A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Upcoming Sunday Scripture Commentary - November 16

Sermon (November 16) - "Love First"

I Thessalonians 5:1-11

This scripture about staying awake reminds us of what Jesus said when he told them to keep watch when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and earlier when he warned about future events. Twenty years later, Paul is using the same theme of being watchful for a new situation for one of the churches he has founded.

Paul loves to use several metaphors to make his point. He refers to a burglar and a woman in labor. Paul uses these images to help the church be alert to the Christian worldview when the present age of sin and brokenness will give way to the new age of God's Kingdom made complete. Since this new age is emerging, we should act in such a way that reflects this emerging reality.

Paul is reminding the Thessalonians that they are people of day while others are still living as if it is still night.  As people of faith, we are called to live in the daytime through faith in Jesus. This can be confusing for us since we are also living in a world of darkness because of sin and death.

The phrase "peace and security" was a phrase used by the Roman Empire to assure its citizens that everything will be OK. Paul is warning the Thessalonians to not fall for such false optimism. We fall into this trap today whenever we think a presidential candidate will lead us to utopia. Jesus' and Paul's  foretelling that things in the world will not be alright came true when the Romans the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.

This is why Paul uses yet another image in this passage by referring to putting on armor which includes the helmet and a breastplate. The breastplate refers to faith and hope and the helmet refers to salvation.

Verse 10 is a key verse because Paul reminds us why we can be a people of hope in a world of darkness. It's because of Jesus' death and resurrection.

Matthew 25:14-30

The purpose of this parable about the workers and the talents is that Jesus wants the disciples to continue on his ministry after his death and resurrection. Jesus is entrusting them with continuing what has been started through his ministry.

Jesus is using this parable to compare the religious leaders of his day with the third servant who failed to risk investing his talent. A talent was equivalent to 15 years of wages! The people of Israel have been given everything they needed to be God's people like the law and the Temple but instead of using these gifts to be a blessing to the world, they were squandering them.

It is troubling to think about the third servant who was to be punished and thrown into outer darkness for failing to invest his talent. Is this a scripture that is warning that we too may be thrown into torment and eternal darkness? Maybe, this description of judgment is more of a picture of how Jesus risked everything when he died on the cross for the sins of the world. Jesus didn't play it safe. He risked everything. Remember, he hung on a cross and felt forsaken. It was also a dark Good Friday.


[Note: The resources used for these scripture reading commentaries are based on the Everyone series by NT Wright, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, The Wesley Study Bible, and the “Montreal-Anglican”lectionary commentaries.]

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