Sermon for November 13, 2011

St. John in the Wilderness, Copake Falls, New York

Pentecost 22 Proper 28 Year A

 

Mainline Christians often like to be vague about the end of the world, or the end times, or the second coming, or the consummation of all things, or 'the day of the Lord' or whatever you want to call it.  And for good reason.  We don’t know (even Jesus said he didn’t know) when that will be! 

And some of those obsessed with end times like the writers of the popular Left Behind books have a thinly veiled, unscriptural, political agenda as when a Secretary General of the UN type, is the antichrist. 

 

This kind of focus is a depressing distraction from the need to do good in the world now!

Actually, some of the current end time ideas were conjured up as late as the 19th century.

 

On the other hand, though we don't know when the world will end, even a fervent atheist knows that eventually the sun will burn out and long before that life as we know it will cease to exist on Earth!

 

We don't know when the world will end-- but we pray for God's kingdom to come and God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven-- we don't happily anticipate a violent Armageddon!

 

Still it is true that the Bible -- that is Jesus and Paul and the book of Revelation do speak, sometimes in rather cryptic ways, about a final judgment.  Though some of these Scriptures were really more focused on God judging their Roman contemporaries.

It's easy to get mixed up!  If God is going to judge anybody it is for being selfish and hurtful to their fellow human beings.  In other words, God judges a lack of love because God loves everybody!

 

So it's true: we get the carrot and we get the stick often in the Bible. 

 

But God wants everyone to choose the carrot!  To choose life!  To choose God!

Paul in our reading from 1st Thessalonians kind of starts with the stick -- kind of an ominous threat.  He says, "The Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  When they say, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them!" 

 

Here is a key -- he is talking to Christians -- so he is actually trying to encourage them!

 

Imperial Roman coins had the phrase "peace and security" on them as propaganda!  Paul is saying the peace and security that comes from violent empire are not to be trusted. // But, nor are they to be worried about.

He reminds the Thessalonians that they are children of light -- they should stay awake and alert and realize that the best weapons to protect true peace and security are the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love!  He says, "Put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation."

 

With this "armor" of virtue -- that God gives us, we can live ethically and look forward to that "Day of the Lord", whenever that is, where we will see God face-to-face and be with our loved ones forever!

 

And the evidence that Paul's primary purpose in this passage is encouragement, is that our passage ends with Paul saying, "Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing!"

Jesus’ parable of the talents is also about his second coming.  The servants are asked to take a risk with the money given to them.  Those who take that risk and double their investment are rewarded.  The one who buries the money loses what little he had.  The parable may seem rather stern, but it’s not about money per se.  It is about God’s grace, God’s gifts to us.

 

Everything we have is a gift from God.  This includes: our bodies, our minds, our talents and abilities, our families and friends, the earth, the sea, the sky, the food we eat, as well as our money.  We may think, “My talent is my talent, or my money is my money – I earned it, I worked hard for it.  Well it’s true God gives us the privilege to decide what we do with our talents and with our money.  But ultimately our talents and our money belong to God—and we are responsible to God for how we use them.

 

So we pray for God’s guidance on what to do with the gifts God has given us, on what to do with the very life God has given us.  And we will be given the guidance – and the courage that also comes from prayer – to take risks for God.

 

Brothers and sisters, with the joy of the Lord as our strength let us continue to use our talents and our money to overcome evil with good, and to love those who need love –and of course we all need love.

And the Lord will say to us at the end of our earthly journey: “Well done, good and faithful servant!... Enter into the joy of your master!”