+ Lectionary 33 A (Proper 28)
TEXT: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
DATE: November 16, 2014
St. Paulís Lutheran Church, Dallas
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† I donít think we get the full implication of what it means
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† when Paul calls us children of the light
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and children of the day,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† not because we donít get light and day,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† but because we donít really know what he imagines
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† when he talks about night and darkness.
We have conquered night and darkness.
Since Edison commercialized the electric light bulb
and developed the first electric grid
to support its use in entire neighborhoods,
we have lost the impact
that darkness and night had on ancient people.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† For us today,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† whole communities are lit like the day
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in the wee hours of the morning,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† businesses are lit up 24/7 for security,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† street lights glow over roads, intersections,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and into your bedroom windows.
And we can read in our houses
as equally in the night as the day
because we have the power of light Ė
what was once the unique property of the day.
With the simple flick of a switch on the wall,
we can turn our night into day.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The moon and the stars,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† that were once the only source of light for the night,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† have, themselves, disappeared in our night skies
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† because they are so clouded out
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† by the light around us.
Weíve even conquered those heavenly bodies,
having landed on the moon, on Mars,
and now, thanks to European scientists and Philae,
on a comet streaking through space.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The ancient people knew none of that.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† For them, the night was dark.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† And so it was mysterious and frightening.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† It brought apprehension and dread.
You might get a tinge of that understanding
if you go out, away from commercial lights
and street lights, and house lights Ė
go out into the dark countryside
and just start walking into unknown territory.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Your senses are piqued and alert,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† your blood flows,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† your adrenalin pumps,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and you strain to see into the darkness.
Itís not a comfortable place to be in.
It wasnít for the ancient people either,
though, of course, it was a regular part of the cycle of the day.
Night and darkness come every day,
and with it came the apprehension and dread,
the mystery, and the fear.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† And thatís what Paul is thinking about
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† when he talks about believers
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† being children of the light and day
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and not children of the night and darkness.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Itís about fear.
More precisely, itís about believers not having to fear
like those of the night and darkness fear.
And specifically for Paul,
what we donít have to fear
is our Lord Jesusí second coming
and the Day of the Lord at the end of time.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† It is coming, to be sure.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† When, we donít know.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† And Paul knows that we believers know that, too.
He writes that he finds no reason to remind the Thessalonians
in his letter to them.
He knows. They know.
And you know, too,
that we just donít know ďWhen?Ē
It is not our concern.
Thatís Godís job. And only Godís.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† It will happen like a thief in the night,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and thieves just donít give you notice
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† that theyíre on their way.
But there have been so many weird and spooky things
written by the prophets, apostles, and evangelists
about that Day of the Lord
and the second coming of Christ,
and we have read a few of them over the past weeks
and will for the next several as well.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† But those weird and spooky things
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† have caused many people to see that second coming
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† as something like how those ancient people
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† saw the night and darkness:
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† as something to fear.
And over the years, and in every generation,
there are those fear mongers
who somehow think that fear
will be an effective motivation
for driving people to believe and follow
an almighty and judgmental God.
And so they interpret those weird and spooky images
with power and terror and fear.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† But not Paul.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† For Paul, the second coming of Jesus
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† wonít catch us off guard
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† because we live our lives by faith in the light of day.
The regular routines of our daily life in the faith Ė
living in communion with one another and with God,
in loving service to our neighbor,
in generosity and forgiveness and mercy and grace
to those around us Ė
these are the ways of light and the day,
alert and sober, awake and aware.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† And living this way means
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† it doesnít matter if Jesus comes in a week,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in a minute,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† or in a millennium.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† But we do know that Jesus is coming.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† And that, insists Paul, is great good news.
We are not destined for wrath, says Paul.
God is not coming to unleash his anger on us.
God has not brought us this far to drop us on our head.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Rather, God has destined us
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† for salvation through Jesus.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Jesus comes again to fulfill Godís promise of life.
God gave his own Son, our savior Jesus,
to death on a cross
so that we could have life.
And nothing you can do
can undo that truth.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† In the end, really, says Paul,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† it doesnít matter if weíre living a day-light life
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† or are fast asleep in the dark of night.
Because in the end,
that truth is still the truth.
Jesus died for us
so that we may have life and live with him.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Why would you fear
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† that the God who gave his son to die
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† to give you life
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† would not fulfill that sacrifice and promise
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and give you that life
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† when he came again to do that?
For Paul, the second coming of Jesus
is not about the fear of night and darkness
but is the gracious gift
and faithful fulfillment of the promise of life
and the joy of the light and the day.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† So we are free to live our lives
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in communion with one another and with God,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in loving service to our neighbor,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† in generosity and forgiveness and mercy and grace
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† to those around us.
We are free Ė set apart from fear Ė
to live the ways of light and the day,
alert and sober, awake and aware.
Because you are children of light
and children of the day.
You heard that proclaimed to you
when the light of Christ was given to you
at your baptism.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† So, Paul encourages us,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† fill your days wrapped in faith and love, not fear,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and always keep alive in your heart and mind
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† hope of the salvation and life
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Jesus gave us on the cross
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† and will come again to fulfill.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† And encourage others to do the same.
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