Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
As we come to the final weeks of the church calendar year, we find the Sunday lessons focusing on themes of last things and final judgment.
In classic prophetic style, Zephaniah declares the day of the Lord/ day of wrath. I read “wrath” here not to mean a human kind of temper fit, but true and right justice being done. This is the day when the Lord puts all things right and settles with all those who disregard the claims of God’s law and prophets, establishing their lives on wealth and human strategies for success.
In a collection of teachings about the final coming of God’s kingdom among us, Matthew places a parable of Jesus about servants who are given charge of talents (huge sums of money) by their master. On the long delayed return of this master, they are held accountable for what they have done. Those who increased what was given them enter the joy of the master, while the one who distrusted his master and buried the talent is rebuked and cast out from the master’s joy (‘outer darkness and weeping”).
St. Paul comforts the Christians of Thessalonia regarding “the day of the Lord.” Like many first generation followers of Jesus, Paul expected the cosmic return of Jesus within his own generation. Will this coming of Jesus as judge will be sudden and involve the undoing of many, these new Christians have every reason for confidence. They have already chosen to “belong to the day” in their lives as followers of Christ, and when he comes again they will continue to live with him who died to save them.
Comment: Christians do not need to disown the images of judgment in Scripture to hold our faith in a loving God. Love holds us accountable to love – we are confronted with perfect love and truth as the measure of our lives. This awareness makes me vividly aware of my need of God’s grace and mercy because every day I fall short of that kind of love! When you and I become aware of that gracious mercy in Christ, we find ourselves all the more eager to extend the mercy and grace we have received to all whom we meet. It’s not enough for me to sing: “Lord I want to be a Christian in my heart…” for I must also seek wholeheartedly to do, now, the things Jesus has shown me are the way to honor God and love my neighbor!
The preacher this Sunday is David Robinson.