During the month of November, the lectionary becomes very Endtimes-heavy. The last few Sundays of the church year before we wrap back around to Advent 1 feature texts describing "the day of the Lord," or at least include admonitions to be prepared for its arrival.
We heard it last week with the parable of the bridesmaids and Paul talking about the dead saints being taken up first in 1 Thessalonians 4.
We'll hear more tomorrow by continuing in Paul's letter. And next week, Reign of Christ Sunday, will feature the sheep and the goats being separated during the final judgment.
For the bridesmaids, I talked about the incredible emphasis that some Christians place on The End. They pray that it comes as soon as possible (a bit escapist, no?) or they use it to justify not caring about working for justice or caring for the environment in the here and now, i.e., it's all going to burn anyway, so let's use and abuse it before it does. This later attitude ignores statements about our being charged with creation's care in Psalm 8 or the implications of that sheep/goats parable.
Anyway, my main point was that the five wise bridesmaids are commended not for what they did in the end, but that they did in the meantime. They were ready for the groom's arrival, but they were more ready for his delay. So in turn, we shouldn't focus so much time and energy on waiting for the end and instead should ask what we're called to do in the meantime.
As mentioned, tomorrow features 1 Thessalonians 5, which is Paul talking about the "day of the Lord." It's the usual schtick: we won't see it coming, be prepared, yadda yadda. This'll be a slightly more feisty sermon where I must have worked in a half dozen or so jabs at the Left Behind series in talking about how the "day of the Lord" is not a horror show but a love story. The true emphasis for those who mention it in the scriptures is on God's fulfillment of shalom, of true lasting peace throughout the earth, and the creation of a new heaven and earth. Things are destroyed, yes...evil, suffering, oppression, war. These texts are texts of hope for a suffering, struggling community of faith, not suburban evangelicals. They need to be read in that context.
Kingdom Grace was my muse for this one. I need to mention that.
And next week? Next week I'm on vacation. But I love the sheep/goats parable. I was actually sad to see that I'd miss it. But that's okay.