November 9, 2014 Series: Lectionary
Topic: Biblical Verse: Amos 5:18–5:24
Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Amos 5:18-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
It gets dark so quickly.
Now that we’re on the other side of the daylight saving time change, heading into the later part of the Fall season, it hard not to notice it. If you’ve got to get to work or school, you might be getting up while it’s dark these days. It’s possible that you’re not getting back home until after dark, too. And if that’s not the case yet, just give it a few more weeks. As it is, the sun will be setting around 5:00 p.m. this weekend. But even after the sun has set, it still lights the sky. That’s twilight.
Twilight is that time when the sun sits just below the horizon. The earth’s atmosphere reflects sunlight down to places that would otherwise be in darkness. It’s not dark, it’s not light; it’s something in between. It’s a promise of what’s to come.
Twilight precedes darkness. After the sun has set, it’s only a matter of time before night falls. If you’re lucky, you might have moonlight and stars on a clear night, but even then, that’s not much to go by. It’s not like you could turn off your car’s headlights and drive home from work with only moonlight to guide you. And once it’s dark, it can get really dark.
We’ve entered into the closing weeks of the church year. This season after Pentecost is called “ordinary time.” It reminds us of the life that we have with God even now as His people in Christ as we wait and watch for the Last Day. This season, which has run for months, now nears its conclusion. The Scripture readings appointed for this weekend and the weeks ahead lift that up. In a number of different ways, they point to the truth that the world as we know it will one day come to an end. It’s a time of twilight.
The days have come to a close for some of us sooner than for others. Our congregation has lost a number of its members to death during this “ordinary time” of the church year. Others are currently facing severe and even terminal illnesses in these days of waning light. What’s waiting for you and me and them when the Day of the Lord comes and brings ordinary time to a close?
The people Israel in Amos’ day were looking ahead to the Day of the Lord. They thought that it meant victory for Israel, when God would elevate them and crush all their enemies. They were looking for the light from above to shine down on them on that day like a spotlight before all the other nations to show how great Israel was in God’s sight. To hear Amos tell it, they couldn’t have been more wrong. The Day of the Lord wouldn’t be what the people were expecting if they just kept on in their shortsighted ways. Through Amos, God called them out. They were just “doing religion” without living out the identity that God had given them as His chosen people. They didn’t care about the daily justice and righteousness that was sorely missing from their lives as a nation. The people of Israel were in their twilight days, and darkness, not light, was about to descend upon them.
To what extent do daily justice and righteousness – right living before God – play a part in your life in these closing days of the church year? It’s pretty easy here to “do religion” and come to a church once a week. It’s easier than having that time with God in worship and in His Word shape all the rest of your week. It’s definitely easier than making different choices in how you spend your time with your family and your community to treat people with compassion and fairness, even if it comes at your expense. In these days of waning light, how have you lived? Thinking of the Day of the Lord as Amos describes it, it might be a pretty dark day, indeed.
There’s a flipside to the shorter days of this time of the year. If you’re awake in the morning, especially before the sun comes up, you’ll probably have the chance to see the other side of twilight: the minutes before dawn, just before the sun breaks of the horizon. Twilight also precedes the dawn.
In our reading from 1 Thessalonians, we heard Paul’s words of encouragement pointing to another truth about the Day of the Lord: it’s the day on which Jesus comes back. The people of Israel were right about this: the Day of the Lord will deliver God’s ultimate victory to His people. That victory belongs to his people, people He has chosen to be His own through water and the word at great cost to Himself. Jesus, the Light of the World, will not leave us in darkness, for he gave his life’s blood to defeat darkness once and for all. Everyone who lives in his light through God’s grace, everyone who falls asleep in faith in Jesus when the night of death falls, these are the ones who will wake and rise when the light of the Day of the Lord dawns.
I can do some checking and find out when twilight would start and finish on a given day. But there’s no list for me to consult and no guide for me to check to learn when the Day of the Lord will come.
We can’t know the day or the hour when this present twilight will end. And so, as Christ-chosen people, you and I are called to make the most of the time that we have. Every hour of every day is a gift, even when they might not much seem it. Every moment represents an opportunity to walk in holiness and righteousness in expectation of the Day of the Lord and the delivery of God’s victory for His people. Even when a day seems pretty dark, God is not far off. Jesus has promised to be with us to the end of the age – and, as Paul reminds us, into the next, as well: “and so we will always be with the Lord.”
It might be twilight now, but the light is coming – and it will come quickly!