1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
This is the outline of the sermon I preached on Sunday.
Expecting, the Unexpected Hope.
a) Americans feel more hopeful after the election of Obama as President.
1) The Election of Obama is significant for this country.
2) Obama’s campaign ran on hope and change, to what degree his presidency will be able to live up the rhetoric, we will see.
b) The scriptures direct our attention away from fleeting politics and all that is passing away to the day of the Lord, the coming of the Kingdom of God and the return of Christ.
1) In this way Scripture tells us, we the people of God, to warn exhort and encourage one another with these words.
2) We are to do so by reminding ourselves that God is beyond us and our politics and our works of justice and righteousness.
c) We are to remember that God and the Kingdom will surprise, terrify, shock and comfort us.
II) Amos’ warning
a) The mistake - expecting God to be on our side or thinking that we are on God’s side without nuance or complication.
1) Why is the Day of the Lord darkness and not light, Why might god’s coming be terrifying? The problem isn’t with God but with humanity with God’s people Israel who think God is just on their side.
2) They were certain of the justice of their cause the justice and righteousness of their actions.
b) Vs. 5:24 in context seems to say that one can only claim to be fully on God’s side if there is absolutely nothing damming up the flow of God’s justice and righteousness.
1) The day of the lord breaks all those things that dam up justice and righteousness, floods the parched land of oppression.
2) Here we have image of floods after the dry season or for us possibly the breaking of a dam, a wall of water of justice descending upon us.
3) Amos tells us that the coming of God in the fullness of righteousness will be overwhelming to us because there are going to be blockages in us and our societies of that righteousness and justice.
c) So Amos warns us be careful what you wish for it will also overtake you, none will escape the flood of righteousness when it comes. So we should warn one another with these words lest we become too comfortable thinking we can know completely and fully implement the justice of God.
III) Jesus parable exhorts us to be ready for it is possible to miss out on the coming of Christ and the Kingdom.
a) What is the fault of the Foolish virgins in what way are they unprepared for the coming of the Bridegroom?
1) They don’t bring extra oil.
2) They were only prepared for what they knew to expect, their fault was not accounting for the unexpected, the unpredictable.
b) Like in Amos the issue is expectation and being open and ready for the excess of God’s coming.
1) The coming of God will be other than what we can encompass and predict.
2) In our seeking for justice in our waiting the coming of the righteousness of God we are to be ready to be taken beyond any expectation.
c) So exhort one another with these words keep awake to the otherness of God, and that God is beyond any human concept of righteousness and justice. God’s justice God’s ways exceed and overflow our abilities. Be prepared to go beyond what is humanly defined as good true and just.
IV) At first Paul’s words of encouragement about those who have died in the faith seem to distract us from caring for justice in this world.
a) To understand this text fully we must ask ourselves what is the power of Death.
1) Death is the power that founds and is at work in all injustice and oppression.
2) Thus an appropriate response to injustice is mourning. When politicians fail (Obama will disappoint in some way).
3) In our living into the Kingdom of God in this age and working for justice and righteousness there will continue to be reasons to mourn.
b) So when we face the continuing power of death manifest in injustice, whether in our own country (Obama: as we have had to confront it in every Presidency) or in the Economic powers in the world or other nations states or in the death of loved one, how will we encourage one another?
1) We miss the meaning of the encouragement to get caught up in debates about the Rapture.
2) Paul is saying that Christ has overcome death and so even in death there is life and Resurrection.
c) Christ had gone to Hades and returned.
1) We or any who go on and face death whether through physical death or violent encounters with oppression and injustice can know that Christ is already there
2) The realities of Death, injustice , oppression can not separate us from what is alive just and righteous, for Christ has gone ahead in death and through the resurrection has planted the tree of life (the Cross) in the midst of death.
a) So we need to continual remind ourselves of these things.
1) Our justice and righteousness will always fall short of God’s; none will escape the rushing water of righteousness when God breaks the dams of injustice and unrighteousness.
2) So be prepared for what we cannot prepare. Be open to the surprise that is the coming of Christ in the fullness of the Kingdom.
3) Lastly encourage each other with the knowledge that Christ has already overcome death, and we are or any who seem to be taking in the grips of death, Christ is already there gathering them to himself .
b) We will overcome death and injustice only because Christ has already overcome. So in life or death we are in Christ by faith and Baptism.
c) May we not forget these things as we gather and as we go out in the world, as we work and act for justice in the world, as we advocate for those with no voice. For our only true hope is in God being beyond our concepts and abilities to realize justice, and in God having in Christ overcoming death.