Second Sunday before Advent

The Second Sunday before Advent

 

Collect

 

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil

and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: grant that we, having this hope,

may purify ourselves even as he is pure; that when he shall appear in power and great glory

we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

 

1 Thessalonians 5, 1-11

 

1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

 

Matthew 25, 14-30

 

14 It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.”

21 His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

22 The man with two bags of gold also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold: see, I have gained two more.”

23 His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

24 Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”

26 His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

 

 

 

Reflections on 1 Thessalonians 5, 1-11

 

The Common Worship Lectionary provides that at the main service two or three Bible passages should be read, of which one should be the Gospel reading and the other two either/or an Old Testament reading or a New Testament epistle.  Many churches, Erpingham included, usually have the epistle as the second reading, though sometimes, as will soon be the case in Advent, we use the Old Testament readings.  This is by way of introduction because this week I should like to focus on the epistle, Paul's First letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 5, 1-11. If you are able, do read not only this lesson here, but the previous four chapters, and also Acts 17, 1-9)

 

I love Paul's letters.  They are often thought to be 'difficult' unlike the Gospels, which are full of 'stories'.  However, although they vary, of course, a point to focus on is that they are all addressed to people, ordinary people, people from, yes, a different time and in different circumstances, but nevertheless people like us.  So, first, a short background to today's reading.  Who were the Thessalonians?   Thessalonica is in the north of Greece, not too far from Philippi, where Paul had also founded a Christian community.  Paul had spent a short time in Thessalonica on one of his journeys, one which, like several others, ended in trouble, stirred up by those in the Jewish Synagogue who took exception to his preaching about Christ.  (Paul's letters are best approached through linking them up with the account of his journeys in Acts, in this case, chapter 17 1-9.).  He had hoped to return but wasn't able to and sent Timothy to help and encourage the small group of believers there, (in 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul gives the background to this).

 

But what about us, what does this reading say to us today?  Firstly, this passage, like much of Thessalonians, deals with the great themes of the Advent season, which is fast approaching; night and day, darkness and light, themes which accord well with this dreary time of year, when, in the physical darkness of late autumn and winter we can reflect on the Light of the World, the Incarnation, the Light shining in the darkness, a theme which is prominent in the familiar Isaiah passages we shall hear (or read) in Advent.  The Christians in Thessalonica are clearly concerned with 'times and seasons', as, indeed, are we.  One difference, however, between first generation believers and us, is that, since many of them were familiar with the Old Testament idea of the 'Day of the Lord',  they truly believed, that Christ's second coming was imminent, and might even come in their lifetime.  We, over two thousand years later, see things rather differently, though since we shall all leave this life at some point, it still has relevance.  One of the problems of modern life, particularly in this difficult time of pandemic, is that death, for most people, is seen as the great unmentionable.  Paul's main concern here in this passage is that Christians should be awake and ready, ready to receive the Lord when he comes, whether literally or, more likely, in our hearts and minds.  Whilst, probably, the images of the 'thief in the night',  and 'labour pains' are not ones which speak directly to us, Paul reminds us that we are 'children of the light and children of the day'.  We sleep at night, but there are, of course, those who get drunk at night, and Paul is referring, of course, to Thessalonica, a large city with, as in all cities, a night-life.  We, living where we do and at the age most of us are, do not frequent (even when it is open) areas such as Prince of Wales Road in Norwich on a Saturday night, and we are usually, as the older translations have it, 'sober,' but this imagery was obviously relevant to Paul's readers.  (It occurs to me that, were I to be addressing these words to a younger, and more urban, readership, I should deal with this rather differently!)

 

Paul ends this section by using imagery he also employs elsewhere, in Ephesians, for instance, of the Roman soldier's armour.  Just as armour protects a soldier, so we should wear a breastplate of faith and love, with the 'hope of salvation' as our helmet.  Thus protected, In this dark and difficult time which we, along with the whole world, are enduring at the moment,  whether, as Paul says, we are 'awake or asleep' (now there's a comforting thought) Christ died for us so that we can be with him, now, and for all eternity. 

 

Angela

 

Heavenly Lord, you long for the world’s salvation: stir us from apathy, restrain us from excess

and revive in us new hope that all creation will one day be healed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


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