Brothers and sisters, we have a request for you concerning our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming and when we are gathered together to be with him. 2 We don’t want you to be easily confused in your mind or upset if you hear that the day of the Lord is already here, whether you hear it through some spirit, a message, or a letter supposedly from us. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. That day won’t come unless the rebellion comes first and the person who is lawless is revealed, who is headed for destruction. 4 He is the opponent of every so-called god or object of worship and promotes himself over them. So he sits in God’s temple, displaying himself to show that he is God. 5 You remember that I used to tell you these things while I was with you, don’t you? …13 But we always must thank God for you, brothers and sisters who are loved by God. This is because he chose you from the beginning to be the first crop of the harvest. This brought salvation, through your dedication to God by the Spirit and through your belief in the truth. 14 God called all of you through our good news so you could possess the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions we taught you, whether we taught you in person or through our letter. 16 Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and a good hope. 17 May he encourage your hearts and give you strength in every good thing you do or say. –2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Today, brothers and sisters, is a day we find ourselves in the eye of a hurricane.
Today is a Holy day. One of the holiest days of the Christian year. It’s the day we celebrate the Saints. We sing in memory of their lives. It’s the day we join hand-in-hand and remember. We remember who we are. Who we have been. And we also rejoice in who we will become, who we are becoming.
And yet… it exists as a small island of light and hope in the midst of a maelstrom of activity, chaos, doubt and uncertainty. We have weathered one of the most difficult years on record, I think we can all safely admit that. In fact, one would not be mistaken in thinking that the end is near.
Tuesday of this week, our nation reaches the final culminating day of the past 18 months: Election day. And though I am hesitant to speak about it, I cannot deny the tremendous and tumultuous chaos this political season has caused in our church, and in our nation. There has never been a race like this before, not in most of our lifetimes. Our base fears have been tapped in ways that have long since been dormant. Anger has risen between sister and brother over candidates, issues, and beliefs. We stand as a people rent in two by political difference, in a season unlike any other.
I cannot tell you who to vote for, as some may want me to do. To do so would be a breach of my pastoral covenant with you all. If I did, I would risk my ability to minister to all people. Effectively, if I make my political inclinations known, I alienate a vast swath of people who may or may not ever meet Jesus any other way, or who seek guidance from a ministerial presence. What I can do is to vote your conscience. Vote with your values. And vote with the kingdom of God in mind.
I mention God’s kingdom because that is what have to look forward to today. All Saints’ Sunday is when we look back on the faithful who have influenced, and forward to the life in Christ that is promised to us.
This is our focus today, on the eternal hope and good comfort that God promises us in Jesus Christ, found only in the kingdom of heaven. Such comfort, however, only comes after the troubles of the present age, troubles that were known all too well in the days in which this letter was written.
Concerning The Day of the Lord
The early Christian community was all too aware of the problems of the world. In fact, most of the time, they were often the victims of the worst of what the world could offer.
Christians were a community of outsiders, both religiously and politically. Religiously, they were often antagonized by Roman and Greek religious groups, but also the Jewish community from which they had their roots. The story of Christ is rooted in the Jewish scripture and theology, as Jesus and all of the disciples were all Jewish. And yet they were reviled by all camps, ousted as cultists and even atheists, in their days’ reckoning.
Not only that, politically they were seen as anarchists, because of their refusal to call Caesar Lord. For them, there was only one Lord, and that was Jesus Christ. As a result, they were frequently targeted by political authorities, and disenfranchised as citizens.
This resulted in quite a bit of suffering on the part of the Christians of the first few centuries.
Public stoning, burning at the stake, fed to lions, imprisonment, and much more were faced by the saints. Their witness stood as a testament to their faith, however. The did not waver, nor did they fear for their own lives. They lived for Christ, and that Christ had given them new life. They were a strange but powerful group on their own.
And yet… that left many questions for the saints who were not martyred. What would happen to them? And are all these persecutions signs of the end times, the coming Day of the Lord? Would Jesus return, and were the sitting authorities in reality the Anti Christ?
These were very real questions that they faced, and so the writer of 2 Thessalonians takes them seriously.
The writer very clearly acknowledges their fears, but also in a way puts them to rest. He says to not be deceived, and that the Day of the Lord will only happen at an appointed time. In the meantime, however, he gives them–and us–these words:
Thank God for you. Yes you! You, the ones left behind to share the witness with those who will come after. Thank God for your lives, because you are loved by God. God made you to be the first crop of the harvest, the first fruit that will be shared for all time.
So, live up to your example, and stand firm. It’s not time for the day of the Lord. This isn’t the end. Rather, this is the beginning. God loves you, so let that love give you eternal hope and good comfort. God will do amazing things through you for centuries to come.
Saints Living the Gospel
I am happy to report that, as a matter of fact, the Saints did just that. They lived the Gospel.
They lived the Gospel, and many died for the Gospel, and in the kingdom of heaven they live again. They endure. Their witness endures throughout the generations. And today, we celebrate that witness.
That’s the great thing about All Saints Day. We get to remember the lessons of the past, the traditions that were shared, and joy that echoes the love of God through the ages. God loved them, and God continues to love us. Though saints may live in glory, their glory lives on in us as well. These saints never quit being a part of the church. Their story lives in us.
So think about the saints today, and remember them. Not just ones from history books, but from your history. Think on them, and give thanks for them. They give thanks for you, because you continue the tradition of sharing the love of God with the world. We rejoice in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.