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Bible passage: Daniel 1
Key verse: “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way” (Daniel 1:8)
PRAYER AND WORSHIP
You will need: large map of your area; marker pens
Spread the map out on the fl oor or a wall / noticeboard (or in several locations if you have a big congregation). Ask people to draw or pinpoint on the map places or things they are particularly thankful for. They can talk to those around them as they do this. At the end of the activity, encourage people to pray simple prayers of thanks with the person or people alongside them.
Introduce a body prayer. Begin by holding up your hands as if you are surrendering. This reminds us that we can come to worship just as we are, leaving behind our expectations and anxieties. Next, cup your hands in front of you, as if receiving something. This reminds us that when we come together God wants to speak to us as a family and as individuals. Finally, give yourself a hug. This reminds us that we are here to connect with our spiritual family. We are reminded to be welcoming of one another. This might naturally lead on to people giving one another a sign of greeting.
You will need: signs (as detailed below); a large cake; four carrots
Before the session, make signs for Jerusalem and Babylon, placing them on either side at the front of your worship space. You’ll also need to have signs of the following Babylonian names: Nebuchadnezzar, Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Begin by saying that Jerusalem and God’s people had come under attack from the Babylonians. Babylon was very powerful, and they had a clever strategy for taking over other nations. They would take the best people away to their nation and train them up to become part of their society; that way they kept all the power. The king of Babylon was called Nebuchadnezzar. Choose someone to be king and give them a name sign to hold. Stand them next to Babylon.
Explain that Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the best of God’s people be brought to Babylon. Choose four volunteers to stand in Jerusalem, complimenting them for their skills and attributes as you choose them. Then tell this story:
Nebuchadnezzar took these fi ne human specimens over to Babylon with him. The king leads the volunteers across. These men were called Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Part of the deal when you got to Babylon was that you were given a new name. Daniel became Belteshazzar, Hananiah became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach and Azariah became Abednego. Give each person a new name card to hold.
There were lots of other new things to learn in Babylon. They learnt all about Babylonian culture, got to grips with the new language and became familiar with Babylonian literature. They didn’t resist; they studied hard and learned to fi t in. However, there was one thing they were not too happy about: the food. These men felt that eating the royal food would be wrong. It was probably nice, fancy, rich food, and there would have been plenty of wine on offer too, but Daniel and his friends decided it was a step too far and they weren’t going to eat or drink it. Try to tempt your volunteers with the large cake.
They spoke to the guy in charge, but he wasn’t sure: “What if you look worse than the other guys who eat this stuff?” he asked. “I’m frightened that I’ll get into all kinds of trouble with the king.” Daniel suggested they try an experiment. They would eat only vegetables and drink only water for ten days. If they looked OK compared with the others they could carry on with the vegetables. Give your volunteers a carrot each.
And guess what? At the end of the ten days Daniel and his pals looked way healthier than all the others. Not only were Daniel and his friends healthier; they were also smarter and wiser, and when the time came for them to be presented to the king they were top of the class and were given great jobs.
Daniel and his friends gave up the fancy food of Babylon because they knew it would stop them remembering who they were and that they belonged to God, even in a strange land.
Ask everyone to pause and think of the things that make us forget we belong to God. Maybe it’s watching particular things on TV, using language we know isn’t right, or spending our money on certain things. Ask everyone to imagine they are giving that thing to God.
Pray and ask God to help us remember that we belong to him and not to get tied up with all the things that might make us forget that.
Some people respond to the story of Daniel by doing a ‘Daniel fast’. This means only eating foods that grow naturally from seeds (fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, beans etc) and only drinking water. When we fast it helps us focus on God and also helps us step away from the excesses of the world.
Have people form small groups and talk about whether there is a food they could all fast from this week. A straightforward one might be chocolate! Agree to check in with one another next week and see whether it helped you focus on God and move away from excess a little.
Divide into mixed-aged groups and discuss these questions:
- If you had to go and live in a different country, what would be the most diffi cult part?
- Why do you think Daniel and his friends weren’t grumpier about going to live in Babylon?
- What was most courageous about the characters in the story?
- Which things do you feel called to stand up and be different about?
- Why is it hard to live in a way that is different from everyone around you?
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