[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.”
† † †
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
† † †
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.