Trinity 27 2018/Last Sunday of the Church Year
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
November 25, 2018
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Diogenes the Cynic (ca 412-323 BC), a Greek philosopher, is said to have wandered the streets of Athens with a lantern crying out that he was looking for an honest man, but found nothing but rascals and scoundrels. That has always been a favorite story of mine. You can just picture how strange that must have looked to have a grown man walking around in the middle of the day as if it was nighttime, looking for someone who was good and not finding one.
In our Gospel reading for this morning, we hear of Jesus’ speaking the parable of the 10 virgins. They too were on the lookout for a good man, in fact, the only good man, at least they were supposed to be. They were to wait for the bridegroom, yet some came unprepared. They had their lamps, but no oil. And as they went to buy the oil they should have brought in the first place, the bridegroom arrived, welcoming those who were ready and waiting and looking for his return. In the middle of the night, the wise virgins were prepared with the light and welcomed into the marriage feast.
This imagery of night and day is one that Paul also uses in our Epistle lesson from 1 Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians 5:5, “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” Our lives are lived in the light of Christ. That means that all our sin is out in the open, that we don’t hide when we do something wrong, but we confess our sin to God, to one another, and receive His forgiveness. We share each other’s joys and our hurts, approach our brother or sister in Christ openly in the light, not assuming the worse or gossiping or keeping your anger boiling on the inside, but encouraging each other in the faith and the hope we have in Christ. Until the last shadows of sin are finally chased away and no darkness remains, but we live completely in the light of our resurrected and living Christ when He returns.
I was just talking to someone about this the other day and they replied that they sure wish Jesus would hurry up so the messes in our lives would be gone. When that is going to happen is what everyone wants to know. We hear Paul saying as much to the Thessalonians in today’s Epistle, “Now concerning the times and seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (5:1-2), that is to say, by surprise. Thieves don’t come on your schedule – if they did, they wouldn’t be very successful. So one thing you can say for sure is that anyone who comes along saying he knows when the end will come is wrong.
In fact, we read that not only can we not know when, but that when the end does come it will be completely unexpected. Paul says that people will be saying “there is peace and security” when the Day of the Lord comes. The idea is that they will have a general feeling of security – everything is status quo – and they will be caught totally off guard. Many self proclaimed prophecy experts plot the relative frequency of droughts, famines, earthquakes, and hurricanes, and point out that there are more of them recorded in recent years. They conclude that the end is in sight. Never mind that the reason for the increase is not that more of these events are occurring, it’s just that there are a lot more people living on the earth and thus more people are affected by them; that, and we do a better job of recording such events that we did in the past. But again, Paul tells us that the day of the Lord is not going to be the middle of some worldwide crisis, but rather when the world believes that all is safe and secure that the end will come. It will be when it’s business as usual … which means pretty much any time.
Given that knowledge, knowing that Christ could return at any time shapes everything about how we live as Christians. 1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8 “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” We are on the lookout, wide awake, minds and hearts clear, dressed for success. How many people have gotten up dark and early in the morning? You stumble around in the dark trying to get your clothes but not turning on the light because you know it’s going to hurt your eyes. Dress in the light so you can see what you are putting on and that you’re paying attention. Dress in the right clothes for the occasion. People wear pajamas or night gowns to bed. But during the day, you were your work clothes, you were your traveling clothes or your day clothes. As Christians, children of the day, we are dressed in faith, love, and hope in Christ. We are being called for readiness, so we don’t get caught with our pants down, when our God personally returns again.
And what a day that’ll be! 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, “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.” Whether He returns after our death or before, awake or asleep, those made righteous by the blood of Christ will be with Him forever. Be awake and be ready, being dressed for the day so that when God searches the world with the light of Christ shines not just in our hearts but over the entire world, looking for those who are righteous in His sight through Christ.