November 15, 2017
By Jonathan Chapman.
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (NRSV)
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
One of my favorite scenes in the classic movie Amadeus
is when he’s frantically composing, feather quill in hand. We hear his famous Dies Irae
playing—it’s what he’s working on—when there is a frantic knocking on the door. The symbolism is lost on many, but the truth is that it’s a moment of cinematic perfection. Dies Irae
, of course, is translated as “Day of Wrath” or, by some, “Day of the Lord.” It’s a sequence in the Requiem
in where God’s judgement is revered.
The frantic knocking seems to come as a surprise to Amadeus and his wife. The Day of the Lord, Scripture tells us, won’t be announced. Instead, it sneaks up—a thief in the night.
For millennia, we’ve allowed these scriptures to be filled with foreboding. Don’t get caught unaware! Don’t let it sneak up on you! Be prepared! Admittedly, the notion of God’s final judgment on a broken world is less than appealing.
And yet, there’s a part of me that longs for it. Not the judgment part—that’s not really our thing in the UCC. But the idea that there will come a day when God’s love will reign supreme, when all will be made well, when we shall see face to face. We sure could use that now, couldn’t we? Mass shooting after mass shooting, global political tension, and deep national divide are hardly inspiring.
But God’s coming realm of love? That is.
Almighty God, may your realm of Love come to pass—sooner than later. Amen.
The Rev. Jonathan Chapman is pastor of Westfield United Church of Christ in Killingly, CT.
November 15, 2017