Listen to this week's Sermon below
"The Day of the Lord"
November 15th, 2020
(Rev Canon Malcolm Convery)
(Readings from Thessalonians 5:1-11 and Matthew 25:14-30)
Click to read HERE
We live in days of uncertainty. We are unsure what the future holds.
What will be the long term impact of covid 19 and the lockdowns?
Will we get back to normal or will there be a new normal
and what difference will the vaccine make?
In our epistle this morning Paul is reassuring the Christians of Thessalonica about their future.
Paul had founded their church, but had to leave because he was being persecuted by the Jews
for turning from being a devout Jew who persecuted christians,
to a follower of Jesus and a missionary spreading the gospel message.
I suppose they regarded him as a turncoat!
Paul kept in contact with the church in Thessalonica and when Timothy arrived with news from the church, Paul responded by writing two letters to the church - Thessalonicans 1 and 2,
which are his first epistles written about 20 years after the death of Jesus.
The purpose of the letters was to encourage the Christians who believed that
the Day of the Lord and the return of Jesus was imminent. Paul wrote:
"There is no read to write it to you brothers about the times and occasions
when these things will happen, for you yourselves know very well,
the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night."
What are these things that Paul refers to and what is the Day of the Lord?
These things are what we affirm in the Creed.
We affirmed our belief in God as the Creator.
We affirm our belief in Jesus as the Saviour
who died on the cross rose again and ascended into heaven
and we affirm the Holy Spirit as the giver of life.
These events have already taken place. We are familiar with them through the scriptures and through the major festivals in the church - Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Ascension.
Having affirmed what has already taken place we affirm what is to come, we say:
"He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead
and his Kingdom will have no end.
We look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come."
At present, this part of the creed is beyond our experience
and is all tied up with the Day of the Lord which is to come.
In writing to the Thessalonians, Paul wants to encourage and reassure the Christians
of the hope they have in the world, where it is easy to despair.
They would have been a minority group, surrounded by people who worshipped other gods
and many of whom probably lived godless and selfish lives.
They also faced persecution.
These words of Paul are also meant to be an encouragement to us,
in a world where God, Christian belief and the Church have been marginalised
and we worry about the future.
We too need to be encouraged.
Paul writes that we are not living in darkness as is much of the world,
but in the light God has revealed to us through the light of Christ
and it is He that has reconciled us to God and transformed our lives.
We now live in the light of Christ and not in the darkness of ignorance, sin and unbelief.
Paul also tells us we are awake, not asleep.
In other words - we will not be caught unaware when the Lord returns
and we are sober not drunk, not immersed in ourselves and the ways of the world,
but concerned to love the Lord our God and love our neighbour as ourselves.
Love lies at the very heart of what we believe and the actions we take.
Paul urges the Christians of Thessalonica to wear faith and love as a breast plate
and our hope of salvation as a helmet.
Encouraging and wise words to them and to us.
Like armour - faith, love and hope protect us from the evil swirling around us.
Returning to the Day of the Lord, the Thessalonian Christians anticipated Jesus' return,
but had questions about it.
One such question was - what would happen to those who had died before Jesus returned?
Would they miss out on the resurrection?
Earlier in his letter Paul reassures them when he wrote:
"Those who have died, believing in Christ, will rise to life first:
then we who are still living at that time will be gathered up along with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air."
This is hard to imagine, but it is not so much how it happens,
but the fact that the Lord raises us up to share in the glory of His eternal Kingdom.
What a day that will be!
But not for everyone... for God's wrath, God's anger will fall upon many.
Perhaps we find it difficult to accept that God can be angry?
How can a God of love be angry?
His anger is not personal as ours often is. His anger is directed towards sin.
Sin is abhorrent to God and we are all sinners, which we may find difficult to accept.
God is holy so he cannot tolerate anything that is unholy.
This will be evident on the Day of the Lord,
as Paul makes clear that those who have not come to faith in Jesus,
who have not received forgiveness for their sins or received the life of the Spirit
will be caught unawares on the Day of the Lord.
They do not believe it, so are not expecting it. Paul writes:
"When people say
'Everything is quiet and safe!'
Then suddenly destruction will hit them.
It will come suddenly as the pains come upon a woman in labour
and the people will not escape."
They will feel the full force of God wrath on sin.
On the other hand, Christians will not experience his anger. Paul writes:
"God did not choose us to suffer his anger,
but to possess salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who died for us in order that we might live together with him,
whether we are alive or dead when He comes."
These words reassure us that we should have nothing to fear when we meet the Lord.
Perhaps we feel we are not good enough to stand in His presence.
Maybe we feel our lives are far from perfect.
Maybe my love for the Lord is luke warm, our faith shaky.
We need to be reminded of the gospel message.
Some words from Romans chapter 5, verses 8 and 9, written by Paul say:
"God has shown us how much he loves us - it was while we were still sinners Christ died for us!
By his death we are now put right with God.
How much more will we be saved by him from God's anger,"
Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians:
"It is by God's grace that you've been saved, through faith,
it is not the result of your own efforts, but God's gift
so no one can boast about it."
Paul assures us that we need not fear the day of the Lord.
It will not catches unawares and will be a day of celebration.
The christians of Thessalonica believed the Day of the Lord was imminent,
but here we are 2000 years on and still waiting!
Many have predicted dates which have passed.
Jesus himself reminds us that only his Father in heaven knows the date of the Day of the Lord.
As we wait, Paul urges us to encourage one another, just as you are now doing.
We are not called just to sit and wait for the Lord to come!
We are called to be faithful and active in His service.
We are a work in progress and we engage in a work that is progressing.
The work in progress is the work of the Holy Spirit in out lives, producing the fruit of the Spirit
so, on the Day the Lord, we will be Christ like.
The work that is progressing and we are engaged in is the spread of God's Kingdom.
This will not be fulfilled until the Day of the Lord,
but in the meantime...
let's live in faith, hope and love... remembering
"the greatest of these.. is love"
(1 Corinthians 13)