Fiery Furnace

So what do Ash Wednesday and the fiery furnace of Daniel 3 have in common?

Ashes, you say?  Works for me.  On one hand,cold  ashes on the forehead.  On the other hand, the hot ashes of whatever and whoever burned in that great Babylonian furnace…an ancient government’s idea of capital punishment.

For Wednesday nights in Lent, pastors from nearby Lutheran churches are reading and talking about the great stories of the Easter Vigil (Saturday night before Easter).  The stories are creation, the flood, Abraham’s test, the crossing of the Red Sea, Ezekiel and the dry bones, Jonah and the big fish,and the fiery furnace.  Here’s the great part: each pastor takes one story and goes to five different congregations leading worship with that one story.  The congregations get to hear five stories and five pastors.  The advantage to my colleagues and me is obvious:  there is only one message that needs to be prepared by each pastor.  Not only that, but the congregations get to hear someone else talk for  change.

My assigned story that I will be traveling around with is “The Fiery Furnace.”  It’s a favorite of mine, but sadly  my congregation won’t hear it.  So I have concocted a plan. Why not use the fiery furnace  story on Ash Wednesday when I am with my congregation?  Then—you got it—I won’t have to do a completely new sermon on Ash Wednesday either.   Now how pragmatic and efficient can one get?

Did I just say I was going to change an assigned text?  Hopefully, the liturgical police are not reading this blog.

But there is more than my pragmatism going on.  The fiery furnace story is so delightful that no one should miss hearing and reflecting on it.  It has suspense, drama, repetition, humor, heroes…it’s got it all!  Besides,my creative teaching juices are churning, rising to the challenge of fitting the two together—Ash Wednesday and the fiery furnace.  Can the combination really help us at all to mark the beginning of a season that prepares for Easter’s celebration?  Or am I stretching things.

I threw the idea out there to a few colleagues.  We came up with the connection of Ash Wednesday and repentance (yes, the bad guy repents in the story).  Another connection between the two is life in the midst of death.  Yet another idea is the connection between what we treasure (see the Gospel reading in Matt 6:19-21) and what the three men about to be thrown into the furnace truly treasure. 

There you go.  More specifically, what do Ash Wednesday and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walking around in the fiery  furnace have in common?Read Daniel 3 and weigh in with your ideas.  I want to start working on it on Saturday.



  1. A comment without, doing the assigned homework, oh Task Master of ours….. I’m all for it!!!