November 11, 2008

Looking Ahead to November 16, 2008 -- 27th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
  • Psalm 90:1-12 (VU p.805 Parts 1 & 2)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Thessalonians 5:1-11
The Hymns for this week are:
  • 412 This is the Day
  • 806 O God Our Help in Ages Past
  • 688 O Day of God Draw Nigh
  • 686 God of Grace and God of Glory
The Sermon title is When Daylight comes...

Early Thoughts: What does Scripture mean by "the Day of the Lord"? Is it a Good News story? Is it a warning? How will we know when daylight comes?

As we draw to the close of the Church Year (which starts on the 1st Sunday of Advent and ends on Reign of Christ Sunday) we usually find ourselves dealing with texts that talk about the end-times. This Sunday is a prime example.

Here we talk about the "Day of the Lord". And as with many writings about the end-times there is precious little comfort in Zephaniah's description of that. There is a little more comfort and support in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, but still an undercurrent of fear and warning.

In Scripture the Day of the Lord is often seen as a day of judgement. We in the liberal center of the theological spectrum tend to be uncomfortable talking about God's judgement (the extreme fundamental conservatives and the extreme radical left have much less difficulty -- although those two positions focus their judgement/wrath talk somewhat differently). But really it is part of our story. And it is part of life. Judgement means choosing, it means weighing alternatives and evidence, it means shrewdly making a decision. It needn't be something we fear -- especially because, as Paul reminds us, God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.

How will we know when the day of the Lord has come? Will it be with fireworks? Will it be with mass destruction and despair? Will it be with wrath and harshness? Or is the day of the Lord already partially here? When we read the Gospels we find that Jesus proclaims a realm of God that is both here and yet to come (often called the Now and the Not Yet). So what are the signs that dawn is breaking? And how will we know that dawn has truly come?

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