Twenty fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:1–5:11
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Date: November 19th, 2017; Pentecost 24; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I overheard someone say the other day that just thinking about Christmas this year is making them tired.
It’s a shame that this world-changing event in history that we celebrate each year - the birth of our Saviour - has become such a burden for so many.
Our calendars quickly fill up with parties, programs, travelling, shopping and on and on.
And though it might be heightened during the Christmas season, this time of year is really just a reflection of the rest of our lives - we are busy.
Yet, as we try to juggle all of our commitments and appointments, we need to always be aware of the fact that God’s appointment with us could come at any time.
God’s calendar has an appointed day of judgment on it - God’s Word makes this very clear.
And some have tried to figure out exactly when this day will be.
In fact, out of curiosity I did a Google search on these predictions and the Wikipedia list of groups and individuals that have made specific date predictions is vast ranging from around the year 60 A.D. up until as recently as September of this year.
Obviously, since we are all here today, these predictions have all been wrong.
We learn from Matthew 24:36, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
God’s appointed day of judgment could be today, tomorrow, or a thousand years from now. No one knows.
But what we do know is that the day is on God’s calendar. It will happen.
We learn from the Bible that the Last Day will be a day of destruction and judgment.
The text we heard from Zephaniah gives us a sobering description, “…The day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast…A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness…” (Zephaniah 1:14-15).
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and each day of creation God brought into existence order, and light, and joy, and life.
Sin has caused all of this to be reversed and the full effects of this reversal will be experienced on the Last Day.
Instead of order - there will be chaos.
Instead of light - there will be darkness and gloom, clouds and thick darkness.
Instead of joy - there will be distress and anguish.
Instead of life - there will devastation and death.
These are not easy things to hear.
We are warned that these will be extremely difficult times.
But the Good News is that there is hope.
We have God’s promise that these days of chaos, darkness, distress, devastation, and death will end - and love, and light, and life will be restored.
In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul uses the imagery of labour pains.
A mother in labour experiences great pain. But it ends.
And the pain gives way to life, love, and great joy as she holds onto her newborn.
We are warned to be prepared for the day of the Lord, to stay awake and be sober.
We are warned not to allow anything to distract us because it will come like a thief in the night.
We are warned that those who forsake God, those who stay in the darkness, those who continue in their sinful ways, those who are not prepared for our Lord’s return - will be cast into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
These are terrifying words of warning.
It is especially terrifying when we are honest with ourselves and recognize that through our own efforts - we are not prepared for our Lord’s return.
We have not stopped sinning, we have not cleaned ourselves up enough, to earn God’s salvation.
We all fall short of the glory of God and we deserve to be cast into the outer darkness.
Thanks be to God for his love, mercy, and gift of eternal life.
Christ Jesus is the Light of the world - and now we are not in darkness.
God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:115).
We hear the Good News in our Epistle lesson that, “…God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
Our Lord took upon himself the wrath, the punishment we deserve - and now, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
In Christ Jesus, we have been set free from our sin and death.
And as God’s people we live in this world - yet not of it.
We watch the passing of time with a different perspective.
We realize that the appointments on our calendars are not all that there is to life.
We know that one day - all time, all of our appointments - will give way to God’s appointed day. God’s eternal day.
In our Epistle lesson, St Paul describes us when he said, “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
We do not live in spiritual darkness.
Having been baptized into Christ we are his people who bask in his light through faith.
We no longer live as slaves to sin and death.
Christ has freed us from the guilt and power of sin through his life, death, and resurrection.
In Romans chapter 6 we read, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”
Through our baptism, through the gift of faith that is given to us, we live in Christ and he lives in us.
We live clean and sober lives in Christ.
Being baptized into Christ we have put on the breastplate of faith, we have put on the helmet of salvation and we no longer need to fear God’s wrath because Jesus has already endured it for us.
We live in the hope of a glorious eternal future, not the dread of unknown months and years ahead.
We, live soberly in the light of day, anticipating the fruit of our faith when Christ returns to claim his own.
We encourage one another, build each other up in the faith as we gather to receive God’s gifts, as we gather to hear his word and receive his true body and blood.
In these last days, we watch for Christ’s return - filled with peace, comfort, and hope knowing that God has destined us to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.