Summary: We all need a throne room, where we can maintain a measure of control and an upper room, where we can nourish our privacy. We will also have a den, a place of escape or of anxiety. The key to managing them all is the open windows of prayer.
Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC May 29, 1988
If anyone here should by chance be interested in a course in fiction writing, I have a suggestion to make. If you would like to learn to write fiction, real fables and tales, do not go to the community college. Do not waste your time at the university. Do not invest in a week at the Sugarloaf Writers' Conference. None of these things are necessary. Instead simply turn to the Sunday newspaper and page over to the classified ads; there find the real estate section. And you will discover a thousand examples of creative writing, I mean creative.
What they describe as a handyman's special I would have to call a shambles. What is pictured as compact and quaint most of us would find cramped and old. And what you and I would say is a jumble of patchwork and add-ons and a mishmash of styles, the real estate folks praise as eclectic, charming, and a period piece.
And so if someone were to advertise this house, what would you think: Three rooms, open windows. House wanted: three rooms, open windows. What would you think?
Well, you might say, those requirements are very modest indeed. Almost any house has at least three rooms and open windows … although, by the way, if you think all windows open, just step back in our choir room and give a push. Mrs. Bishop will love you for it.
House wanted: three rooms, open windows. Almost any house could fulfill those requirements, right? Let's not be too sure. What if the house we are talking about is the house you call your life? What if the home we are thinking about is the habitat of your soul? It strikes me that not all of those houses include three rooms and not all of those homes have open windows. What, I say, about the flesh and bone, heart and mind place where you live your life? You would not purchase for your family bricks and mortar that had fewer than three rooms and had no open windows. But have you done that much for something far more important than your street address? Have you done at least that much for your spiritual home?
If you listened carefully while we heard the story of Daniel a moment ago, you heard three rooms mentioned. Three very different kinds of rooms were listed in this passage; and let’s see if you can remember what whey are. We’ll make this a participatory sermon; what were the three rooms mentioned in this story?
The first room the story of Daniel introduces to us is the throne room, the place where Darius the emperor wielded power, the spot where Daniel and two others called presidents met with the king to determine great affairs of state. In the throne room, where Daniel had supposed he was so much in control, one day his colleagues met with the king and manipulated Darius into passing a strange new rule. “Establish an ordinance, O King; write an unchangeable law, O Darius, which would provide that anyone who makes a prayer to any god other than to you during the next thirty days … let that person be thrown into the den of lions. “
The throne room, where Daniel had reached the apex of his career, where Daniel seemed so much in command and in control; but the throne room is also where Daniel got sandbagged.
Next we discover the upper room, Daniel's own private room. When Daniel learned that such a document had been signed by the king, he went to his upper room and prayed. Was it a hiding place, where they might not find him? Was it a retreat, where he could come to grips with his own soul? Was it a cell, where he could barricade himself against the powers now arrayed against him? Was it a sandbox, where he could go to sulk?
Choose whatever description you will, this we know: that in seasons of distress and grief, Daniel had this upper room, a little private and personal place, bathed in prayer and shaped by the special personality of Daniel.
And then there is another room. The throne room, the upper room, and now the den. Oh, maybe you would not think of a lion's den as a room; and I feel pretty confident you have not yet built one in your home. But that is the third room to which the Bible story introduces us: the den. The place of terrible destruction. The place at which Daniel thought he would have to realize all his worst fears and lose his life. But also the place of escape; what happened in the den connected not only with what happened now in the throne room but also what happened in the upper room. Daniel’s rescue from the lions in their lair ties not only to the throne room but also to the upper room. And don’t forget; by all means don’t forget about those open windows.