Sermon / Pr. Lucas Andre Albrecht / Season Of Pentecost (Remembrance Day Observed) / Sunday November 12th 2017 - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; / Encourage one another
Text: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25
Theme: Encouraging one another
Intr – How do you encourage people?
Depending on the context, on the person, on the need that is perceived, our words may be either extremely precise or extremely poor. In the epistle today, Paul wants the Christians to encourage one another. In the Gospel today Christ is encouraging us too. Words, and acts, of encouragment are more than welcome – provided they come in the right context, right?
Today we commemorate Remembrance Day. We remember our veterans, our soldiers, especially the fallen - the brave men and women who served our country even with their life, allowing us to have a free and peaceful country –which is very often taken for granted by newer generations.
How would you encourage a soldier? Maybe praying, supporting them, showing them the fruits of ther fights and battles. Perhaps talking to them, listening to them...there are different and varied forms to do so. Whenever you will encourage someone you need to use aproppriate words; otherwise your words may sound flat, or in the worst case, offensive.
For example, how would you encourage the families of the fallen? Would these words work?
-Well, at least now they don’t have bills to pay anymore;
-Well, at least they don’t have to shovel this terrible snow anymore.
-Well, it could be worse, they might lose this year’s Grey Cup Game.
Not at all.That would be even offensive.
Now, let’s pay attention to the way we try to encourage people in life. The words we use. The examples we mention. The console and comfort we try to bring to people, sometimes with the best of intentions, but in the end missing completely the context and the point.
Let me give just one example, from many that could be listed. Whenever a person is undergoing bad times, that is, sorrow, melancholy or even depression, we hast to give them “aspirin to cure a cancer”, so to say. We may have some platitudes and pre-prepared phrases that are supposed to help, but end up making things worse.
-Believe in yourself, you will make it through – (to try to believe in myself? That’s exactly what I tried to do and what brought me to this.)
-God wouldn’t give you more than you can handle. (Really? This is so way beyond I can handle... Do you really think God gave me this?...)
-If you help yourself, God will help you (I thought it was the other way around...)
When me miss the context, we may use all the wrong words with all the best intentions.
Paul encourages the Christians at Thessalonica. He wants them actually to encourage one another. It was not bright shiny days for Christians back in the day. It is not bright shiny days for the Christian faith the days we also live in, as we see more and more secular culture, pop philosophy and even laws being settled that strike directly against some of our core beliefs. We need encouragement and we need to encourage one another too. So what does Paul use for that purpose?
-Does he urge Christians to remember each other how lucky they are for having a house, two cars and a good bank account?
-Does he point to the fact that there will be a day on earth that they will have no pain and no suffering anymore?
-Does he encourage them to look inside themselves to see how beautiful they are, how positive they can be and how all the answers lie in our power of will?
-Does he ask them to try even harder to be good people so God would be pleased with them?
-Offers them to purchase forgiveness of sins?
Of course, none of the above we find in the Bible text. But sometimes that’s what we hear, or say. Sometimes even in Christian faith environment, when we loose sight of the life everlasting, the last days, and fix our eyes only on earthly matters. Then we will try to encourage one another with the present, or even with the past. We forget that the greatest encouragment of all for Christians lies in the future. The life everlasting.
This is what Paul does. He asks Christians to encourage one another in the hope of the Last Day. The Day of the Lord, if you paid attention to the reading of Amos today. The Day when He will execute judgement over sin, and will bring His Children with Him to enter life everlasting. He points to Christ, to the ressurrection on the Last Day. He points to the fact that we will be forever with the Lord. The Church calls this Eschatology Eschatos stands for “last”.
As we approach the end of another Church year and look forward to Advent and Christmas, we are reminded of the Eschatological things. And even tough they lie in the future, they impact our present. Paul points to Christ in the present to show how this future glory already applies to them. Paul points to the real hope of the Church. Life everlasting. There are many things we can do and we should do as Christians and as the Church in this world. But it all boils down to one thing: we want people to live with Christ forever. As many as possible. That’s why we go and make disciples baptizing, teaching.
And why is that so important to be preached and taught? Why would I want to be saved? From what? From sin. Every single human being is a sinner and depends on God’s forgiveness through Christ to be saved. There is no medicine without diagnosis. The diagnosis is sin. The consequence is eternal death. The cure is Christ, His forgiveness and peace. Now the consequence is: life with him here. Life with Him forever in Heaven.
Since Christ went to Heaven and promised to come back to bring us, just as Paul describes in Thessalonians, we know that this may happen any time, any day, any hour. Then we see the importance of being awake, as Jesus illustrates in the parable of the ten virgins. Five were wise and five were not. As we walk in life fighting our struggles and tempations, God the Holy Spirit keeps the candle of our faith alive. Jesus urges us not to be drowsy and fall asleep so that we don’t become the foolish ones. When the groom comes, the Bride, His Church, is supposed to be awake and alert. Then He will say: “I know you. Come with Me”, while to the ones whose candle is gone he will say: “I don’t know you”.
I said before that the greatest encouragment of all for Christians lies in the future. That’s true – but only because of that fact in the past. The work of Jesus. From this point of view, we could say: if you don’t have a past, you don’t have a future. Our future was decided in the past, so that in the present we may live with Him.
Remembrance Day is also an eschatological date. As we remember those who died fighting for our freedom we remember that we will see them again, those who departed in Christ. We will be reunited in Christ for life everlasting.
Remember: whenever we try to encourage one another without pointing to Christ, to His work, to His Word, to His presence, we might be trying, as said before, to cure cancer by taking a couple aspirins. We are missing the point. Our real hope and encouragement rests in Him. In Him who is the Groom who gave His life for His Bride. The One who gives himself in Holy Communion so we can be forgiven and encouraged to remains steadast in Him till the Last Day. The Day of the Lord.
Cc - “Encourage one another”, says Paul. Yes, let us encourage one another with the right words. Remembrance Day is also a day for remembering The Word of God for our daily life, in joy and in sorrow. The Word of God for our heart, be it pain, be it passion. Especially, the Word of God that describes the Last Day, the Day of The Lord. When all the soldiers of faith, after our long and blessed fights, will be reunited to Him and will be with Him. Forever. Encourage one another with these words. Amen.