Reflection 111520 November 15, 2020
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11/ Matthew 25:14-30
Faithful Servants, Faithful Lifestyle
As you may already know, my home country is technically still at war, because truce is not peace. I grew up in a tense environment because we were always, at the back of our minds, considering the chance that war between the two Koreas might resume. Every month, on the 15th day, there was a nationwide siren in the middle of the afternoon for a drill to prepare our people for a possible war. All cars had to stop, and people had to hide indoors as if in a bomb shelter. With the siren, there was an announcement that it was a drill. It was a tense ritual. Then one day, there was a siren when it was not the 15th day of the month. The announcement said it was not a drill. A North Korean plane was spotted in our airspace and we thought it was an invasion. It turns out that it was a North Korean (possibly a pilot, although my memory fails me) defecting to South Korea. We all uttered a sigh of relief, except grade 12 students preparing for the national exam for university entrance. They actually rejoiced at the prospect of a war because, if there was a war, then they wouldn’t have to take the exam. That’s how much pressure we put on our grade 12 students, but that’s a story for another occasion and not related to today’s theme.
We were tense because we didn’t know if and when there was going to be another war on the Korean peninsula. The government wanted to prepare its people, just in case; because preparation is wise. This is, unfortunately, the mentality that we inherited from our early Christian ancestors. They lived with the idea that Christ would come back on the Judgement Day, but nobody knew when; according to the gospel accounts, not even the angels and Christ himself knew when. The disciples of Jesus thought that day was coming during their lifetimes. Therefore, they lived as if every day was the last day on earth. They sold all their possessions and lived together praying and worshipping God. This mentality lasted for quite a while until they realized that day was not coming anytime soon. But First Thessalonians from which we read today was considered the very first book in the New Testament to be written and the Christian community in Thessalonica still believed in the imminent Judgment Day. Today’s First Thessalonians message is for God’s people to be ready for the Lord’s second coming because that day will come suddenly. Apostle Paul told the Thessalonian that, since they belong to the light of God, they should be awake and sober so that the Day of the Lord would not catch them by surprise. Early Christians and some modern cults believe that preparing for the Judgement Day means abandoning all material possessions and just sitting and waiting for the Lord to come and take them into Heaven’s glory; but the clue as to what it means to live as people of God waiting for a potential Judgement Day is at the end of today’s reading from First Thessalonians. “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.” These two verses teach us that belonging to God means living with Christ. Sitting and waiting for his return does not qualify as “living with him.” Living with Christ, following Jesus means we believe in the same ideas as Jesus did and live as he did. As I often say, following Jesus and seeking the reign of God is a lifestyle. What this lifestyle is about is illustrated in today’s gospel parable, usually known as the Parable of the Talents.
In this parable, the master left town and gave some money to his servants to manage while he was away. The first two servants worked the money with which they were entrusted and produced interest. The third servant didn’t do anything with the master’s money and got punished. You might wonder what he did wrong; it’s not like he stole his master’s money. He just didn’t do anything with it. From this story, we learn that, in the eyes of God, doing nothing is sinful, because sin is not only about committing wrongdoings but also failing to do the good deeds we are taught to do.
We are not a community of disciples who stay inside our church buildings while feeling good about God’s love and ourselves. We shouldn’t be. Look at Jesus; he went out into the world serving God’s people and preaching God’s justice. Likewise, we should go out into our world and do something good; that is our mission. We are not living in a war time or worried about an imminent threat of a war; not in this part of the world anyway. But, no imminent thread of a war doesn’t mean peace. Our world is full of the evil of injustice, and a lot of God’s people are tormented by it and don’t know peace. So, as God’s people, let us care about our world and the people who live in it. Let us care about the suffering of God’s people and the unjust social system that causes suffering for the marginalized people. The new Gifts with Vision catalog came out reminding us of God’s people we should help, and the United Church of Canada and other organizations are involved in anti-racism works. These are just some of the examples of how we can use our talents to be God’s church and seek to bring peace to our world. Martin Luther King Jr. said not taking sides is siding with the oppressors, that ignoring evil is to be an accomplice to it. This is the same idea that Jesus taught. Every year, around Remembrance Day, we reflect on peace; but how do we seek peace? How do we work to bring and maintain peace? What do we do with our appreciation for those who fought at wars for our freedom and peace? By fighting the evil of injustice in our society. As God’s children and servants taught to live in the light of God, let us live a lifestyle of God’s kingdom by loving, sharing, serving, and fighting injustice.