The Conclusion of Daniel: Promised Rest

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
February 27, 2021
Daniel 12:5-12

At the beginning of worship

This week, we have watched in horror what’s happening in the Ukraine. We need to trust that God is in control in the chaos. That’s the message of Daniel. But we also need to strive to do what is right to help those who cannot help themselves. That’s a message found throughout scripture. Let’s open with a prayer for peace: 

Lord Jesus, we long for your kingdom. Isaiah promises it’ll be a place of peace, where the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together.”[1]

But Jesus, our world is filled with bullies and dictators, those who do what they want and ignore the rights and the needs of others. It’s a world where families hide in subways hoping to avoid the explosion of artillery shells. It’s a world where people flee for their lives and where the weak are eaten up by those who are strong. It’s a world where people are used and abused. We know this is not the good world you intended at Creation. We have messed things up.

We long for peace, for the end of this world of violence and the fulfillment of your kingdom. But until then, give us strength to endure. Help us to know right from wrong, good from evil. Help us stand fast with those who suffer in the Ukraine. This we pray in your name, recalling your wiliness to die that we might life, and who lives and promises such to those who believe in you and who follow in your footsteps. Amen. 

Before the reading of Scripture

I was thinking after last week’s text and sermon how the evil one depicted in Daniel’s vision dies alone at the end. It seems to me that when we burn all our bridges and abuse all our friends, loneliness becomes our destiny. It’s a dangerous place. And we don’t have to be as evil as the evil one depicted in Daniel to experience this. 

Relationships are important. There are two dimensions to our faith, just as there are two dimensions to the cross. One is vertical, the other horizonal. One reaches up toward God, the other reaches out toward others. Both are necessary if we’re to have a balanced life as God intends. However, if we behave as the one cited in Daniel 11, our actions will lead to judgment.  

The end of the book of Daniel

Now, we’ve come to the end of Daniel… As I pointed out two Sunday’s ago, the last three chapters of Daniel consist of a single unit with one long vision. Daniel’s vision is now over. He finds himself back on the banks of the river. But there appear to be some heavenly beings still floating around after the vision. Although we are not sure, they could be angels, maybe even Michael and Gabriel,[2] who have been mentioned earlier. Their purpose appears to have a conversation of which Daniel overhears but does not understand. This sets up a nice epilogue for this vision and the entire book of Daniel. 

Remember, as I have often said in these sermons on Daniel, the overall message of this book is that despite the present circumstances (which are quite trying in Daniel’s day as in ours), “God is in charge and will win the day.”[3] Once again, we’re reminded that things will work out and that Daniel needs not to worry.

Read Daniel 12:5-12

After the reading of Scripture

In his novel The Whisper of the River, Ferroll Sam’s protagonist, a college student, has a delightful conversation with a professor about Christian progress. The question is asked by the professor, “How long does it take a man to grow from the whining question of ‘Why me, Lord?’ to the mature dedication of ‘Why not me, Lord?’” The professor went on to explain how each has an accent on “me,” but throw in that “one-syllable negative” and you have “two entirely different philosophies.” One is shallow, the other has spiritual depth.[4]

Daniel, it seems, accepts the second question from the beginning. Spiritually mature, he maintains his relationship with God in a troubling time. He does so even when God appears distant. It would also have been a lot easier to accept the ways of the Babylonians or the Persians. But Daniel stands fast. As believers, we don’t take the easy way out.

The final scene in Daniel

We’ve come to the end of this book. In this final scene, Daniel is back by a stream. We can assume this is the river where the vision began. Daniel sees two beings standing opposite banks of the Tigris River, having a conversation. One asks how long before everything happens. The other provides an enigmatic answer: “A time, two times, and a half a time.” Just what does that mean? 

So, Daniel speaks up and acknowledges he doesn’t understand. “What shall be the outcome of these things?” Daniel asks. Daniel is like us; he wants to know.[5]

The response Daniel receives is rather curt. “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain a secret until the time of the end.” 

Daniel is not about predicting the future

There you have it. If you think you can use Daniel to predict the end of time or the events leading up to it, this epilogue rains on your parade. There are things we are not to know. Nonetheless, there are things we do know. By telling Daniel to “go on your way,” I think he’s being told to not worry about the future and to continue to do what he knows is right. That’s also good advice for us. How we live our lives in the face of evil is the purpose of Daniel, not predicting the future.

We’ll continue to have good and evil people 

The next verse reminds us of the way of things. There are people like Daniel, who strive to live godly lives even within an evil, pagan, or corrupt society. Just because someone else acts bad is no excuse for us to do likewise. Just because we live in an evil world, we’re not to resort to evil. We always take the high ground. To the best of our abilities and, depending on God’s help, we should act nobly. 

And while there will be those who strive to do what is right, the book of Daniel is realistic. There are those continue to act wickedly. Again, throughout Daniel we have seen examples of wicked behavior. The silly laws of kings fly in the face of the Almighty and force believers into disobedience to God if they obey the king.[6] Or other kings who do as they please, as if they’re accountable to no one,[7] and who bring great evil upon the world.[8] Such leaders will be judged. They will be held in eternal contempt.[9]  

Of course, the wicked don’t understanding what’s happening or what’s in store for them, because they have no regard for others, including God.[10] They think they are exempt, or their theology is so bad, that they think they’re a god on earth. Those who are wise understand this differently. 

How long will the abomination last?

Our passage then returns to the abomination in the temple, which occurred under the reign of Antiochus IV, whom we met last week.[11] There are questions here about how the long the sacrifices will be missing from the temple. Is it 1290 days or 1325 days, as listed here? Or as we heard in chapter eight, 2300 evenings and mornings which could be interpreted as 1150 days.[12] And what kind of relationship exist between these days and the time, times, and a half time. By the way, it’s not the first time we’ve seen that formula, either. It appeared in chapter 7?[13]

If this sounds confusing to you, you’re not alone. Even Daniel is confused. Some think the days and the times go together. Time, times and a half time could be 3 and a half years, roughly the same number as the days. But since there are several different sets of “days,” what can we make of this?[14]

We don’t know. Some things are purposely vague.

I think the message at the end of Daniel is this.  When it comes to the future, we don’t know. Only God knows. This is the same thing that Jesus teaches in Mark 13, only the Father in heaven knows when such things happen.[15]

Our text says that those who persevere this period of great evil will be happy or blessed. Then Daniel is sent on his way. He’s told to rest. There’s nothing he can do about the future, and it’s going to happen long after he’s gone. So, Daniel, who is now an old man, having been in exile for nearly 70 years, can rest assured that when the resurrection happens, he’ll rise for his reward. 

Conclusion: promised rest

After a long life of faithfulness, Daniel can rest. That’s good news. For those of us on this side of the resurrection, we have Jesus’ words: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Daniel reminds us that things won’t always be easy, and Jesus follows up his comment about promised rest with talk about taking up his yoke. A yoke is a tool for work. The rest Jesus provides, at least in the short term, is for our soul.[16] There’s always work to do. 

As verse 10 reminds us, there is purification, cleansing and refining to be done. So, we roll up our sleeves and trudge on, but our souls do not need to be troubled. We can take solace that God controls the world, that they’ll be times rest, and when it’s over, the faithful will be rewarded. 

While life at times can be overwhelming, we place our hope in the goodness of God, whose love is from everlasting to everlasting.[17] Amen. 

[1] Isaiah 11:6.

[2] Daniel 9:21 and 10:13.

[3] Tremper Longman III, Daniel: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 288. 

[4] Ferrol Sams, The Whisper of the River (1984, New York: Penguin Books, 1986), 498-499. 

[5] W. Sibley Towner, Daniel: Interpretation, a Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984), 169.

[6] An example would be Daniel 6, where the king decrees no one can pray to anything but himself for 30 days. See

[7] An example: Belshazzar defaming the holy items from the temple. See

[8] The horrific king in Chapter 11 is an example. See

[9] Daniel 12:2

[10] Proverbs 14:16, Psalm 14:4. 

[11] Daniel 11:31.

[12] Daniel 8:14.

[13] Daniel 7:25, 12:7.

[14] Longman !!!, 287, and Robert A. Anderson, Daniel: Signs and Wonders (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 152-153 provide details on these dates and the issues they raise. 

[15] Mark 13:32.  From my sermon on this passage just before we started exploring the second half of Daniel, see

[16] Matthew 11:28-30.  See also Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Suffers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 21-23.  

[17] Psalm 103:17.

Sunset over Lake Baikal (Siberia, taken 2011)

Learning more about Russia

Our Frightening World

Dining on the train

We’re living in a scary time with what is going on in Ukraine and Putin’s disregard for the rule of law as he orders Russia to invade a sovereign nation. In 2011, I took the Trans-Mongolian railroad from Beijing to Moscow and then an elegant overnight train on to St. Petersburg. It was a wonderful trip and a few years later I read Colin Turbon’s book (which I’m reviewing below). The photos in his post came from that trip. I found the Russian people to be warm and welcoming. But sadly, the country has a long history of corrupt leadership (from the Czars to the Soviets, and now with Putin). While it would be wonderful for Putin’s army to be humiliated in his Ukrainian operation and order restored, we must remember that those who will suffer are the Ukrainian people and the Russian soldiers, many who are conscripted into the military. 

Notice the km marker indicating the distance A Rfrom Moscow

When I was in college, I took a class focusing on Russian history. Sadly, most of those books I read focused on the attempts to modernize (or westernize) the country by Peter the Great, the 1917 Revolution, and Stalin. I should attempt to update my knowledge. I found a wonderful Twitter trend by an London bookseller (who is from Eastern Europe) on books to learn more about both Ukraine and Russia. Click here to read through the thread. Who would like to join me in learning more? 

A Russian rail yard

Colin Thuborn, In Siberia

 (1999, HarperCollins ebook, 2009), 270 pages

During the Soviet era, much of Siberia was closed off from the West. The Soviets utilized this vast area (which contains nearly a fifth of the world’s landmass) as the Czars had earlier. Siberia existed as place of exile of criminals and political prisoners. During the Second World War, industry began to develop in Siberia. The remote lands were far from the reach of Hitler’s tanks. The land is blessed with resources including minerals, oil, timber, wheat and cursed with hardship. The coldest temperatures ever recorded in inhabited place was in Siberia. After the breakup of the Soviet Union and two years after the end of collective farming, Colin Thubron set out to explore this region. Thubron, an Englishman, was familiar with Russia, having spent time there during the Cold War and having written on the nation. In his travels, he takes the Trans-Siberian Railroad as well as the BAM (Baikal-Amur Railroad), a line that runs north of Lake Baikal, and a steamer up the Yenisei River to the arctic. In the East, he flies to remote locations. In all, he covers the region from the Urals to the Pacific, from the “Altai Republic” along the Mongolian border to Dudinka, beside the frozen waters of the Arctic.  

Sunset over Lake Baikal

Siberia, Thubron writes was “born out of optimism and dissent.” (22)  Starting in the 1750s, Siberia became a place to exile criminals (just as Britain exiled its criminals to Australia) and although the number of criminals outnumbered the political prisoners, the later served as a “leavening intelligentsia” for the region. (162) Ironically, Siberia with its vastness became a place of freedom. In the 18th Century, those who moved there had a saying, “God is high, and the czar is far off.” (22)  In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Siberia was a stronghold out for the White Russians who fought against the Bolsheviks. Thubron tells of a discussion in Irkutsk to build a statue to honor Admiral Kolchak, a leader of the White Russians who was shot by the Bolsheviks at Irkutsk and his body pushed below the ice. He doubts the monument will be built. However, in 2011, when I travelled across Siberia, I enjoyed a a beer brewed in Irkutsk named for the Admiral. If you can a statue, a beer seems like a fitting tribute. 

Traveling in the years after the breakup of the Soviet system and the end of state-sponsored atheism, Thubron was surprised to find religion so alive. “Russia’s atheist past seemed no more than an overcast day in the long Orthodox summer,” he noted. (56)  As he traveled, he witnessed new and renovated churches opening. At the dedication of a monastery outside of Omsk, he asked himself, “Why had this faith resurrected out of nothing, as if a guillotined head had been struck back on its body? Some vital artery had preserved it.” (59) Not only does he explore the resurgence in the Orthodox faith, (who seemed to be profiting from the ability to import and sell alcohol and cigarettes tax free (56), but also Buddhism among the Buryat (165ff), a dying Jewish settlement in Eastern Siberia (208ff), Russian Baptist (220f), Old Believers with their insistence of the correct way to cross themselves in prayers (175f), and even a few who were trying to revive traditional shamanistic practices (98ff). In each situation, he meets with religious leaders. One of the more interesting interviews was with an Orthodox priest in Irkutsk, whose father had been a communist and whose mother was a Christian. He told about how in the Army, he began to be convicted of his sin and came to God through his guilt. This priest feared a war between China and Russia and felt that America was a godless land (156-7).

But not all of Siberia is teaming with religious revival. Many of the people Thuborn spoke with felt their world collapse along with communism. One woman, sent to Siberia by Stalin,still refused to criticize the Communist Party. Toward the end of his journey, in northeastern Siberia, he visits Kolyma, the location of some of the deadliest camps. Being sent here was a death sentence. In the winter of 1932, whole camps (prisoners, dogs, and guards) froze to death. It is here that the coldest inhabit place on earth is at, where the temperature has dropped to -97.8 F, where one’s breath will free into crystals and twinkle onto the ground, a phenomenon known as the “whispering of the stars.” (254)  Yet, despite such harsh conditions, they produced nearly a third of the world’s gold in the 1930s. It is estimated that one life was lost for every kilogram of gold produced.  Over 2 million people died here. (251f) The condition of the camps horrified Thubron, who seems concern that the residents of Siberia accept the camps of the past without much thought.

Water tower from the days of steam engines

In his last collection of Stalin horror stories, Thuborn tells of the prison ship, the SS Dzhurma. This ship, according to Thubron, became lodged in ice in 1933 with 12000 prisoners on board. All the prisoners froze to death and half the guards went crazy, according to Thubron. This would also be the deadliest maritime disaster ever, in terms of life lost. When I read this, I thought it sounded like fodder for a horror story and I did some checking. From a couple sources on the internet, found that there are some questions of the validity of this tragedy. Two things don’t fit according to these sources. First, the Soviets purchased the Dzhurma two years later, in 1935. Second, it was only a little over 400 feet long, making it nearly impossible to have had 12,000 prisoners onboard. However, in 1939, another “death-ship,” the SS Indigirka sank with its human cargo trapped below deck. (256) 

I really enjoyed this book and wish I would have read it before traveling through Siberia. At that time, I read Ian Frazier’s excellent travelogue, Travels in Siberia. Thubron’s book is a little out of date, but it is also excellent. His writing is engaging and never boring as he weaves together a story about this vast and unknown landmass. I found reading this book on a e-reader both pleasant (it’s nice and light) and a little troublesome as I couldn’t easily flip back to the map at the beginning. Furthermore, the map didn’t show up well and found myself dragging out an atlas to locate places Thubron traveled. I recommend this book.  

Small village along the railroad tracks

Daniel foresees the future

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
February 20, 2022
Daniel 11-12:4

At the beginning of worship:

I’ve been reading a modern translation of the Norse poems, myths, and legends. It’s a weird world which probably comes from huddling around the fire on those long winter nights in Scandinavia.[1] These stories are often violent and set in a tough world. They could be seen as depressing for everyone and everything dies on their fated day. Neither gods, giants, nor humans are spared. Yet, the stories encourage the reader to be to be brave even if it’s their fated day. Those who are honored have done their duty. 

Now, our faith doesn’t condone such violence as in these stories and shuns vengeance. In our tradition, vengeance is saved for God.[2] As we’ve seen in Daniel, (and will see again today), we too live in a world that is often against us. Yet, we are called to do be faithful, to our duty, and to be brave even when things don’t look up. We can do so for we know that God is in control. 

Before the Reading of Scripture:

The bulk of the vision Daniel receives by the Tigris River is found between the beginning of Chapter 11 through the fourth verse of chapter 12. I’m not going to read this entire piece, but I encourage you to go home and read it on your own. However, let me say a bit about what’s in it. Daniel, as we’ve seen already in chapter 7[3] and chapter 8,[4] has had multiple visions that cover what happens in the world between the end of Babylonian dominance and the rise of Rome. This is repeated in chapter 11; however, more details are provided. Daniel speaks of all these kings rising from the various points of the compass, but especially to the north and south. 

Ancient Israel is a little like Ukraine. If you look at a map of Europe, you’ll see Ukraine pinched between Russia and its allies to the west, north and south. To the east is Europe. Sadly, the people there have seen horrors from each side—the Soviets who starved four million of them in the 1930s. That caused many of them to welcome Germany when it invaded in World War II. However, the Germans were no better. When you find yourself in a position recalled in the old proverbial saying, “between a rock and hard place,” you become a pawn. 

Ancient Israel was also in such a place. Geographically, the country sits between the powers of Egypt and those in the fertile crescent. By the 2nd Century, BC, Israel is pinched between Egypt and Syria. 

Daniel doesn’t use names in Chapter 11. However, if you read this entire chapter and have a historical timeline from the 5th to the 2nd century BC, it’s easy to plug in to whom Daniel refers.[5]Daniel’s vision continues to Antiochus Epiphanes IV. He’s not just a bad guy, he’s a really bad guy. He’s evil. He did the unspeakable inside the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.  

Read Daniel 11:36-12:4

After reading the scripture:

Tonight, if we have clear skies, Orion the Hunter will be visible high in the eastern sky as the light fades. It’s a brilliant constellation and I’m sure most of you can point out the three stars of Orion’s belt. They form a distinct line in the sky. From our perspective here on earth, the stars appear side by side. But they’re not. 

Let me tell you a bit about these three stars. I’m probably going to butcher the pronunciation, something I often do with English so you can imagine what I’ll do with the Arabic names of these stars. 

The star to the west is Mintalca, which in Arabic means “the belt.” It’s 916 light years away and slightly fainter than the other two stars. 

The middle star, Alnilam, means “string of pearls” in Arabic. It’s by far the furthest of these stars from earth, at 1342 light years away. Tonight, you’ll be seeing the star tonight as it was during the Dark Ages of Europe. The star is huge. It’s also the only solo star in the belt, with the one to its west made up of many stars and the one to the east a binary star. But it’s so big, which is why to our eyes it appears as the brightest. 

And then the eastern-most star is Alnitalz, which means the girdle. Don’t ask me how it got its name. This is the closest star, only 800 lights years away, which means that tonight we’d be seeing what happened on the star about the time of the crusades.   

Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with the price of tea in China, or at least what it has to do with Daniel. Let me continue. 

This part of Daniel is set after Babylon’s fall from world power, at a time when Persia ascends in power. Now, there is a disagreement about when it was written, whether in the 5thCentury or 2nd Century, BC, but for understanding the meaning, it doesn’t matter.[6] Daniel wants us to understand the book as being from the 5th Century, and the prophet’s vision looks forward. 

It’s as if Daniel has a telescope. From his point of view, Daniel has a good understanding of what happens in the world over the next three centuries. But his view continues afterwards to the final judgment. He doesn’t have as clear of an understanding except to know that in the end, righteousness will be reward and evil punished. And as he looks forward, it all appears closer together, as do the stars in Orion’s belt.

In this manner, Daniel’s vision of the future is a little like us looking at Orion in the sky this evening. The stars all appear to be equal distance from us, but we know that some are closer, and others are further away. Likewise, much of the events Daniel writes about was fulfilled in the centuries between Babylon and Rome, but then there’s the resurrection at the end of time, which hasn’t yet happened.

Antiochus IV

Daniel vision reaches a pinnacle with a king who becomes an abomination, one who is well known in Jewish history. Antiochus IV, or Antiochus Epiphanes, was a Syrian king who attempted to take over Egypt and parts of Greece. The Romans helped push him back which brought them into this part of the world. But the king is infamous for his disregard of the Jewish temple, as he co-opted it for pagan gods. 

While there is no clear transition, it appears that Daniel doesn’t just speak of Antiochus, but at some point, he sees an even larger, more horrific individual, whose evil surpasses Antiochus.[7] The person in Daniel’s vision goes beyond the terror and evil of the Syrian king. Christians have often seen this people as the Antichrist, but as Christ has not yet come, Daniel has no frame of reference for such a being. 

Daniel and evil tendencies

What Daniel sees in this vision is a tendency for evil to grow. This happens when we are left on our own and follow only our own desires. You see it in Genesis. Adam and Eve sin, their son Cain kills his brother Abel, and soon there are wars and God decides to do a reset with the flood. Governments and collective groups of people can raise the level of evil to greater heights. Daniel understands this.

Editorial by David Brooks 

David Brooks, in a New York Times editorial this week, writes of the change in the world since the 1990s. He suggests that what we’re seeing around the world, with autocratic strong leaders, is business as usual.[8] I think Daniel would agree. The natural way of the world is for the strong to become stronger, evil to become eviler.  This doesn’t mean we should give up. Again, the book of Daniel shows us how to remain faithful to our beliefs while living under tyranny. 

Hopefully we won’t end up like Daniel. However, for us to avoid such tyranny, according to Brooks, will require hard work as society pulls together for the good of all. It’s a nearly impossible task that the founders of our nation got, at least partly, right. 

Daniel’s hope

But as Daniel looks off to the future, he sees hope. The one who amasses so much territory and becomes so powerful is also alone and friendless. He’s defeated. Evil brings death. Those in the orbit of the evil one dies. With no one left to help him, eventually even the evil one dies. 

As we move into the 12th Chapter, we see the appearance of Michael, the archangel. Michael, labelled a prince and the protector of Israel, comes on the scene in this final battle. Then there is deliverance. But this true deliverance is not for this life, but for the world to come. 

Verse two is the only clear understanding of a double resurrection in the Old Testament.[9] Those who have been wise, but wronged in this life, rise from their graves. The same is true for those who have been abusers and evil in this life. Those shamed in this life find glory in the life to come, while those who found glory at the expense of others in this life rises to eternal contempt. 


Daniel vision is for the Jewish people who live in that period between the end of the exile and the coming of the Messiah. Many may have left Babylon for Jerusalem with the hope that Israel’s former glory will return. Daniel dashes such hope. Israel at the end of the exile were hopefully just as we, as David Brooks pointed out, were hopeful in the 1990s at the end of the Cold War. But things change.

We live in a world in which despots use people for their own benefit. We must make the best of the situation, while remaining faithful to God. However, there is always good news, it’s just off in the distance. In the end, goodness prevails. God looks out for his people. 

David, in the Psalms, gets it right. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”[10] Amen.

[1] The Poetic Edda: Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes, Jackson Crawford, translator (Hackett Publishing, 2015). 

[2] Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19.



[5] For modern commentaries following Daniel with those who rose to power after Babylon, See W. Sibley Towner, Daniel: Interpretation, A Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984), 154-157; Robert A. Anderson, Daniel: Signs and Wonders (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 129-142; and Temper Longman III, Daniel: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 271-283.  Ancient scholars also understood to whom Daniel speaks. See Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel. 

[6] Longman III, 282.

[7] Longman III, 280-281; Towner, 164-165.

[8] David Brooks, “The Dark Century,” New York Times, February 17, 2022. 

[9] See Towner, 166; and Longman III, 284. Longman III suggests they may be other references to the “double resurrection” in the Old Testament, but this is the clearest. An example of another possible reference is Isaiah 26:18

[10] Psalm 124:8. 

Daniel takes a long look into the future

Two stories of mine and two related book reviews

Story 1:

Like a lot of kids, I don’t look back fondly on my Junior High. But the one exciting thing about those years occurred shortly after sundown, especially in the winter. I would wait with excitement as the sky darkened, turning on my receiver and listening as I prepared my transmitter which was tied into a long-wire diapole antenna. Soon, the 80-meter amateur radio band came to life. My headphones became clogged with the sound of morse code. Sometimes I would respond to a CQ (an invitation to chat by morse code) and make a new friend. Other times I would send my own CQ or join a network that was busy handing “traffic.” This was an exciting hour for a fourteen-year-old. Early in the evening, one might connect with someone in Europe or up and down the east coast. As the darkness moved further west, connections were more easily made to operators in the Midwest and, even later, on the West Coast. In high school, I lost the wonder of amateur radio and at some point, my license expired. Occasionally, I think back on those days and wonder if I should study up and renew my license. These two books that I review below helped rekindle such interest.

Story 2:

The first story I remember from a sermon came from Rev. Jessie Parks. He was the pastor of my home church from the time we moved to the Wilmington NC area until shortly after I turned 11. I remember the timing of his move as he had a son a few months older than me. For short time, we were in Boy Scouts together. I was probably ten when he gave this sermon. The story was about the radio operators on the high seas on that fateful night of April 14-15, 1912. I would later learn that Mr. Parks was also an amateur radio operator. I’m sure most ham operators know well the story of what happened that night when the Titanic sank. 

On my recent trip to Savannah and back, one of the books I listened was about the sinking of the Titanic from the perspective of two ships, the Carpathia and the Californian. Then, I listened to an Erik Larson story that wove together the early years of radio and that of a murder in London. Here are my reviews:  

Daniel Allen Butler, The Other Side of the Night: The Carpathia, the Californian and the Night the Titanic was Lost 

(2009, Audible, 2013), 9 hours and 29 minutes.  

Butler suggests the purpose of his book is to focus, not on the sinking of the Titanic, but on the other ships that were in the vicinity on the night of April 14-15, 1912. However, this isn’t new information as many of the details I had already known. After the sinking of the Titanic, there were major investigations, one in the United States and the other in Great Britain. All officers of the two nearby ships along with those officers and crew who survived the sinking were interviewed by these two investigations. What Butler does is to provide more insight into the lives of the development of the transatlantic shipping in the early years of the century, the captains of the two ships, the details of what happened that night from the perspective of the two ships, and report on the inquiries in the aftermath of the accident. Furthermore, he provides an interesting overview of how radio operated in the early days of wireless, which I found most interesting.

Wireless radio in 1912 was under the control of the Marconi company. The operators on the ships didn’t work for the shipping company, but for Marconi. He trained the operators, assigned them to the ships, and paid them. While onboard, the captain of the ship had authority over the operators, but he didn’t control them as he did rest of the crew onboard ship. Most ships had only one operator, although the larger liners like the Titanic had two. Part of the reason for the additional operator was that by 1912, Marconi’s company had found a profitable niche in sending telegraphs from the passengers of ships in the mid-Atlantic. As evening settled in on April 14th, the Titanic’s operators were busy sending such messages. Therefore, when the Californian operator contacted nearby ships to warn of ice, the Titanic’s operators were busy sending messages of good will from their passengers. His response was rather curt as he told the Californian not to interrupt their traffic. The Californian’s captain, Stanley Lord, decided it was unsafe to continue moving through the ice field in the dark. He had his ship stopped for the night and the radio operator, as there was only one onboard, went to bed. The captain also went to bed. A few minutes later, the Titanic struck the fatal iceberg. 

Knowing his ship was in danger, Captain Smith of the Titanic soon had his operators sending out a distress single. The Carpathia, which was fifty-eight miles away, responded and quickly changed course. Arthur Rostron, its captain, immediately began making plans as to how he might best respond. He had the confidence of his crew and pushed the ship to a speed beyond what was thought capable. While in transit, they readied lifeboats, prepared places inside the ship to receive passengers and to provide medical care, and prepared food. However, when he learned how fast the Titanic was sinking, he knew he could never reach the ship in time.

Throughout the night, until the lights went out, the Titanic’s operators stayed at their station hoping to awaken a closer ship who might be able to arrive in time to save the passengers and crew. The Titanic also shot up flares, some which were seen by the Californian, which was probably around 5 nautical miles from the disaster. The officers on the Californian reported such sights to their sleeping captain. The Californian tried to respond to the Titanic by morse code using lights but was probably too far away and received no response. There was even discussion on the ship as to whether the flairs were “company signals” or “distress signals.” Captain Lord never left his bunk to examine the situation. Nor did he wake the radio operator so that he might learn what was happening. 

Early the next morning, around two hours after the Titanic disappeared (those on the Californian through the ship had sailed off and didn’t even realize it was the Titanic), the Carpathia arrived and began to collect those in life rafts. 

Butler tells this story in an engaging manner. He rightly praises the work of Rostron and the Carpathia. And, as has many before him, he condemned the actions of Captain Lord. However, he goes beyond condemning the inaction of Lord, by psychologically diagnosing him. He also condemned the supporters of Mr. Lord. This, I thought, went to far. A historian is in no position to psychologically evaluate someone long dead and I’m not sure who, today, are Mr. Lord’s supporters. To me, attacking Lord’s supporters was to create a straw man to beat up. Nonetheless, I enjoyed his telling of the story of the Titanic from the perspectives of those on the seas that evening. 

Erik Larson, Thunderstruck

 (2006, Audible 2006), 11 hours and 56 minutes.

Like many readers, my first exposure to the writings of Erik Larson was through The Devil in the White City. In that book, Larson tells the story of one of nation’s first serial murderers and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. In Thunderstruck, Larson weaves together the story of a murder that occurred in London in early in the 20th Century with the story of Marconi’s development of the wireless radio. 

Hawley Crippen was a homeopathic physician from Michigan who worked in the patent medicine business. He spent much of his life in London. He married a woman who saw herself as an opera star. After failing to break into such trade in the United States, she tried and failed to make a name for herself in the London.  The portrait Larson creates of Crippen’s wife, Cora, who went by her stage name, Belle,” is less than flattering. She was never satisfied. She nearly bankrupted her husband with her shopping sprees. She had several affairs. To most people, Crippen doted on her and did what he could to make her happy. Then, he hired a new typist, Ethel, whom he fell for and with whom he had an affair.

In early 1910, Cora went missing. Crippen said she’d gone to the United States and later said she’d died in California. But some friends of Cora questioned this and brought her disappearance to the attention of Scotland Yard. Knowing he was under investigation, Crippen and Ethel fled to Europe and then to Quebec. Ethel was disguised as a young boy. But the officers of the ship were on the lookout and the captain became suspicious. Using the radio, he contacted authorities. Scotland Yard sent an investigator to Canada on a faster ship, which beat Crippen’s ship and allowed him to make an arrest with the help of Quebec authorities. This high seas chase became the headline in newspapers. Everyone except those on Crippen’s ship, knew what was happening because of radio. Crippen, who was always known as a gentleman, was hanged for this crime. Ethel was tried as an accessory but was found not guilty. 

The Crippen story is broken up by the story of Marconi and the development of wireless radio. In the 1890s, there were great interest in an ability to send messages through the “ether.” While some of this was through scientific means, others sought to do such through magic or the occult. Marconi was the one who figured out how to send wireless over a long distance. But his is not the rags to riches story. His father was a wealthy businessman in Italy and his mother was from the Jameson distilling family of Ireland. It was the Jameson family who helped pull together backers to support Marconi as he began wireless operations that eventually crossed the Atlantic. But there were lots of issues to overcome. Even once it was shown as possible, there were legal challenges from cable companies who saw wireless as an unfair competitor. There were issues of isolating the signal to a particular frequency.  For some reason that was only later understood, wireless worked best at night (as I experienced as a 14-year-old kid in the longer frequency bands). Larson weaves all this together into a compelling story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 

Daniel learns of the ongoing cosmic battle

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
February 13, 2022
Daniel 10

Sermon taped at Bluemont on Friday, February 11, 2022.

At the beginning of worship:

I think it was C. S. Lewis who once said we’ll spend half of eternity thanking God for prayers not answered. Think about this for a minute. One of the reasons for prayers not being answered is that we don’t know all that is going on in our lives and in the world. Much is hidden. We don’t know God’s plans. 

As a follower of Jesus, we are called to live by faith. We don’t have all the answers, but we trust God does. It can be exhausting, as we’re going to see with Daniel in our reading this morning. Yet, we’re also shown, God cares of those who humble themselves and trust in what he is doing in the world. 

 Before the Reading of Scripture:

I decided to skip over the ending of Daniel 9 and move on to Daniel 10.[1] Daniel 9, which speaks of 70 weeks and years, has been used in all kinds of ways to do that which we should not do, namely, to predict the future. So far, the predictions haven’t come true. And while this seems to be more of a modern problem, especially in the past two centuries, the root to this issue goes way back. We want to know that which we can’t know. Remember, this got Eve in trouble with the tree of knowledge.[2]

Writing about the end of Daniel 9, referring to the meaning behind the 70 weeks, Jerome, the great Biblical scholar and translator of the 4th century quipped: 

“I realize that this question has been argued over in various ways by people of greatest learning, and each of them has expressed his views according to the capacity of his own genius. And so… I shall leave it to the reader’s judgement as to whose explanation ought to be followed.[3]

Even Jerome didn’t want to go there. I would say that we’re entering territory that angels refuse to tread, except as we’ll see in chapter ten that the angels are treading here. And that’s good news for us. Someone needs to watch our back.

The tenth chapter begins Daniel’s last vision. It’s a long one, with chapter 10 setting the stage for what happens in chapters 11 and 12. 

Read Daniel 10

After the Reading of Scripture

If the knowledge given to Daniel would be presented to us, we too would be overwhelmed and exhausted. Remember, he’s an old man and this is almost more than his heart can bear. 

Opening timestamp

This section begins like many others in Daniel, as we saw even in the ninth chapter, with a time stamp.[4] King Cyrus of Persia is in his third year of his reign. However, there is confusion as to what this means, especially since in the first chapter, we’re told the prophet served through the first year of Cyrus.[5]

Most scholars think the three years refers to the time since Cyrus’ empire seized controlled Babylon. If this is the case, some of the Jews in Babylon have probably begun packing up and moving back to Jerusalem. Otherwise, if the three years refers to the time when Cyrus began his rule over Persia, without Babylon, it would take us back in time.[6]

Role of Cyrus

Also, the title, King Cyrus, isn’t known in other literature.[7] While this might matter in our full understanding of the text, especially as it reflects a Greek understanding (they used such terms), it doesn’t change fact that Daniel receives a major vision of the future, one that causes him to collapse in exhaustion. In his exhaustion, God’s messenger reassures Daniel and cares for him.[8]

Daniel’s weakness

Furthermore, we’re told Daniel has been mourning for the past three weeks and hasn’t eaten anything of substance (as defined as meat and wine). So, he’s been on a light fast. It leaves him weak when he finds himself standing on the banks of Tigris River this a vision.

The appearance of “A Man”

Interestingly, Daniel is the only one who sees this man with a belt of gold. It must have been like a professional wrestler’s belt since it catches his attention first. He goes on to describe the man with a body of beryl, face of lightning, eyes like torches, and arms and legs like burnished bronze. His sight causes Daniel to fall flat. While those with him and cannot see the man, they know something is happening. They flee. So much for his friends. 

But this “man,” a heavenly visitor, ministers to Daniel. He helps Daniel to rise on his hands and knees, and then on his feet. He encourages the prophet, telling him not to fear even though Daniel naturally shakes in his boots. The man offers “celestial first aid” to a troubled prophet.[9]

The Cosmic Battle

As this man begins to speak, we learn of something important. He had been sent to Daniel, but essentially apologizes for his delay. It appears he was ambushed by the Prince of Persia. Obviously, he’s not speaking of a member of Cyrus’ court, but with dark spiritual princes who attempt to control the land. There is a cosmic battle raging. He struggled with this dark prince for 21 days. (It’s intriguing that 21 is divisible by 7, another of Daniel’s favorite numbers.) He is only able to reach Daniel after Michael takes over the battle, which indicates the battle continues. 

The being promises Daniel a vision of the future that includes the fall of Persia, the rise of Greece, and a glimpse on the end of time. 

A message of hope to the Jews

Interestingly, as I pointed out, this vision would have taken place after many of the Jews in Babylon were packing up and preparing to head by to Jerusalem. Isaiah speaks of Cyrus as a deliverer and Israel’s history recalls how God worked through Cyrus to bring the exile to an end.[10] But is there something less than savory about Persia that God’s messengers must engage their spirits in a cosmic battle? But then, one thing is clear in Daniel, human institutions are far from perfect. Yes, God uses Persia to bring about His purposes, but we also have this peak behind the veil to see how cosmic forces of evil at work. 

Evil and the spiritual realm

The struggle is not just between various groups of humanity. What we learn here is that a spiritual battle is ongoing. The Apostle Paul touches on this theme in his writings, warning us in his letter to the Ephesians: 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.[11]

Does this not mean that Christ has not won the battle?  No, Christ defeated sin and death on the cross and with the resurrection, but the battle persists. One commentator likens this ongoing battle to the time between D-Day and the surrender of Germany. Once we established a beach head in France, there was little Germany could do to stop us. However, the battle continued until Germany surrendered.[12] Yes, Christ has won the battle, but that doesn’t mean Satan or evil is harmless. 

What this ongoing battle means to us

Evil, in this world, still has power. Evil can still destroy and create havoc. Evil can still corrupt, and one of the themes of the last half of Daniel is that human institutions are tainted and corrupt.[13]While we can never create, on our own, a perfect system, void of evil, yet we still must try and do our part. Our hope is that at the end, God will intervene and do away with evil. However, as we’re all sinners, there is a danger here. 

Remember the parable of the weeds in the wheat?[14] One of the truths of Christianity is that we’re all part of the problem. As Paul said, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”[15]For us, it’s not as easy to divide us into the good and the bad as it is in the spiritual realm. And even for those of us who are less evil than others, there will still be a need of cleansing. 

Hope in this passage

The part of this chapter that provides us hope which comes from how these heavenly beings minister to Daniel. In verse 12, we’re told that Daniel, a man who’d lived his adult life in a pagan kingdom, that his words have been heard all along. God doesn’t abandon us! God has been listening to Daniel. Going back to when Daniel first set out to discover God, God was there. We can also take delight in that kind of promise. 

The other part is how this heavenly being administers aid to Daniel. In verse 19, he says, “Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe. Be strong and courageous.” God always provided for Daniel’s need, just as God will provide for our need. Daniel, as well as those who have packed up to head back to Jerusalem, will continue to have challenges. But as David reminds us in the 23rd Psalm, the Lord will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death.[16]


Daniel reminds us over and over that there are problems in our world. Nevertheless, we can take heart and trust God, even when things appear challenging. God watches over the faithful.  Amen. 

[1] Last week, I covered the first 20 verses (Daniel’s prayer of confession) from the 9th chapter. See

[2] Genesis 4:4. For more about what we can know of the future, see the sermon I preached on Mark 13 before I began this section of Daniel. Click here:

[3] Jerome, “Commentary on Daniel 9:24-27, in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Old Testament XIII, Ezekiel, Daniel (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2008), 266. 

[4] For other timestamps, see Daniel 1:1, 2:1, 7:1, 8:1, 9:1. 

[5] Daniel 1:21. This discrepancy could be due to Daniel is no longer serving in the Babylonian court as he is now at the banks of the Tigris River and Babylon is on the Euphrates River. 

[6] Tremper Longman III, Daniel: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 246. For other points of view, see W. Sibley Towner, Daniel: Interpretation, A Bible-Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984), 148; and Robert A. Anderson, Daniel: Signs and Wonders (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), 120.

[7] Towner, 148-9, Anderson, 120.

[8] Longman III, 245.

[9] Towner, 152. Towner borrows this term (Celestial First Aid) from Louis F. Hartman and Alexander A. DiLella, The Book of Daniel. The Anchor Bible 23 (Grand City: Doubleday, 1978). 

[10] Isaiah 44:28, 45:1, 13; Ezra 1:1, 2 Chronicles 36:27. 

[11] Ephesians 6:12, KJV. See also Romans 8:38 and Colossians 1:6. 

[12] Longman, III, 258. 

[13] Longman, III, 178-179 lists six major themes in the second half of Daniel (chapters 7-12): 1. Horror of human evil, particularly as it is concentrated in the state; 2. The announcement of a specific time of deliverance; 3. Repentance leads to deliverance; 4. A cosmic war stands behind human conflict; 5. judgement for those who resist God and oppress God’s people; 6. God’s people who are downtrodden in the present will experience new life. 

[14] Matthew 13:24-30. 

[15] Romans 3:23.

[16] Psalm 23:4.

“I was standing on the banks of a great river…” -Daniel 10:4

Book Reviews: Theology, Memoir, & Devotion

I’m reading a lot in this new year but am way behind on my book reviews (but then I never review all the books I read. Here is one I finished in late December, one I finished in January, and a third finished in February: 

Makota Fujimura, Art and Faith: A Theology of Making 

(New Haven, Yale, 2021), 167 pages including index and notes.  

In this book, Japanese-American artist Makota Fujimura provides an insight into his theology grounded in a belief in an all-sufficient God who created us to create. I find hope in the idea that God created us to create. His theology challenges the utilitarian views from the industrial revolution (and Darwin). While we often think of art as not being practical, he suggests that beauty and mercy (two components of art) draws us into the sacred and is necessary for the gospel to change the world. While beauty and mercy might not be in the hierarchy of the Old Creation, it invokes the New (28). 

Fujimura critiques a common belief that God is there to “fix things”, labeling such an idea as “plumbing theology.” While he agrees that at time things need to be fixed, it’s not the whole message of the gospel. Fujimura’s theology is built around the idea that God is all sufficient, yet choses to delights in us. God calls us to participate in the creation of beauty. The essential questions, according to Fujimura, isn’t whether we are religious, but whether we are making something. He even encourages us in church to ask, “what did you make this week?” (62). 

The author draws heavily on creative authors, poets, and theologians. He reminds us of Emily Dickinson’s referring to Jesus as the Tender Pioneer. A sample of others quoted include N. T. Wright, C. S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas, Wendell Berry, philosopher Daniel N. Robinson, and William Blake. While he refers to Scripture frequently, he is especially fond of the Gospel of John and ends with detailed commentary on stories of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. He also draws heavily on the image of the wedding between Christ and the Church, which should remind us that our future hope isn’t in “the end,” but in a new beginning (83-4).

Kintsugi, a form of Japanese art that repairs the pottery of a broken tea service to create a more valuable and beautiful piece serves as a metaphor for Fujimura. Christ doesn’t just “fix us,” but restores us to a new creation. As a part of the new creation, we are to be creating, regardless of what we do. 

Often Fujimura slips in humor. Writing about refusing God’s gift, he reminds us that “we are not just rejecting a vacuum cleaner that is advertised as guaranteed to clean our hearts of sin; we are rejecting the Father love of God.” 69

I enjoyed reading this book. Fujimura gives the reader a lot to ponder and makes me now ask myself, “what did I make today?” That’s not a bad question for us to ask before nodding off to sleep.


Gregory Orr, The Blessing: A Memoir


(2002, Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2019), 221 pages. 

Last year I learned of Gregory Orr through his book on reading and writing poetry. I enjoyed it so, that I picked up one of his many books of poetry. Still intrigued, I checked out this memoir. 

Orr tells the story of his first eighteen years through a series of short vignettes. The chapters tend to be short, some only a few hundred words. Through the telling of these stories, the author gradually reveals what drew him into art and especially poetry. 

Reading the story of his young life, I found myself amazed that he survived. When the author was 12, he accidently shot and killed his younger brother in a hunting accident. We later learn (as he later learned), his father had also accidently killed a friend after they had “borrowed” a 22 rifle and was using it to “skeet shoot” paper plates. Obviously, such trauma continues to influence the author. But there were more bumps along the road. His father, a physician, supposedly to save the family, took them all to Haiti in the early 60s. There, he worked in a clinic where, following a simple surgery, his mother died of an infection. Afterwards, his father married a much younger woman to whom he had had an affair before moving to Haiti. His father, who seemed to be a devoted doctor who worked ungodly hours in rural New York, lived on amphetamines. He even gave an industrial size jar of such tablets to his son when he dropped him off at college. The memoir ends after Orr’s first year of college, when he headed South as part of the Freedom Riders who worked for Civil Rights. He was young and naïve and twice found himself in a dangerous situation which required his rescue by his father’s friend, an attorney. 

It doesn’t appear Orr and his family were very religious. Orr recalls they occasionally attended a Dutch Reformed Church. However, this book is steeped in Biblical metaphors, especially around the accidental death of his brother. Orr sees himself as Cain, who after killing his brother Abel is protected by God. He too feels protected (even the investigating officer said it was an accident and doesn’t handcuff him). But he also feels guilty and unable to deal with the guilt. Later, as he writes this book, he learns of the guilt his brother had over the killing. His brother had not prepared for a test and prayed there would be a way he could avoid taking it. He, too, carried guilt, as he found the answer to his prayer (not having to take the test that day) to be horrific.

As a memoir, this book doesn’t contain everything about the author’s early life. While he mentions becoming involved with the Civil Rights movement, I found myself looking for a stronger link as to why he decided to spend a summer in Mississippi and Alabama. However, that doesn’t distract much from what I consider an excellent memoir. 

This is a fast book to read. I started it one night and finished it the next afternoon. I do recommend this book and before I preach on Genesis 4 again (the story of Cain and Abel), I will reread much of this book. 


Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers

 (Wheaton, IL: Crossways, 2020), 224 pages.  

I picked up this book on the recommendation of a good friend. Ortlund acknowledges that we spend a lot of time discussing and talking about what Christ has done for us, which is important. However, his goal is to go another direction and explore the heart of Christ. Using selections of scripture and readings of Puritan authors (such as Thomas Goodman), Ortlund creates 23 short chapters that explore Christ’s heart. The emphasis is on the love of God, a love that can break through our sin and failures to welcome us into Gods’ family. This book isn’t about fearing the wrath of God (although the author does mention that side of the divine) but a comforting book about a God who will go the extra mile to reach out to us in love. 

Not only does this book draws us into Scripture, but it also helps save Puritanism from the Perry Miller misunderstandings that has shed a dark cloud of the movement since the middle of the last century. Most people think of the Puritans as stern, people who seem overly worried that someone, somewhere is having fun. That’s not a fair representation and these chapters opens Puritanism to a new light.

This book would be an excellent read for a Bible Study group or each of the essays could be utilized as a short devotion.  


Daniel 9: The Prophet’s Confession

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
Daniel 9:1-19
February 6, 2022

At the beginning of worship:

It’s good to be back with you. Last weekend, I was on Skidaway Island. Saturday afternoon I officiated at the funeral of my friend, Andy Lohn. I had agreed to help the new pastor of the church with the funeral, but he came down with COVID, so I was left alone. But it was good to be present for Andy’s family. With his leukemia, Andy hadn’t been able to have guests for months. The new pastor hadn’t even meet him in person. Then, as you have probably heard, as I was preparing my homily for Andy, I learned the death of another friend, Todd Williams, from colon cancer. It became a bittersweet trip. 

Today, we’re discussing confession. They say confession is good for the soul. But what should we confess? And how should we confess? That’s the topic we’ll explore today. In the 9th chapter of Daniel, the prophet embarks on a prayer of confess that is enlightening for us. We confess not only for the sins we personally committed. We confess to those things we should have done but

didn’t. Those are sins of omission. And we confess corporately, not just for sins that we have personally committed, but those of our nation and even those of our ancestors. Daniel lays it all out for us today. 

Before reading Scripture:

My reading will be the first 2/3 of the ninth chapter. Next week we’ll look at the conclusion, the discussion of 70 weeks and years. 

We’ve already seen several styles of writings in Daniel. Much of the first six chapters consist of kingdom or court tales, stories of how the young Hebrew men remained faithful in the service of a pagan king. We have also seen a second type of writing, apocalyptic. Such writings use coded language to provide a glimpse as to what is happening in the present and future. Today, we’re looking at a third style—that of a prayer, or as one commentator describes, a mediation.[1] Daniel comes before God confessing sin. 

Read Daniel 9:1-19

After the Reading of Scripture:

Confession is good for the soul, but there may be exceptions… 

Confessing to my grandmother

One of the most embarrassing memories I have with my grandparent’s involved confession. I was staying with them for a couple of weeks, as I often did during the summer. I was probably 13 or 14 years old. One afternoon, after my grandfather came home from work, we didn’t go fishing, like we normally did. Instead, grandma had other plans. 

The three of us headed over to J. B. Coles peach orchard, a pick your own kind of place in West End. Grandma wanted peaches to can in quart jars for winter. In addition, I knew we’d enjoy peaches on cereal with breakfast. I also knew that some peaches would, during the weekend, end up in homemade ice cream. These peaches were so juicy they’d drip down your chin. Such delicious peaches meant we didn’t sacrifice too much as we gave up fishing for an evening.

My grandparents were picking from one tree. I was on the other side of the tree, with my own bushel basket. Suddenly, my grandmother asked if I had cut one. I acted like I didn’t understand. This time she was more forceful, “Jeff, did you cut one?”

My stomach had been squirrelly that evening. I had passed some gas, and at the time, in Jr. High boys’ jargon, that’s what “cutting one” referred to. I couldn’t believe my grandma was using such vulgar language and asking me about something so private. How did she even know or hear from her side of the tree? Humbled, I confessed my transgression. What happened next was shocking.

“You put away that knife,” my grandmother shouted. “These are not our peaches until we pay for them.”  

I’d confessed to a sin I had not committed! But I was also so embarrassed I didn’t tell my grandma about my mistake for decades. Thankfully, didn’t remember and laughed. 

Confession by Daniel

Confession is good for the soul if you’re guilty. But what about when we’re not guilty. Our text is a prayer of confession or penitence. Daniel confesses his sins, but more importantly, he also confesses the sins of his people. 

Time Stamp at the Beginning of the Chapter

Our chapter begins like many in Daniel, with a time stamp.[2] The Chaldeans or Babylonians are not in charge. The Persian empire now rules. Darius, a Mede, oversees Babylon. Daniel knows of Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the Hebrew exile to Babylon, that the exile would last 70 years. He’s been in Babylon for 66 years.[3] With the change of leadership in Babylon, perhaps he reflects on the time being close at hand for the exile population to be freed to return to their homelands. 

So, Daniel, trying to figure it all out, goes to God in prayer. In verse three, we learn of his preparations. He fasts. That’s still a good practice when you’re struggling with something. He also wears sackcloth and sits on a heap of ash, a symbol at the time of deep humility. When we, as mortals, turn to God, humility is appropriate. We don’t have to play in an ash heap, most people would think you’re weird. But we should acknowledge our limitations compared to God’s greatness and goodness.

Interestingly, Daniel doesn’t ask for insight as to when the exile will be over. Throughout this prayer, Daniel constantly acknowledges God’s faithfulness and what God has done in the past. This he compares to Israel’s and her sins. He acknowledges they should know better for God sent prophets to tell them of another way. But they failed to listen or to respond.

For Sins Committed by Others before Daniel’s birth

While Daniel includes himself in this prayer of confession, he also includes his ancestors and those who have gone before him. From what we know of Daniel, he was not personally guilty of a lot of what he confesses. After all, he was exiled as a young man to Babylon, probably when he was in his late teens or at oldest, his early 20s.[4] This means he didn’t have much personally to do with the sins which led to Jerusalem’s punishment in Babylon. Yet, he finds it necessary to confess. 

The Role of the Covenant

The basis of Daniel’s prayer is God’s covenant.[5] A covenant is an agreement in which both parties have responsibilities. There are, as Daniel acknowledges in verse 11, consequences for the failure to live up to your responsibilities. The covenant is not just between us, as individuals, and God. So, Daniel, thinking of the sinfulness of his people, confesses. Yet he also acknowledges that while Israel is experiencing the consequences of her action, God is still faithful. God watches over the calamity known as the Babylonian exile. 

How Do We Confess?

What about us? How do we confess our sins? Do you feel, as some, that we only need to confess the sins we’re responsibility for? If that’s the case, how do you reconcile with Daniel’s confession, which is more about the sins of his people and his ancestors? Some people these days make a big deal about not being responsible for what others have done in the past. Nor do they want to hear about anything that would make them feel bad or guilty. Would Daniel agree?  What does God think? After all, this is God’s word and world 

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, died three weeks ago.[6] He was a major influence on Martin Luther King, who came out against the Vietnam War after meeting him. He also had a great influence on Thomas Merton, a well-known Catholic monk. Thay, as he was known, mostly lived in France, for his ideas on the Vietnam War wasn’t appreciated by any of the sides during war: the North or the South or the Vietcong. 

I had never read any of his books. After hearing of his death, I decided to learn more about his writings, so while I drove back from Savannah on Monday, I listened to a book of his from the early 1990s titled, Peace Is Every Step.[7] The book is primarily about mindfulness and how to be present in every moment. And while I don’t fully agree with his Buddhist ethos of us all being and becoming one, I found he had a lot of good ideas about seeing ourselves as a part of the problems the world faces. Such insight, I think, allows us to pray more faithfully. 

One of his stories involved pirates off the coast of Africa. He encouraged his readers to consider what would have happened had they been born in such a setting. He suggested that if he was born in such a situation, he might have become a pirate. The same is true for the Germans who were stationed at the concentration camps. Would we really be so brave to resist? 

While he didn’t go here, I will. What if we were born a slave owner? Would we have done the right thing? Because we don’t know for sure what we would have done, and because who we are today has to do with what’s happened in the past, we should be gentle and compassionate toward others. As Christians, we should acknowledge such sins and offer them up to God in confession. Daniel, in our passage today, shows us how.

Concluding Charge

Next time you pray the prayer of confession, search your hearts. Yes, even Daniel confessed his own sin. But go deeper. Open yourself up to confess corporate sin. We’re all in this together and in a way often participate unintentionally in that which doesn’t honor God. When we confess such sins, we place ourselves in the hands of a merciful and gracious God. There’s no better place to be. Amen. 

[1] W. Sibley Towner, Daniel: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984), 127.  

[2] See Daniel 1:1, 2:1, 7:1, 8:1,  9:1, 10:1, 11:1.

[3] Daniel was taken into exile in 605 BC and it’s now the year 539 BC. See Temper Longman III, Daniel: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 218.

[4] I covered his age in my first sermon on Daniel. See

[5] Robert A. Anderson’s Daniel: Signs and Wonders (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984),


[7] Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Edoardo Balerini, narrator. (1991: Audible 2015).

Todd’s boat, “Grand Cru” beats my boat, “Bonnie Blue” to the mark. Hook Race (Hilton Head to Landings Harbor, September 2020)

Last weekend (A tribute to two friends)

A Bittersweet Trip back to Skidaway

Romerly Marsh from the tower

I spent Saturday morning walking around the north end of Skidaway Island. It is hard to imagine I spent six and a half years here. My walk was a sad one as I recalled two friends from the island who are no longer with us. I had come back at the request of Anna Fay Lohn to talk at her husband, Andy’s, funeral. And last Thursday, as I sat down to write the homily for Andy’s service, I received a text from a friend informing me of the death of another friend, Todd Williams. Andy died of Leukemia, Todd of colon cancer. While I had known of Andy’s illness and talked to him a week before his death, I was unaware of Todd’s illness. I learned from friends that only a few knew he had cancer and only a few knew how sick he was. In this post, I’m going to say something about each.


Todd Williams

Todd on a cold day (I couldn’t find photos of him at the helm, but I know I have some)

Todd was an incredible sailor and our relationship mostly centered around sailboats and the Landings Sail Club. On the porch of the clubhouse, he was one of the most laidback guys. But put him at the tiller of a boat in a race and everything became very intense. He liked to win! He always pushed his crew hard and often there would be heated exchanges between him and the other boats around him. He knew the rules of the water well, but I have also seen him admit when he was wrong. I learned a lot from sailing with him and from competing against him. It was also on his boat that I ruptured my quad tendon in January 2016, when I slipped, with my foot pinned against a block, keeping my leg from bending as I fell backwards. Todd constantly called to check on me as I recovered from surgery. 

Todd’s “Grand Cru” approaching mark

What was probably the last race we competed against each other (the 2020 Hook Race from Hilton Head to the Landings Harbor), Todd’s boat just barely beat us around the sea buoy at the channel marker. With a lack of wind, they’d moved the finish line out into the ocean, cutting out the last 6 or so miles, so we’d be done before dark. About an hour before the end, the wind freshen up. Todd had stayed closed to land and we were further out into the sea, each trying to gain an advantage. When we came to the marker, Todd’s tack was better, as he charged out toward the buoy. He just beat us, but then had to laugh about it as our boat had a much higher handicap than his C&C 33. When the handicap was taken into account, we won, but he still wanted to be first and his boat skills allowed him to take advantage of that last puff of wind. As the light faded, so did the wind, and the two boats motored up the Wilmington River next to each other.  

I talked to Todd when I was in Savannah in October. He had planned to sail with me and a group of others but called to say he wasn’t feeling good. I had no idea he was so sick. We’d also texted back and forth in July when he was sailing the Chicago to Mackinaw race. I was on a friend’s boat in Grand Traverse Bay. We explored meeting on his sail back to Chicago, but wasn’t able to make it happen. 

Todd worked in risk assessment and often traveling to Europe and Asia. He loved the finest things in life, especially food and wine. He arranged the weekend regattas for the Landing Sail Club to almost the end. He is going to be missed on the island and in the sailing world.  On Saturday night, I gathered with members of the club for a bon fire to remember todd.

Photo from the Landings Sail Club Facebook page.
Todd on a moonlight sail, last year.

Andy Lohn

Andy Lohn was one of my best friends on the island (and there are many others who also felt Andy was their best friend, he was that kind of guy). Below is the homily I used for his service. One thing I left out, but was important and didn’t seem appropriate in a homily, was our Friday afternoon/evening “board meetings.” A group of six to eight of us would gather most Fridays for drinks and munchies and to solve the world’s problems! Lots of good conversation were held while nursing a glass of bourbon or scotch. Sadly, I never took any photos of the board meetings (probably because no one wanted the evidence). Here’s my homily: 

Andy Lohn Memorial Service Homily
Skidaway Community Church
John 14:1-6, 16:
January 29, 2022

Andy’s funeral. My homily starts around 18 minutes.

At times like this, it’s not only natural to remember, but healthy. It’s what the Apostle John did as he penned the words I’ve just read. He recalls the most memorable night of his life. John devotes almost a quarter of his gospel to this evening which Jesus and the disciples are together one last time as a family. Jesus didn’t want his disciples to be fearful or worried. He wants them to know that death is not the end, not his death, not ours, not Andy’s. 

I have a hope that when I see Andy again, he’ll be wearing his fire department apron, with Lohn on the butt tag, and standing over a grill. I’m sure he has already volunteered to serve as the master griller for Jesus’ promised banquet in the new kingdom. 

I met Andy through a phone call. He was on the Pastor Nominating Committee at Skidaway Presbyterian and called to see if I was interested in the position. At the time, I had two other church offers on my platter. I planned to accept one of them. I told him this up front. But we continued to talk for a good thirty minutes. We discussed the church, our faith, our families, our interest in the outdoors, and our love for the American West. It was a good conversation. I felt as if we had known each other a lifetime. As we said goodbye, he told me to let them know if I change my mind about those other churches. Obviously, I called back.

Andy was that type of guy. He never met anyone who was a stranger. If they were a stranger, it wasn’t for long. He had the ability to make those around him feel at ease.  And he inspired others. As one friend of Andy’s said, “just being around him, seeing how he interacted with others, made me want to become a better version of myself.” 

To meet Andy, you’d soon find yourself in a meaningful conversation. And he would often, at such time, share his faith. Not in an obnoxious, heavy-handed way, but in a natural, non-threatening manner. Charles Robeson, pastor at Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship, told me he met Andy as an attorney for a real estate deal, but soon they became brothers in Christ. 

I met Charles through Andy. He brought the three of us together to pray over the racial divide in Savannah. As Charles shared with me this week, two things stuck out about Andy: his faith in Christ and his desire to see the community unite beyond racial barriers. 

One of the things most of us appreciated about Andy was his subtle humor. Often, his humor was self-effacing. While Andy would wear suits, he was more comfortable in shorts and flipflops or loafers without socks. Once, after work, when he was comfortably dressed, he introduced Rory, one of his colleagues at the firm, to a group of us. Rory was still decked out in a suit; I think he may have loosened his tie. Pointing to his suit, Andy introduced him as a “real lawyer.” In a way, his humor was one of the ways he made everyone feel comfortable around him. 

Most everyone who hung around with Andy knew of his love to eat, often at dives. Whether it was, as one friend remembers, driving back from a dove hunt and stopping for a late breakfast in a greasy spoon. Or, as another remembers from another trip, stopping at a Mexican restaurant that was stuck behind a store that sold everything from food to cell phones. He and I often meet for lunch at Indian and Vietnamese restaurants. And Andy was also an excellent cook.

Andy strove to bring communities together. Whether it was communities of race, or different countries, or just people from different walks of life, he did what he could to gather people together in the hopes that bridges would be built. He worked hard for Rotary, serving as President and District Governor. He took an active interest in the exchange program, sponsoring a student from Germany, but also supporting others from Sri Lanka and Africa. He even spent several weeks one summer in Germany as a Rotary ambassador. As Paul Meyer, his colleague in law noted, “Andy embodied the Rotary ethos of ‘Service Above Self.’”

Andy’s work in the community extended beyond trying to build bridges. He was also about putting out fires, metaphorically as well as literally. Andy and I joined the fire department at the same time. We went through training together. Whether crawling through a maze or learning to fetch an unresponsive person down a ladder from two stories up, Andy was ready to raring and ready to go. Unfortunately, with hip issues, he had to step back from being an active firefighter, but he continued helping the Skidaway division as its treasurer until he became ill. 

Andy enjoyed being an attorney. His approach with his career was to use the law to do what is right. As his friend and client, Mark Hornsby, told me, “Andy served as my guard rail for getting through business problems.” 

Not only did Andy influence our community in a positive manner, but he also made connections through his work which allowed him to share his faith in Jesus Christ. Paul Meyer, who had the task of cleaning out his office, shared with me a thank you letter Andy received from a client he helped navigate his wife’s illness. The letter ended:

“God has often sent me someone I call, “Jesus with skin on.” You (Andy) fit that bill.
Thank you for your care and concern.”    

Andy: “Jesus with skin on.” If we all could be so gracious. 

One of the paralegals at his firm recalls how Andy would take time to explain the intricacies of the law. Andy worked to end. She continued to talk to him in the hospital several times a week. She imagined him hooked up to tubes and in pain, but he never complained. 

Andy liked being outdoors. Perhaps this came from him growing up in Western Colorado, where he gained “farm skills” and enjoyed the freedom of the outdoors. He enjoyed fishing and bird hunting and was a member of the Forest City Gun Club. A couple of years ago, he purchased a kayak. I was hoping to paddle with him, but he had his hip issues and then I moved. I am glad, though, that after I left, he was able to paddle several times with another friend, Aaron Bibby. 

With all the good Andy strove to do in our community, he was basically a family man. He and Anna Fay created a loving home, where everyone felt welcome. 

Friends of his and Anna Fay introduced the two of them. They were married for 31 years. Andy was so excited when they were expecting Katherine, their first child, that several weeks before her due date, he put the car seat on a counter in the kitchen, with a buckled in Teddy Bear. He was ready to go! When she began her studies at Georgia Tech, Andy proudly put a “Georgia Tech Dad” sticker on his truck. He loved both of his daughters. He was a proud of Caroline’s accomplishments on the tennis court and excited as her faith in Jesus grew. 

He was also proud of his family. While Andy never served in the military, he honored those who did. If you were in his home, I’m sure he told you about his father, a Navy hardhat diver at the end of World War II, or showed you the metals and honors his father-in-law (a colonel in the Army) had earned. He was proud of other family members who served their country including Colonel David Howell, Captain John Tilley, and Sergeant Ken Midcalf (all who are here today). 

Finally, Andy’s faith in his Savior Jesus Christ was solid. He knew the Bible and could draw on its wisdom. He often spoke of how good it felt to study the Scriptures. Others, as we’ve already seen, saw his faith through his life. His brother-in-law Fen commented on his strong faith, saying, “we all should be so blessed.” 

Chili cook-off team (Andy is third from left on back row)

Andy worked hard here at Skidaway Community Church, serving as an Elder and a member of the Pastor Nominating Committee. I will always be grateful for the one Saturday, in which my father was in the hospital in North Carolina. I stopped in to see my dad on my way out of town, as I had to preach here on Sunday. But things weren’t looking good. Suddenly, a team of doctors came in and decided immediate surgery was necessary. I called Andy. I told him my sermon was prepared and asked if he could he preach it for me so I could stay where I was needed. He graciously accepted. If there was anything Andy could do for you, he would. 

Andy’s faith must have played a role in his optimism. He knew he was in God’s hands. He told those at Meyer and Sayers Law, after he was diagnosed with leukemia, that he could have two perspectives. “I can either look down in the mud or look up in the stars. I prefer to look up and see the stars.” As his friend, Sam Eskew, said toward the end of Andy’s life, “You can tell he doesn’t feel well, but he won’t say that. He’s always throwing roses.” 

Andy is no longer with us, but he has gone to that home his Savior has been preparing for him.  

In our gospel reading, we see how Jesus knew on that night of his betrayal what his disciples would be feeling once he left. He shared their apprehension over his leaving, but Jesus also understood he was called for a greater purpose. He comforts his friends by assuring them there are going to be many dwelling places where he’s going, enough for all of them to join him. 

It’s comforting to realize the potential of this promise. Jesus prepares a place for us; he expects us to join him. We can be assured that he has welcomed Andy home, for Andy’s true home was not here on Skidaway Island or in Atlanta or Colorado. Like us, Andy was a pilgrim on earth. He journeyed here for sixty-one years of preparation for his new life with Jesus. 

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” This one sentence ties together Jesus’ entire ministry. This is good news for those of us who belong to a race of people who have lost their way.

Salvation is not our doing. It is a gift of God made possible through the saving work of Jesus Christ who gave his life for the life of the world. Jesus’ words in this passage are not only directed at the disciples. The eleven who remained somewhat faithful are not the only ones who are promised rooms in that heavenly mansion. Because he is the Way and the Truth and the Life, because he died for the life of the world, Jesus’ words apply to us, too.

Jesus’ words provide hope for a better world; a world prepared for Andy, for us, and for all followers of Jesus. Salvation is found in him and him alone. Yet, even with this hope, our pain remains as we remember Andy: a loving husband, a devoted father, and a loyal and optimistic friend. As John recalls Jesus’ words, “You will have pain now; but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice.” Amen.

Taken on my walk around Skidaway on Saturday