Audio and Text for Sermon for Last Sunday of the Church Year (1 Thess. 5:1-11; Matt. 25:1-13)


Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. (1 Thess. 5:1-4)


A thief deprives you of more than things.  A thief deprives you assurance of security and privacy.  A thief violates you and what belongs to you – “That’s my window.  You had no right to break it.  That was my money.  You had no right to take it.  This is my home.  I didn’t invite you in.”  All of the sudden, things that seemed to be in your control (there is peace and security) seem quite out of your control.  This also happens in abusive or hurtful relationships, when you have been betrayed, or a sudden death of someone you love.


As the Church Year ends today, our Lord, who will come like a thief in the night, wants to deprive you of your misplaced security.  Don’t get too secure with your stuff, your money, your health, your family, your life or this world.  That seems kind of mean of Him, doesn’t it?


Far from it.  He’s quite interested in replacing your security with His secure promises.  He latches you off the things that thief’s or the Day of the Lord take away and onto Jesus, the very Light of the World, the Light no darkness can overcome.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 


He’s coming.  He really is.  The bridegroom comes and brings the wise into the beautiful, eternal wedding feast.  The cry will be “Here, He is!  Come out to meet Him.” And He calls, “Be glad and rejoice, the former things that cause you distress will be remembered no more, no more shall be heard the sound of weeping and the cry of distress, and there shall be no hurt or destruction (Matthew 25:1-11; Isaiah 65:17-25).


We hear today and need to hear often about the end for quite a practical reason.  We are rather weak, foolish, and forgetful people.  Last week, we heard that when Moses delayed coming down Mt. Sinai (remember that this is after the signs against Pharaoh and the redemption from slavery through the Red Sea), the people began to cling to another.  And, indeed, the wise and foolish all became drowsy and slept because the bridegroom was delayed.  The wise, though, were ready for the delay.  The foolish were not.


You need some oil, you need the liturgy, you need the dear saints, so that Day doesn’t surprise you like a thief.  You need to know you are insecure in your works, in your love of others, in your looking to so many other things for your ultimate comfort and salvation because of the delay, to hear what you are secure in: Jesus’ clinging to you.


Hear again, this precious promise.  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.  Therefore encourage one other and build one another up, just are you are doing (1 Thess. 5:9-11).


God has not destined you for wrath – though your sins deserve His wrath.  God has not destined you for wrath – though you are disciplined as the loving Father places burdens and punishments upon you.  God has not destined you for wrath – though your body and life can sometimes preach that, Jesus preaches a clearer word, that you do need written – there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.  Whether we are awake or asleep, at home or at work, with those we love or with those that are hard to love, we might live with him.


God has given you this Word, so keep giving that Word, that encouragement to one another, building each other up in faith, hope, and love, not in tearing each other down.  Be Jesus to those that surround you, encouraging them, and building them up in faith, hope, and love, just are you have been doing.  Amen.


Thieves deprive you for security by violating your place.  Your Lord Jesus Christ came into time and space, died next to a thief who confessed he was getting justice, promised that thief God’s mercy because He was taking from that thief the most important thing He could take away – the thieves’ sin – “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”


Jesus, like a thief, take things away.  Perhaps you didn’t exactly invite Him – “those are my sins to feel guilty about.  Those are my sins to have shame and regret over.  Those are the sins that were done to hurt me.”  Yet, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Like a thief, He does enter into your space and time and He is present to take things away from you – your anger, your worry, your guilt, your fears, your concern about your children and family and the world.  He invites you to see that when you take those things back from Him and say, “Wait, Jesus.  Those really belong to me only,” that you’re stealing from yourself comfort and peace that passes all understanding.  You see, you’re secure in Him.  In prayer, we practice placing all things into His secure hands.


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