Summary: Sermon for Deacon Ordination service; we obsess on things that do not matter and ignore things that do make a difference. Our sin is using holy things for our own pleasure, compounded with a failure to read the signs of the times.
We give too much of ourselves to things that do not last. We give too little of ourselves to things that will endure. It is easy to obsess on things that don’t matter. It is tempting to ignore things that really count. If something does not change that pattern, at the end of the day, we are going to be very disappointed.
Follow me around, just one day in my life. Just one day and what I give myself to, and you will probably be as horrified as I am when I add it up at the end of the day. Now I don’t know what you think a pastor does with his time. Maybe you think it is non-stop Bible reading, constant prayer, and holding hands with weary widows. Frankly, it would be better if I did more of that and less of what I do do. A day in my life is more likely spent fending off calls from salesmen, figuring out why some piece of equipment is not working, or listening to somebody complain about somebody else, when only moments before I had heard the somebody else complain about the first somebody. I can come into the office, start work on some project that is supposed to move this church forward, and by the time I have not only fielded interruptions, but also followed my little whims, the end of the day comes and nothing that I started out to do has been accomplished. I can come in here determined that I am going to write a major Bible study, and end up spending two or three hours perfecting some spreadsheet that nobody will even give a glance at! What has happened? I have been consumed by things that don’t matter and I have ignored things that could have made a different. If that pattern is not turned around, not only will I go home disappointed, worse, the Kingdom loses ground.
We obsess on things that do not matter and we ignore things that might make a difference.
The King of Babylon, at the end of his day, elected to play trivial pursuit. He gave a huge feast to congratulate himself. He surrounded himself with partygoers and hangers-on, and pitched a major bash. Lavish food and drink; Babylon’s hanging gardens, one of the wonders of the world, replete with everything from pungent flowers to exotic dancing girls; and this time an extra touch of luxury. Some Babylonian Martha Stewart in the palace kitchen must have reminded him that, with food, presentation is everything. So Belshazzar ordered that his food and drink be served in vessels taken from the Temple of Jerusalem.
You remember the history – how in 587 BC Jerusalem and Judah had fallen to Babylon. You remember how the people were marched off into exile, how the Temple was destroyed, and how all of the furnishings from the Temple were taken as plunder. Gold and silver, brass and bronze from Jerusalem were trotted out that night of King Belshazzar’s feast. Things that had belonged to the house of God were now trivialized and made into sport. It would be as if we were to serve punch in the Communion cups and cookies on the offering plates.
But the issue was not really about cups and plates. It was about what is holy. It was about how we value what can be used for the service of God. It was about how we obsess with things that do not matter and ignore things that really do count.
And so that night, as the feast proceeded, suddenly, up on the wall, a hand, fingers, writing. A message, powerful, awesome: The words – what did they mean? Mene, mene, tekel, parsin. What was this all about?
They called Daniel to read the message. He told them that the message meant, “Numbered, weighed, and given away.” Mene, mene, tekel, parsin. “Mene” means numbered; your days are numbered. “Tekel” means weighed, weighed on the scales and found wanting, too little. And “parsin” means given away, everything set aside and given away. Numbered, weighed, and given away, said the handwriting on the wall.
Brothers and sisters, there are consequences when we obsess on the trivial and do not give ourselves to things that truly matter. The consequences - at the end of the day, disappointment and worse: numbered, weighed, and given away.
Notice that the sin of Belshazzar was that he used holy things for his own benefit, and not for the use God had intended. Belshazzar seized the Temple vessels and then treated them as if they were playthings for his own pleasure. That will bring on any Christian leader the solemn verdict, “Numbered, weighed, and given away”.
Deacons, the church is not here for us. Let me say that again. The church is not here for us, for you and me, and for our good pleasure. The church is here for the world. The church is here to be the servant of the world for Christ. We are here to give ourselves away. We do not come together as a mutual admiration society; we come together to pray for and give to a world that is broken and bleeding. We are not here for ourselves. We are here for others.