Worship for Sunday, November 8, 2020

Amos 5:18-24

Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
   Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light;
   as if someone fled from a lion,
   and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
   and was bitten by a snake.
Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
   and gloom with no brightness in it?
I hate, I despise your festivals,
   and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
   I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
   I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
   I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
   and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 70

Be pleased, O God, to deliver me.
   O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and confusion
   who seek my life.
Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
   who desire to hurt me.
Let those who say, ‘Aha, Aha!’
   turn back because of their shame.

Let all who seek you
   rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation
   say evermore, ‘God is great!’
But I am poor and needy;
   hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
   O Lord, do not delay! Amen.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 25:1-13

Then Jesus said – ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wow – this year has been a wild one hasn’t it?  Sometimes it feels like I am living someone else’s life.  Or that I have entered a really – really strange alternate reality (Why yes – I have watched a lot of Star Trek).  

This just doesn’t feel like my life.  I sometimes wonder if I will wake up and all of this craziness will have just been a seriously bad dream (fingers crossed on this one).

And I know that I am not alone in this.  Lots of folks are feeling like 2020 has been the strangest year of their lives. 

This time last year – most of us thought we knew what the future held – and I am guessing none of us were expecting a global pandemic!  I know I certainly wasn’t.           

I think one reason this year has been so hard for us – is because we just don’t know what to expect anymore.  So much has changed and so much just keeps changing so very – very quickly.  

It feels like we have had to change almost everything in our lives.  And while not everything has changed a whole lot has changed.  The way we worship our Lord has changed.  The way we educate our children has changed.  The way we buy our groceries has changed.  The way many of us work has changed.  The way we celebrate and the way we mourn have changed too.

All of this change and uncertainty can leave us wondering what on earth the future will hold for us and for our loved ones!  It can leave us feeling unmoored and unsettled and perhaps even afraid of the future.  The future that once seemed bright and hopeful and exciting – now feels dark – ominous and rather threatening for some of us.

No matter how you are feeling about your present and our future – I am guessing you are a bit curious about what the future holds.  Curiosity about the future seems to be a pretty basic part of human nature. 

People do all sorts of things to try to figure out what the future holds.

Some folks faithfully read their horoscopes every single day.  But honestly whenever I read my horoscope – I am left feeling vaguely confused.  They rarely make much sense to me.

That said – I must say that I really – really liked my horoscope for this past Tuesday.  Because it declared that “I could do no wrong.”  Seriously – that was the best horoscope ever!  I am so totally getting that printed on a t-shirt!

When I shared this intriguing little tid-bit of information with Jason – his response was – “How is that different from any other day?”  I knew I married a truly wise and brilliant man!

Some people go to fortune tellers to have their palms read. 

Other folks think you can learn about what your future holds by having someone read the tea leaves in your tea cup. 

Astrologers believe they can look at the stars and tell you what the future will hold. 

And while we Christians believe that tea leaves are best used for making tea and that God created the stars to illuminate the night sky this doesn’t keep us from asking questions about what the future holds for us and our loved ones. 

Being curious and having questions is an important part of being human.  We have inquiring minds and we want to know. 

And we aren’t alone in asking these sorts of questions.  The same was true of the Christians living in Thessalonica in ancient Greece.  They had lots and lots of questions too.  In our second reading for today we learn they were asking questions about God and faith.  They were asking questions about heaven and about what happens when Christians die.

Some of them were particularly worried about what would happen to their brothers and sisters in Christ who died before Jesus comes again.  They worried these people of faith might be forgotten by God.

They want to know what happens to Christians when they die. 

And I think we can all agree that – we wonder and worry about these very same things (or at least I do).

Saint Paul knows these are important questions.  So when he learns of their questions and concerns about the future – he writes to them to encourage and to reassure them.

First Paul tells the Christians of Thessalonica – to remember that Christians are people of hope.  And this hope makes us different – because for Christians death isn’t the end. 

Yes – we will die some day.  Yes – death is sad.  Death breaks our hearts and makes us ache with sorrow.  Yes – we miss our loved ones.  But Paul says remember the empty tomb that first Easter morning.  And remember what that empty tomb means for everyone who believes Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior.

Remember when Jesus died on that Roman cross – Jesus did not stay dead.  God raised Jesus’ from the dead that very first Easter morning.  And when God raised Jesus from the dead – God destroyed the power of sin and death.

Paul says – remember death doesn’t have the last word with God – life has the last word.

Paul says to all of us – our God is more powerful than death.  Our God has promised us that nothing in this life – not even death can separate us from his perfect love for us!

God has promised you the gift of eternal life with him.

And Paul goes on to say to us – yes – the world as we know it will end one day.  But – even as the world ends our God will still be our God.  God – the Father – who made heaven and Earth will still be in charge. 

And Jesus will still be our loving Lord and Savior who has promised to love us with a perfect love forever.

Yes – one day we will die.  And one day the world as we know it will end – but God will never end and God’s love for you is eternal. 

Know this – believe this – your loving Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ will come again and when he does – the dead will rise and we will live with the Lord forever.  Truly this is Good News.  AMEN.

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