Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, December 17th, 2017

We are preparing for the Third Sunday of Advent.  This year, we get a re-telling of the introduction of John the Baptist, which takes us in a different direction than last week's introduction.  How do we handle this distinction?  We also get another Isaiah story that is clearly referenced in Luke and a 1 Thessalonians reading that includes a few brief commands and a great promise.

I invite you to share your comments and questions below.  I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Isaiah 61:1 - 4, 8 - 11

1The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
  because the Lord has anointed me;
 he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
  to bind up the brokenhearted,
 to proclaim liberty to the captives,
  and release to the prisoners;
2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
  and the day of vengeance of our God;
  to comfort all who mourn;
3to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
  to give them a garland instead of ashes,
 the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
  the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
 They will be called oaks of righteousness,
  the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4They shall build up the ancient ruins,
  they shall raise up the former devastations;
 they shall repair the ruined cities,
  the devastations of many generations.

8For I the Lord love justice,
  I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
 I will faithfully give them their recompense,
  and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
  and their offspring among the peoples;
 all who see them shall acknowledge
  that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
10I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
  my whole being shall exult in my God;
 for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
  he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
 as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
  and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
  and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
 so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
  to spring up before all the nations.

It’s hard to read the beginning of Isaiah 61 and not hear the echo of Jesus reading from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16 – 30).  Leaving that story to the side, we find the Lord proclaiming through the prophet that the people will no longer carry the marks of mourning and exile.  The “recompense” for the exile, the Lord’s actions to restore the people from the harm of the exile, will include the restoration of Jerusalem and the reclaiming of the status as the Lord’s favored people on Earth.  Another Advent reading of this passage would focus on the multiple connections between the presence/arrival of the Lord and the presence/arrival of justice.  As we await the second arrival of Christ, we can look for the presence of justice as one sign that the Lord is present in a situation.

Psalm 126

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."
 3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
 4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
 5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
 6 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

Psalm 126 is a petition to the Lord for recompense/restoration.  The psalmist points back to a previous restoration, using this as a precedent for this request to “restore our fortunes…like the watercourses of the Negeb.”  The “Negeb” (literally “the South” in Hebrew, meaning the land south of Jerusalem) was an arid, desert land (and still is today, I believe).  But there were times when the wadis (the creek beds in the desert that would fill with water after a rainfall) were overflowing with fresh water and the land was temporarily restored.  The psalmist’s request is for a restoration of the Israelites that would be similar to the desert enjoying the fresh water of filled wadis.  Perhaps we can read Isaiah 61 as the Lord’s pledge to fulfill that request.

1 Thessalonians 5:16 - 24

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise the words of prophets, 21but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22abstain from every form of evil.
  23May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

A couple of months back, we spent several Sundays reading through 1 Thessalonians, but we did not get this particular passage.  The passage raises this question: what does it mean to “quench the Spirit?”  My initial response is that we quench the Spirit whenever we hear the Spirit’s call to join the Lord’s work, but we resist the call because answering the call would require us to change ourselves, our congregations, and/or our communities.  The passage also gives us this great promise: “23May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.”  Notice that this promise is completely independent from anything we might do to deserve or not deserve these blessings from the Lord.

John 1:6 - 8, 19 - 28

6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

  19This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23He said, 
 “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
 ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ”
as the prophet Isaiah said.
  24Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

These selected verses from John 1 make up a different telling of John the Baptist’s story than we heard from Mark 1 this past Sunday.  The Gospel of John focuses on the priests and Levites attempting to identify who John the Baptist is supposed to be.  Is he the promised appearance of Elijah before the Messiah arrives?  John himself says no.  John also will not accept the designation of “prophet.”  John identifies himself as the voice crying out “Make straight the way of the Lord” that we first heard in Isaiah 40.  In this way, John testifies to the light of Christ.  This reminds me of the portrait of Luther in the pulpit, standing before the gathered community and pointing to the crucified Christ.  We join John and Luther in pointing to the light of Christ, the light that shines in the darkness, even the darkness of the Crucifixion.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, December 10th, 2017

My apologies for not posting my thoughts for last week’s readings.  I had a very busy schedule last week and did not make the time to share my sermon preparation with you.

Last week, the Church entered the season of Advent.  While the popular understanding of Advent is that it is a countdown to Christmas (complete with calendars), the true purpose of Advent is to point us forward in time.  The hope of Advent finds its fulfillment not at the first arrival of Christ, when Mary gave birth to Jesus, but the second arrival of Christ, when Jesus will return to Earth as the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven.  On that day, the Lord will fulfill all of the promises given to us: resurrection; forgiveness and justification before the throne of God; and salvation and eternal life in the Lord’s kingdom, the New Jerusalem on Earth.

On this upcoming Sunday, we also have a baptism scheduled, which narrows the focus for sermon preparation.  While I will give my thoughts on all of the readings, it will be evident that my sermon will focus on one particular reading this week.

As always, I invite you to leave your comments and questions below.  I would especially appreciate your feedback this week as I missed my weekly text study meeting due to an unexpected issue.  I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Isaiah 40:1 – 11

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
 3 A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
 5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
 6 A voice says, "Cry out!" And I said, "What shall I cry?" All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field.
 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass.
 8 The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
 9 Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!"
 10 See, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Isaiah 40 is a classic Advent passage.  “Prepare the way of the Lord…”  But the true hope comes in the second half of the passage: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”  Even if all created things die and fade away, the Lord can (and will) create all things new and gather all things within the flock of his sheep.  This is the message of hope that we can proclaim from the top of mountains (and other places, too).

Psalm 85: 1 – 2, 8 – 13

LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
 2 You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin. Selah
  8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
 9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
 10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
 11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
 12 The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
 13 Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

The connection between Psalm 85 and Isaiah 40 likely comes from verse 13: “Righteousness shall go before the Lord and shall prepare for God a pathway.”  But you can also look at the first two verses in Psalm 85 and the similar blotting out of sins and the forgiveness of old iniquities.  It’s almost as though Psalm 85 addresses a people preparing to return from exile, the time that Isaiah 40 describes.

2 Peter 3:8 – 15a

8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.
 9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.
 11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness,
 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?
 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
 14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish;
 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

2 Peter 3 proclaims that the Lord views/experiences time much differently that we do; this makes sense, for time is something created by the Lord.  While we may experience the Lord as “slow” to fulfill the Lord’s promises, we remain patient because the Lord is not bound by time.  However, one must wonder what the author means when he asks “what sort of persons ought you to be in…hastening the coming of the day of God…”  What can we do to make the Lord appear sooner rather than later?  2 Peter 3 seems to suggest that the Lord is waiting for all to repent.  Others suggest that the Lord is waiting for a global conflict between certain powers, and the Lord will return during that conflict; this is similar to the belief of Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who stated a belief that the 12th Imam would return during a great conflict with Israel.  This question of what it looks like to “hasten” the day of the Lord is something I want to investigate, if only for my own curiosity.

Mark 1:1 – 8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;
 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'"
 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
 7 He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.
 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Mark 1 is a presentation of John the Baptist as the messenger sent by the Lord to be the voice in the wilderness crying “Prepare the way of the Lord!”  At that time, many people practiced baptism as a ritual for repentance.  John seems to be leading this type of ritual (especially in the accounts in other Gospels), but he points to another leader who will bring a different kind of baptism, a baptism with the Holy Spirit.  This is the baptism we will witness on Sunday.  Yes, this baptism involves water, but the key action is not my action or the parents’ action(s), but the Lord’s action through this water, sealing the child by the Holy Spirit and marking (with olive oil) this child with the cross of Christ Jesus forever.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Thoughts for our Thanksgiving Eve Service (November 22)

This week will bring two posts on this blog as we add our annual Thanksgiving Eve service to our regular schedule.  Today's post will focus on this Thanksgiving Eve service; a later post will focus on the readings for Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the liturgical year.

For Thanksgiving Eve, we gather to, well, give thanks to the Lord for all that the Lord has done for us.  Which, come to think of it, is no different from what we do in any other worship service.  But, before we gather for our holiday meals, we stop to give thanks and worship the Lord.  Here are the readings for Wednesday night as well as my first thoughts (in italics) on these readings.

Deuteronomy 8:7 - 18

7For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, 8a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. 10You shall eat your fill and bless the Lord your God for the good land that he has given you.
  11Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. 12When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, 14then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, 16and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. 17Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” 18But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.

In Deuteronomy 8, Moses is proclaiming to the people of Israel that the Lord is leading them to a land of abundance.  The Promised Land is a place where they will have more food, fresh water, and resources than they will ever need.  Moses encourages them to remember what the Lord has done for them, that the Lord is the ultimate source of this abundance.  Sometimes, when we worry about scarcity, we need to be reminded that most of the world considers us rich beyond measure.  This puts our concerns about “enough” into perspective.

There is a concern about prosperity gospel here.  This passage, specifically the statement that “it is the Lord who gives you the power to get wealth,” is used to justify that brand of theology.  How do we walk the line between a theology of abundance and a theology of prosperity?

Psalm 65

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed,
 2 O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come.
 3 When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions.
 4 Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.
 5 By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.
 6 By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might.
 7 You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.
 8 Those who live at earth's farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.
 9 You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.
 10 You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.
 11 You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
 12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy,
 13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Psalm 65 includes many praises of the Lord for what he has done to provide a land of abundance for the Lord’s people.  Many aspects of creation are recognized as the work of the Lord’s hands.

2 Corinthians 9:6 - 15

6The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9As it is written, 
 “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
  his righteousness endures forever.”
10He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 9 is essentially a proclamation of the theology behind receiving an offering in worship: “…for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.”  (9:12)  Our offering is a financial expression of thanksgiving to God for all that God has done, is doing, and will do.

Luke 17:11 - 19

11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Hmm.  In most cases, Samaritans and Galileans would never speak to each other.  But here, in this leper colony, Samaritans and Galileans live together.  Why?  Because their leprosy isolates them from both Samaria and Galilee, and they must live on the border, the empty ground between the two territories.  Their common affliction brought them together.  Their common appeal was granted by Jesus.  Only one Samaritan returned to give thanks, and we are to follow his example, but there is something to the existence of this colony also.  It feels significant, though I cannot fully state why yet.

Any ideas on what this means?  Or do you have comments/questions regarding one of the other readings?  I invite you to leave a note in the comments below and tell me what you notice and what you wonder about after reading these passages.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, November 19, 2017

After stepping outside the Revised Common Lectionary for the congregation's WELCA Thankoffering service, we are back in the lectionary readings for this next-to-last Sunday of the liturgical year.  This week, we wrap up our semi-read-through of 1 Thessalonians and we continue a string a parables about the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 24 - 25.

Because the congregation has a Thanksgiving Eve service on Wednesday, November 22nd, we will not try to shoehorn a theme of giving thanks within these passages.  The passages faor this Sunday are not open to such a theme, and we will have another opportunity to discuss giving thanks to the Lord for all that the Lord has done for us.

If you have any questions about these readings or my ideas (in italics) about these readings, or you have an insight into the readings that you would like to share, I invite you to put them in a comment below, and I will respond as soon as I can.

Zephaniah 1:7, 12 - 18

7Be silent before the Lord God!
  For the day of the Lord is at hand;
 the Lord has prepared a sacrifice,
  he has consecrated his guests.

12At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
  and I will punish the people
 who rest complacently on their dregs,
  those who say in their hearts,
 “The Lord will not do good,
  nor will he do harm.”
13Their wealth shall be plundered,
  and their houses laid waste.
 Though they build houses,
  they shall not inhabit them;
 though they plant vineyards,
  they shall not drink wine from them.

14The great day of the Lord is near,
  near and hastening fast;
 the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter,
  the warrior cries aloud there.
15That 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,
  16a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
 against the fortified cities
  and against the lofty battlements.

17I will bring such distress upon people
  that they shall walk like the blind;
  because they have sinned against the Lord,
 their blood shall be poured out like dust,
  and their flesh like dung.
18Neither their silver nor their gold
  will be able to save them
  on the day of the Lord’s wrath;
 in the fire of his passion
  the whole earth shall be consumed;
 for a full, a terrible end
  he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Apparently, those who “rest on their dregs” are sitting around and drinking wine; the “dregs” are the sediment particles found in unfiltered wine.  Zephaniah seems to be prophesying against those who would sit back, relax, and party under the assumption that the Lord will not intervene within the world.  All the world will be burned by “the fire of his passion,” but the people of the Lord will have a different experience when the Lord’s justice reigns.  The Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests; while this was written well before the time of Jesus’ human life, it’s difficult to read this and NOT think of Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice through which the Lord conquers the world.  Who are the guests, and how are they consecrated?  Reading this today, we can see the baptized as the ones who have been consecrated (i.e. set apart, made holy) so that they may participate in the sacrificial worship and feast.

Psalm 90:1 - 12

<A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.> Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
 3 You turn us back to dust, and say, "Turn back, you mortals."
 4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.
 5 You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning;
 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
 7 For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed.
 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
 9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh.
 10 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.
 11 Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

 12 So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.

The note at the beginning of Psalm 90 claims Moses as the author of the psalm.  How does this connection change the way we read the psalm?  Do we read this as a psalm from before, during, or after the escape from Egypt?

1 Thessalonians 5:1 - 11

1Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5 has another point where someone believes they can rest and take a break (“there is peace and security,” 5:3).  But this peace and security is an illusion.  The day of the Lord may arrive suddenly, like the labor pains of birth, and the unprepared will experience the day as hardship.  For those who are prepared, who are the children of God (of light, of the day), the day of the Lord will be a day of rejoicing as the dead (most of the references to those who “sleep” are actually references to those who have died in the past) rise from the grave and both the living and the dead enter the Lord’s kingdom.

Matthew 25:14 - 30

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘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.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘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.’ 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”

Several people are unsure of what to do with this Matthew 25 passage.  They find it hard to see the Lord as the master who punishes the slave; one has even argued for seeing Jesus as the third slave who tries to overturn the unjust economic system of the day.  But this seems to be looking at, a head slave either faithfully carrying out his work in the master’s absence or acting as the passage in isolation and overthinking the issue.  As we approach this passage, the previous passages have included references to staying awake to prevent a thief from entering the house though the master will never return, and a group of bridesmaids who may or may not have enough oil to wait for the delayed groom to arrive at the banquet.  Obviously, there is a theme of preparation and faithfully carrying out one’s call/vocation in the world.  The first two slaves carried out their task faithfully.  The third slave, afraid of failing, did not attempt the task.  Is failing to try better or worse than trying and failing?  Is that even the right question?

Overall, the passages suggest that this is not the time to stop.  The Lord’s work is not complete.  We can rest as we need to rest, but we rest for the purposes of self-care and rejuvenation before taking up the call/vocation once again.