Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Encourage One Another - November 16, 2014 - Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28) - Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Today is the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost and it is also the second last Sunday of this current church year. As was noted last week and as is noted every year during the last three Sundays of the church year, the lessons for these Sundays remind us of the fact that our life on this earth is short, fast and fleeting, but a breath compared to our life in heaven or in hell, which is for eternity. The importance of these texts and their reminders is that too often we spend way too much of our time focusing on this world, even to the determent of our own spiritual well being instead of being ready to meet our Lord. And we will meet our Lord, either when He returns or when we pass on and I will continue to remind you that both of those days will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine. Interestingly enough, these text kind of remind me of the one commercial on television in which the person finds a note that says something to the effect that “today your heart attack will happen at four pm,” “or tomorrow you will have a car accident.” Indeed, as we earnestly desire to be feed in divine service and Bible class our eyes do see God’s little notes that we will meet Him sooner than we know.
Our text for this morning continues from our text from last Sunday. Remember, last Sunday Paul was writing concerning the misunderstanding of the Thessalonians concerning the Lord’s return. This morning Paul continues speaking to their concern, picking up at verse one, “1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (v. 1-2). I would suggest that we know about the times and seasons as set at creation. Certainly there is much ado about such things in our naturalistic thinking world, but we have God’s promise and we believe Him that as long as the world remains it will remain in God’s hands and so, until He returns times and seasons will continue.
We also know, that is we believe that Jesus will come as He promised. We believe that He will come again as He promise just as He came the first time according to God’s prophecies. In other words, even though God waited some four thousand years or so to fulfill His first promise in the Garden of Eden to send a Savior, and He did fulfill that promise in Jesus, so He will fulfill His promise to come again. At this point we have only waited some two thousand years, but that does not necessarily mean He will wait another two thousand years, He may even come tomorrow or even today.
The question we need to ask and answer is, are we ready? Are we ready to meet the Lord? We might quite simply ask, “are we ready to die?,” because even if the Lord does not return during our own life time, we will return to Him.
Paul goes on to explain the two approaches or two ways of thinking about the end of the world and these ways were the same then as they are today, picking up at verse three, “3While 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. 4But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8But 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” (v. 3-8). There are many in our world today who say, “There is peace and security.” Quite frankly I would suggest that those are the ones who are living with there heads in the sand. One look at the events of the world will show all the upheaval and turmoil that is in the world today.
Then there are those living in darkness, I would say that these are those living in the culture, who will attempt to divine the times, that is by using so called science, as well as astrology, and the like they will attempt to discover future events.
There will be those as Paul describes who will sleep and get drunk, not paying attention to the signs and being ready. Indeed, we live in a world of people who are so focused on themselves, pleasing themselves, living for the weekend, and I do not mean living for Divine Service and Bible Class, but living to be happy as they define happiness so that they are oblivious to the signs and seasons and the coming of the Lord, indeed, all of these people will not be ready.
So Paul encourages us as He calls us children of Light, that is believers to be ready. We are to get ready and actually we do not get ourselves ready but we are made ready by Jesus. We are made ready as He gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. We are made ready and we know we are ready when we hunger and thirst after the gifts of God. Indeed, faith shows itself in its desire to be where the gifts of God are given out. And the opposite is also true, for there to be no desire to be given the gifts indicates that there is no faith.
The Lord makes us ready and He keeps us ready. He keeps us ready as we make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, those means the Lord has given through which He gives all His gifts and blessings. Again, one’s faith is seen in one’s desire to be were and when the gifts are given out and again the opposite is true as well, that is where there is no desire for the gifts, there is seen no faith. Luther writes rather extensively about this in the Large Catechism and suggest that if there is no desire for the sacrament one ought to check to see if they are still alive and in the world and he goes on to suggest that surely that one will have the devil about him.
Finally in our text Paul outlines our hope and response of faith. We pick up at verse nine, “9For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (v. 9-11). God has destined us to eternal life in heaven. Heaven is ours now, won for us, paid for us, given to us by the blood of Jesus. Certainly we will not move in until either we pass on or our Lord returns, but heaven is a present reality. As always, because our will is bound and has been tainted by sin, all we can do, in and of ourselves, is refuse and reject this gift of heaven, which unfortunately so many people do day in and day out, week in and week out.
Paul encourages us then in our faith life to live lives of faith. We are to live as priests, offering our lives as living sacrifices for our Lord. There should be no mistake, when others look at us they should know we belong to Jesus. To live life apathetically would be to live life in denial of Jesus. And so Paul encourages us and I encourage us, to live lives of faith. Certainly as we live lives of faith we do continue to sin, yet our confession and reception of God’s absolution may also be a good witness to others of what the true Christian faith life is all about.
And we are to encourage and build each other up. When we see people absent themselves from divine service, refusing and rejecting the gifts of God, indeed making a mockery of God and His church, the loving thing is not to allow them to continue in that lifestyle, not to allow them to continue given a bad example of the Christian faith life, the loving thing is to help them to see the error of the way so they might repent and be given forgiveness. Perhaps we have failed in the church by not taking God seriously when He tells us to expel them from the midst. Our society says live and let live and that sentiment has made its way into the church as live and let die because to let one continue to live in rejection of God is indeed to let them die eternally and that is not a loving thing to do.
What does this mean? In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden God promised to send a Savior. After some four thousand or so years God fulfilled His promise. He sent Jesus, God in flesh in order to fulfill that promise. Jesus came to earth, God in flesh in order to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus came to live perfectly and to obey all of God’s laws perfectly for us in our place. And He did. Jesus lived perfectly and perfectly fulfilled all God’s promises. Then He took our sins and all sins on Himself. He who knew no sin became sin for us and He suffered and paid the price for our sins. Jesus suffered hell for us. And He died. But death and the grave had no power over Him. He rose from the dead defeating sin, death and the devil. And now He gives us what He earned, forgiveness of sins.
After Jesus showed Himself to be alive and before He ascended back in to heaven He promised He would return. He did not say when He would return, but He promised He would return. So far He has waited some two thousand years. We do not know if He will wait another two thousand years, all we know is that He promise to return and we are to be ready for His return. As Paul reminds us, God is not slow as some count slowness, rather He is patient, wanting as many people as possible to be brought to faith.
In the mean time, while we wait we are to wait in eager expectation. We are to wait in readiness, continually making sure we are ready, focusing our attention on the things above, not the things of this world. And we are to encourage and build each other up, through making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. We are to love others by inviting them to come and be given the gifts God has to give and by always being ready to give an answer for our faith in Jesus.
We are not to be in the dark concerning the coming of the day of the Lord, because we are children of light, children of Christ, we are to remain ready for the Lord’s return and we are to encourage each other until that day. We are not to remain in the dark concerning Jesus’ return, even if we do not know the exact day, but we do know He will return or that we will go to Him and until that time we continue to remain ready as He has made us ready and we are to encourage each other to be ready. And when that day comes we will rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.