“Living as Children of the Day” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30; Zephaniah 1:7-16)

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
November 15, 2020

“Living as Children of the Day” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30; Zephaniah 1:7-16)

“Christ has brought us out of darkness, made us children of the day.” The hymn we just sang was written to go with the three Scripture readings assigned for this day. Each stanza corresponds to one of the readings. The point of the lessons and of the hymn is this: The day of the Lord–that is, the return of Christ–the day of the Lord is drawing near, a day of both judgment and salvation. For us it will be a day of joy, because of what Christ has done for us. And our waiting for that day will not be a slothful, dreary time of inactivity. No, it will be an active waiting, using the talents God has given us, faithfully serving our Master. And we have a hope to sustain us as we look forward to that day. And so our theme this morning: “Living as Children of the Day.”

As I say, the three hymn stanzas correspond to the three Scripture readings, so I’ll read them one at a time to get us into the text. Stanza 1:

Christ has brought us out of darkness,
Made us children of the day;
With his blood our Lord has bought us,
Clothed us round in bright array.
Faith and love will be our breastplate;
Hope, our helmet, staves off fear.
Watchful, wakeful, we are waiting,
As we see the Day draw near.

This stanza sums up the Epistle reading from 1 Thessalonians 5. There the apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” That means it will come unexpectedly, and sudden destruction will fall on the unbelieving world. This world is not looking for the return of Christ. They’re preoccupied with a thousand different things, but they are in the dark, they are clueless, about the coming of Christ. They are not at all ready for that day. But the day of the Lord’s return should not catch the Thessalonians off guard, Paul says. “You are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.” Paul reminds them of who they are in Christ: “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”

And the same applies to us, dear brothers and sisters. You, my fellow Christians, you are all children of light, children of the day. God made you children of the day on the day you were baptized. You are children of light, because the Holy Spirit has enlightened you with his gifts. You have the gift of faith, so that you are trusting in Christ Jesus your Savior. “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” This is the gospel! This is the good news! God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, died for you! He shed his holy blood for you and purchased your forgiveness. Christ rose from the dead and now lives forever! Through him, you will be saved from the wrath and destruction that are coming on this world.

And now, while we are waiting, we have the armor of God to protect us. These are days of spiritual danger, and we need the protection that God provides: “the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” Are you aware that the devil has you targeted for temptation and spiritual attack? Satan is shooting his darts at you, his fiery arrows. He wants you to lose your faith. Maybe you have felt his assaults and attacks. So you need to be wearing the armor God has given us, the breastplate and helmet, that is, the faith and love and hope that God supplies. “Watchful, wakeful, we are waiting, as we see the Day draw near.”

Now stanza 2:

Christ the Lord, our gracious Master,
Takes our sin and guilt away,
Gives us gifts and grace to use them,
So at last we’ll hear him say:
“Well done, good and faithful servant,
Faithful in your Lord’s employ.
Over much I now will set you;
Enter now your Master’s joy.”

Stanza 2 corresponds to the Gospel reading for today, the Parable of the Talents. In the story that Jesus tells, a master gives his servants varying amounts of talents, varying amounts of money, and he expects them to use them in his service until the time when he returns. One servant gets five talents and uses them to make five more. Another servant gets two talents and uses them to make two more. On the master’s return each of them is commended with the same words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” However, the servant who was given one talent didn’t do anything with it. He buried the talent he was given. This servant is not commended. Instead, he is condemned. For he is an unbelieving, faithless servant, wicked and slothful. Rather than entering into the joy of his master, he is cast into outer darkness.

This parable is about what to do while we are waiting for the return of our Lord. You and I are like the servants in this story. God has given us the talents we have, and he expects us to use them in his service. We don’t all have the same talents. Some are gifted with more than others, and that’s okay. The important thing is to be faithful with what you have been given.

What are the talents you have been given? Are you good with your brain? With your hands? With your heart? With your words? Use what you have been given for God’s purposes. This includes churchly service, but is not limited to it. Churchly service can include things like ushering, altar guild, repair of the facilities, or serving in a congregational office. But it also includes inviting your friends or family, unchurched people you know or inactive church members–inviting them to join you here at church, where they can find the true meaning of life in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And beyond specifically churchly service, your daily life of love and good works is the main way you put your faith into action. Whatever your various vocations in life, live out your faith in action, using the talents God has given you. You have talents on loan from God.

In the parable, the word “talents” means units of money. And while we use the word “talents” more broadly, to mean the abilities and skills we have, our “talents” also do include the money we have. It all belongs to God, 100% of it, but we can set aside a portion of our finances to be used directly in the service of God’s kingdom, through the church. A good starting point that many Christians use is 10%. They give a tithe, that is, a tenth, of their income as offerings in the plate over the course of the year. Whatever the percentage you choose, your intentional, firstfruits, regular, proportionate, cheerful giving is a good habit to develop, and your church could really use it.

Our stewardship of the gifts God has given us includes our time, our talents, and our treasures. This is the life we live as servants of our Master, who has already bought us with his lifeblood as the price. And when he returns, he will welcome us with those same words: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Finally, we come to the Old Testament reading for today, from Zephaniah 1. The prophet Zephaniah warns the people of Judah about the coming day of the Lord. For them it will be a day of darkness and devastation: “A day of wrath is that day, 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.” Because of their unrepentant sin, the day of the Lord will mean judgment on Judah and Jerusalem. The Babylonian conquerors will come and level their city and take them captive.

This doom-and-gloom prophecy is pointing ahead to the day of judgment coming on this world when Christ “will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.” That day is coming, dear friends. We don’t know when it will come, but it will come. “The day is surely drawing near.” How will we stand on that day? The good news is that our judge is also our Savior! Our robes have been washed white in the blood of the Lamb! Our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life! We have the sure hope of eternal life to sustain us in this life.

Christ has brought us out of darkness and made us children of the day. And God will help us to live as children of the day. The day of the Lord is coming! This is the best news we can hear! And this is why we can pray, with confidence, the words of stanza 3:

Lord, we see the Day approaching,
Dawn is breaking through the night;
Help us live as faithful servants
And as children of the light.
From the day of devastation
Save us, Lord, we humbly pray;
Give us joy and life eternal
On that great and glorious Day!

Published in: on November 14, 2020 at 12:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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