The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
November 19, 2017
Sermon Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ,
One can certainly learn a lot by considering what a person chooses to say… chooses to write… in addition to what they actually say and write. In other words, the subject matter is, many times, just as important as the matter or contents itself and what is written about it.
Case in point… the Apostle Paul, moved by the Holy Spirit, guided by God the Holy Spirit, chooses to end this epistle (the first of two we have) by talking about the “day of the Lord.” Hmm, interesting.
And he begins this last section by saying, “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1)
Ok… but then he proceeds to write about just that… what has already been written… pointed out… and proclaimed.
The phrase “day of the Lord” appears some twenty-four times in Holy Scripture. Nineteen of which are found in the Old Testament, five in the New Testament.
The Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah and Malachi… all likewise moved by God the Holy Spirit… write about this particular day… the last day. In fact, the Book of Zephaniah begins with this subject matter which is, in fact, our Old Testament reading.
Some pretty powerful words. Add to that what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said about the end times… some pretty powerful words.
Add to that the faithful catechesis, teaching and training that the Christians of Thessalonica were fortunate to have had at the hand of Paul, Silas, Timothy and others… all delivering what? Some pretty powerful words… and it all makes sense what the Apostle declares,
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.”
It had all been said before, written before, shared before. And yet, my friends, it also makes sense that Paul still goes on to write about it… that which is coming… that which will soon be upon us… can at any second or minute be upon us.
It will startle us, but not surprise us. We know for certain the end is coming. It is just that we did not know it was coming right there and then… at that very moment in time, signaling the end of time… the end of it all… the end of this world… the end of you, me and every person being in this world.
It will still startle us, even though how many times have we been told that Christ is coming… coming soon… coming quickly? How many times have we heard that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night?” (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
And yet, that “thief in the night” part evades us… or… at least… can evade us, elude us. You see, my friends, it is not a matter of how many times we are told that the end is coming, because the fact of the matter is, there never will be a sufficient number of times. Hence, Paul saying that nothing more needs to be written about it and then goes on to write more… about it! To reiterate and remind… again and again.
That is what pastors do… again and again. We preach about it, teach about again and again, because you and I need to hear it again and again… let it sink in again and again… that which can become so easily forgotten, hazy, contorted and distorted.
Here is the thing, dear brothers and sisters… You and I become fully aware of what was… what is… and what will be… through the reading and hearing of God’s Word. He who alone tells it like it was, is and will be… the truth of the same… the details of the same… as much as God ordains that we need to know… not anything less or anything more.
But what many people forget… lose sight of… is the fact that our remaining fully aware of what was… what is… and what will be… all that God would have us know and be mindful of… have full recall of… only happens… ONLY HAPPENS… as we are constantly in Holy Scripture.
Any amount of time away from the living, breathing Word of God… even a day… and we begin to lose it… forget it… we get lulled to sleep, into a stupor, as it appears that everything is just going to go on…
…. as it is, and will continue to do so, at least for a while…
…. as it appears that all is well… at least for a while.
… as we say, “Sure, things could be better, but what is… is doable… liveable”… at least for a while.
Where do people get this “while longer” notion and even bank on the same? That there will be a while longer and in fact much longer if not forever longer? They get it and other similar lies… other similar false assurances from none other than the great deceiver.
Paul writes, “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2)
Sudden destruction… with no escape. That, my friends, is reality and it will be a harsh one for the vast majority of people in this world. Talk about pure Law… God’s immutable Law and the truth of the matter. And Paul shares this, talks about it, writes about it to the Lord’s own then… God’s children then… and now… to you and to me.
Why? So that we never lose sight of what is coming… what is just around the corner.
But look and see… read for yourselves what follows this, dear friends. Take in again and again what is divinely said… that which is pure Gospel… pure joy… pure comfort and peace.
This servant of the Lord says to all of the faithful regarding the day of the Lord, reminding us that we no longer live in the darkness of sin that this great day, last day, should surprise us like a thief or cause us grief. Indeed, for us, there will be no “weeping and gnashing of teach.” (Matthew 25:30)
Paul reminds us that we are “all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5) Not anymore. Not in Jesus Christ as we live in Christ… He who is the Light of the world. The Light no darkness can overcome.
And then St. Paul shares more good news, Gospel news, saying, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11)
Just as they were doing in Thessalonica… so here… so now… all of us who make up the Body of Jesus Christ here at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lockport… as we help one another to stay awake, stay ready and vigilant for that which will be for us a truly magnificent moment… Christ coming… our victorious Savior, Lord and King coming… returning in all His majesty, glory and splendor with legion upon legion of angels and archangels… to take us and all the faithful home… to our eternal home.
Fully aware? Yes, we are. And also fully thankful and at peace! Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.