November 16, 2014

Pentecost Proper 28A

Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30


We have had our first refreshing splash of winter weather and the brilliant sunny days like the day of our recent bazaar have turned into grayer, cloudier, and shorter days of less sunlight and more darkness. While some people counter the gloom, either intentionally or subconsciously, by beginning to string colorful outdoor lights on their homes and lawns, others tend to retreat evermore toward the center of their nests, bringing out the winter throws and shutting out the world and its cold while they wait for the springtime seed catalogues.

The summer landscaping is dying and there are fewer days ending in 2014 remaining to be lived out until a whole new number appears on our calendars. These all may be reminders of other endings that took place this year, or hopes unrealized, or pounds not yet lost, or friends not yet invited to dinner. Or, perhaps for you, these are signs that start-overs and clean slates are not far away.

First Thessalonians is Paul's earliest letter, written 17 or so years after the Resurrection of Jesus, to the congregation he  established in Thessalonica, the capital of Macedonia, then a Roman province in Northern Greece. In this letter, the apostle is offering encouragement to the congregation, reminding them that they are "Children of Light". Amid strong social pressure from worshippers of such idol gods as Dionysus, the god of wine, and persecution from the Romans, these Christians might easily and understandably succumb to any dark influence and every dark corner. Dionysus' nighttime celebrations were known to be frenzied, drunken orgiastic happenings. Those folks were clearly of the philosophical school of "Live it up tonight for tomorrow you may die."

Paul, however, reminds his beloved people that they and he are followers of Jesus the Christ, and as such, they are to be sober, not moral dullards; they are to be awake and alert since they do not know when the end time, the return of Jesus will occur. And in that day, Christians believed the second coming would be in their lifetime. He tells them to arm themselves with a breastplate of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation so as to withstand the darkness.

We have heard a number of eschatological references in recent weeks: the foolish virgins and the bridegroom; the landowner and the cruel slaves, etc. You may even remember Mr. Harold Camping, president of California's Family Radio, who predicted that three million people would be saved and the rest perish, on May 21, 2011. When that did not happen, the End of the 

World was recalculated for October 21, 2011. Now Jesus, speaking in the Gospels, describes the end times as dark, violent, frightening. And Paul quotes Jesus in this letter, saying that the end will come like a thief in the night. And Jesus also tells us no one knows when that will be, not even the Son knows. That time is known only by God the Father.

What does it mean for you and I to be Children of Light, Children of the Day and not of the Darkness? Well, the first question would be, "What is the Light?" I think the beginning of the Gospel of John answers that quite well. "All things came into being through him (the WORD).....What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. Jn 1: 3-5.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we walk in this Light. we are his brothers and sisters and heirs of the kingdom of his father. As Paul reminds the 

Thessalonians, we are destined for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to encourage one another to put on the armor of God against all the dark shadows, clouds, pressures, influences and temptations of and in our lives. Our hope of salvation is with Jesus, our Redeemer. The very Light of the World who has overcome the dark death of sin. Who advocates for our forgiveness when we in our weakness step into the shadows and then return repentant.

This is in fact one part of loving one another, this encouraging each other. 

This is body building, being the body of Christ.This is, is it not, why and how we pray for one another and for those we do not know - that we may all be alert to the daily encounters with Christ, walking in the Light, and thus have no fear of the final day - whenever that may be. And walking in the Light is what each of us is called to do outside those doors back there among all those folks outside these walls. I join Paul in saying, "Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing." Amen