MESSAGE FROM THE PASTOR
[Jesus said, ]
Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. -Matthew 5:13
[Paul, Silas, and Timothy write, ]
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
-1 Thessalonians 5:1 – 2
The end of the year is approaching faster than you may be aware !
The church year, that is. Each “church year” begins with the season of Advent— the four Sundays leading up to the Feast of the Incarnation (aka Christmas !). And Advent begins on Sunday, December 3.
Between now and then, we will continue to read from the gospel according to Matthew. Chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew give us Jesus’ last stories and prophecies before his Last Supper and his Passion. His message opens up for us a glimpse of secrets of things to come at the end of the age.
Last Sunday, he compared the coming of the kingdom of heaven to bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom, trying to keep their oil-lamps burning.
This week, he compares this time of waiting to a master who assigns his slaves some money with which to do business, goes away, and then calls each slave to account when he returns.
In both parables, the idea is the same: his followers must focus on what we are doing for him until he returns in final judgment.
Now, some of the radio stations have already changed over to playing Christmas music. Advertising in all media is now geared toward getting us to spend money on Christmas gifts and entertaining. But for us Christians, the focus remains the same:
“What must I do for my Master until he returns ?”
For people who are worshiping other gods, the prophet Zephaniah gives a very scary picture of what they can expect:
That day will be a day of wrath,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry....
I will bring such distress upon people
that they shall walk like the blind;
because they have sinned against the LORD....
- Zephaniah 1:15-17
But for those who use the gifts God gives us to serve Him, we look forward to hearing the Judge say,
“Well done, good and trustworthy slave;
you have been trustworthy in a few things,
I will put you in charge of many things;
enter into the joy of your master.”
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In this week of preparing a memorial service for a beloved church member, our psalm for the week helps us put in perspective the passage of time:
LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting You are God....
The days of our life are seventy years,
or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
-Psalm 90: 1-2, 10
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This Friday, I go to Baltimore for a Central Atlantic Conference training in what we call “Boundary Awareness” – ethics for pastors and churches, to help us avoid doing stupid things that would bring discredit on the church. This particular training will focus on avoiding trouble in today’s communications through email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like. Please pray for us.
SCRIPTURES for Sunday, November 12
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-20
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The Bible has changed in many ways, over the long history of its development. For this coming Sunday, the Revised Common Lectionary (which gives us suggested readings for each week of the church year) calls for readings from a book called The Wisdom of Solomon. Not very many of you are likely to have The Wisdom of Solomon in your Bible. It is one of several books that the Protestant Reformers in the 1500s decided were not as important as other books in the Old Testament for Christians to read. That’s why I am publishing these verses here.
Some of you try to keep up with reading each week’s Scripture lessons (as found on the SHARING LIFE page of your weekly newsletter). If you do, you find several different types of literature within the Bible: stories, lists, poems, laws and instructions, biographies, gospels, essays, sermons, letters, and other genres. This week’s reading from The Wisdom of Solomon may be used as a psalm, or simply as instruction. It is both !
I must tell, you, Solomon did not write this book which bears his name: King Solomon had died about 900 years before this was written. However, in ancient times it was an honorable practice to name a book after a respected person from history: ancient readers probably understood that this was not really written by King Solomon himself.
The Wisdom of Solomon is a peculiar book in the Old Testament. For one thing, while almost all of our Old Testament comes to us from the Hebrew language, this reading comes to us having originally been composed in Greek— as the New Testament books were. Also, while most of the Old Testament was composed hundreds of years before the time of Jesus, this week’s Old Testament lesson may have been first published during Jesus’ time. Another odd thing about the Wisdom of Solomon is that it is one of only a few Old Testament books that talk about eternal life or “immortality:” most Old Testament Scriptures regard the death of one’s body as final.
What this peculiar book tries to do is convince non-Jews that the Jewish faith was the wisest religion that one could choose. This is literature that was composed to persuade the reader to choose our God.
I pray you will study wisdom and be like the “wise bridesmaids” in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25. “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” The Bridegroom is coming to open the door so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
Wisdom of Solomon, chapter 6
12 Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
13 She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
14 One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,
for she will be found sitting at the gate.
15 To fix one's thought on her is perfect understanding,
and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,
16 because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,
and she graciously appears to them in their paths,
and meets them in every thought.
17 The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction,
and concern for instruction is love of her,
18 and love of her is the keeping of her laws,
and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality,
19 and immortality brings one near to God;
20 so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.
Rev. Dan Bassett