I hope to resume Scriptural reflections on the weekly lectionary I’ve called the Weekly Dig. Writing these keeps me anchored in the Word and is an important personal spiritual practice for me. Here’s a start.
TWENTY-FORTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Remember when as a teenager you asked to extend your curfew and your parents said, “Nothing good happens after midnight”? St. Paul seems to agree when he writes:
“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” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-7).
Paul is speaking in spiritual terms and using “night” and “darkness” and “sleep” and “drunkenness” metaphorically, not literally. He’s not concerned about Jewish and Greek Christian boys in Thessaloniki going out at night to toilet paper the trees of the revival synagogue in town! Neither is he telling Christians of our day to necessarily avoid the bar scene.
Rather, Pastor Paul is alerting believers to the dark spiritual fog that can settle over believer’s minds, dulling them into worldly mindsets and unhealthy preoccupations. He’s calling Christians to “wake up” to the bright light of a new way of being human Jesus calls his followers to embrace and embody. “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14).
He seems to envision a kind of mind-numbing stupor that can take over a community or culture, blinding folks from reason, deafening them from truth, and luring them into the smoke and mirrors of unChristian thinking and rhetoric. Today, he would probably say things like:
- “Stop getting drunk on Facebook “Likes” and social media memes.”
- “Stop spending long hours in the dark and soul-crushing void that is Twitter and cable news.” (I’m still working on this one.)
- “Stop falling asleep to your Christian responsibility by numbing yourself with Netflix and other escapes.”
- “Stop keeping company with those who spread darkness and division, and instead surround yourselves with people who sparkle with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). As Paul says elsewhere, “Bad company corrupts good character and morals” (1 Cor. 15:33).
Thankfully, Paul doesn’t just offer warnings and prohibitions; he offers Christians practical guidance for how to “suit up” and live wisely and soberly in days of political drunkenness and social confusion.
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” (1 Thessalonians 5:8-11).
First, strip off the old culturally fashionable rags of cynicism, combativeness, and prejudice, and let faith, love and hope be your new wardrobe (v. 8). Unlike Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility that allowed him to move through crowds unseen, we are to put on the cloak of Christlike character and witness so everyone can get a glimpse of the Jesus who lives in us. In a world under the dark cloud of skepticism, hostility and despair, let’s radiate faith, love and hope!
Second, in a world that is often pointing out our shortcomings and tearing people down, we are to “encourage one another and build each other up” (v. 11). For being Day Time people and Fully Awake people means recommitting to being people who spread the light faith, hope and love with every thought, word and deed. So help us God!
How can you shine a little extra light this week?
What old garments do you need to shed, in order to clothe yourselves with Christlike virtue?