (wow that was like forever ago and yet just yesterday) I began a Doctor of Ministry. I wanted a single course of study but ended up in a place where that wasn’t easy to manage. I wanted to make the whole thing be about discipleship… and what was I to do in the modern world of membership while telling a biblical story of discipleship. So each semester I picked a course to come at that subject from that courses particular lens. And in 2009 I took a class that was translating the book fo Daniel. I had no idea what I got myself in for…. and it was amazing….. holy… and transformative.
For a 2 week period I was in a class with only 4 students and one professor where we spent all day, every day, translating the Book of Daniel from start to finish. Hebrew and Aramaic (the book uses both) we spend all day given English voice to this ancient Hebrew texts and debating nuance and defending point of view and intent and modern equavalence. And in that process I fell in love with the Book of Daniel. I fell in love with apocalyptic literature. I fell in love with something I had previously labeled weird, un-understandable, and without pedagogical value. I fell in love with it as I, day after day, spent hours of intimacy looking into its inner self and finding out how to give it voice.
I will never loose that love. I will not always understand it well. I will not always get it right. I will not always remember fully what I learned and came to knew… bu the love I have for it will never let me go.
And I think in that there is something very preaching about the power of intimacy. The power of interpretation. The power of learning to give personal voice to a personal story that was previously stranger to you. And the transformations and close-knit-ness that results.
And that’s also a fitting message for this Rare Disease Day. Seek to come to know it intimately.. and it will change your life. Not in all good ways… but in memorable ways, transformative ways, empowering ways. And you will never be the same.
Thanks be to God.