1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 to 5:1 & Matthew 25:1-13
Many here today will realise that Remembrance Day yesterday marked 99 years since the end of the ‘war to end all wars’ – World War I.
Also less than two weeks ago Australia celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the famous and successful change of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba in South Israel.
When the news item of the commemoration came on TV Thea remarked that we spend too much time looking back, revelling in the glory of what has happened before and even perhaps embellishing on the realities of what really happened. She suggested we would do well to think more about the future.
I, too, go through this love-hate relationship with events like ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day
It is important to remember the sacrifices of those who came before us, and to remember how our heritage and culture was formed, even to remember the sacrifices of people in war, such as my grandfather, and father, in the infantry or Thea’s grandfather in the Australian Light Horse.
Also we are reminded by historians – that to forget the past is to run the risk of reliving it. Certainly World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. is in part testimony to that ‘truism’.
But to remember those who came before us as superheroes or only specific people from the past, is to forget the unsung heroes around us today – like the single Mum raising four kids and trying to keep a roof over their heads and protecting them from drugs, pornography, violence and the bigotry of the world.
There is always a danger in not only rewriting history but believing that the better days were all behind us, rather than remembering that they were different days with both their good and bad (very subjective terms) aspects.
There is also a danger for us when we look at the Bible and think ‘wouldn’t it be good if Christ lived now?’
Or to think that ‘those were the only times of God’s miracles’.
THEY HAPPEN NOW!
Or to believe that God’s time is past’.
NO, IT’S NOT – GOD IS ALWAYS DOING A NEW THING.
As we heard in the psalm reading earlier, this is not focussed on the past and the completeness of God’s work, but on the work that is still to be done with and for the next generation (as we hand the baton forward).
We also see it in the two readings brought to us by Val.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, the apostle Paul is at pains to tell people about what will happen during the end of days or what is termed – the Parousia (Advent – in Latin) but specifically pertaining to the second coming of Christ. It’s set upon a future (with an indeterminate time frame – See Chapter 5 verse 1).
While it is a reading that might simply be seen as Paul answering the Thessalonians’ question about who goes to Heaven first. He is really talking about the future promise that gives us the strength to live now.
The Matthew Gospel reading on this week’s lectionary has similar themes – Does anyone remember the pop song from the late 60s by Larry Norman that used this and other passages in the gospels about the Parousia.
It goes like this, ‘I wish we’d all been ready. There’s no time to change your mind – the Son has come and you’ve been left behind.’
The foolish bridesmaid had not used their stock in the here and now to build up for the time to come or, in this case, the consummation of all time.
The old scout motto of ‘be prepared’ – rests in past experience, present circumstances and future probabilities. The difficult words we read in this passage, sit in verse 12 – ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you!’
Why does the Saviour not know them? It is not because of who they were, but who they have failed to become.
We are not to become re-creators of the past but the creators of the future.
So, let’s now return to Remembrance Day.
One of my favourite books is this one – printed 102 years ago in 1916 – it is a history and compilation of poems, ditties and cartoons and short stories but Australian soldiers who served at Gallipoli.
One of my favourites is written by Private Harry Clifford Arlington McCann of the 4th Australian Light Horse – a 19 year old from Kyneton in Central Victoria.
I looked up his records and he was mentioned in dispatched twice, he was recommended for the Military Cross at the end of World War I.
He went on from Gallipoli to Gaza and Israel and on 27th October he became a 2nd Lieutenant. On 31st October – just four days later – he was one of the 800 men in that famous charge at Bel-Sheva as it is known today.
He went onto become an Acting Major in New Guinea in World War II.
In this book Harry contributed two pieces, before the evacuation of 1915. A beautiful and poignant poem called ‘Killed in Action’ (page 105) that takes on a series of remembrances of times past in the lives of those who now lie below the grave mounds of ANZAC cove.
The second poem is one that looks forward – into a promised time – but a time where he prays that the past won’t be recreated as artifice and the future will be different. It’s entitled ‘When it’s all over’. Read verse 5, then verse 1 on page 151.
As Christian soldiers we do what we need to do now, with what we know from the past but always looking forward.
As St. Paul reminds us, in Ephesians 6: 14ff
“with the belt of truth buckled around the waist , with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, with the shield of faith, taking the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God…. With this in mind, being alert and always praying.”
(With Apologies – no podcast of today’s sermon)