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Be Prepared

November 2, 2020

“And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 17b-18).  

We often plan for things that might happen.  When a tornado or a storm is predicted to come our way, we make preparations.  Hope for the best, plan for the worst.  We batten down the hatches, so to speak—locate our flashlights, candles, a portable radio, extra batteries, non-perishable food, bottled water, cash, medications, and other things we may need to weather the storm at home or elsewhere.  

The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.”  All three of our sons are Eagle Scouts. All three were required to complete essentially the same trials by fire, including going on numerous backpacking expeditions all over the Western United States.  All three were given a list of items to bring on each trip—but they varied in their level of preparedness. 

Our oldest son meticulously poured over each item on the list to ensure that every single thing had been purchased with the exact specifications.  One story about being prepared for such trips lives on in our family lore.  It was a dark Saturday morning at 5 am on the day of his departure for a two-week high Sierra backpacking trip and he was due to be at the drop-off location in 15 minutes.  He was going over his list one last time and checking his gear when I heard a cry of anguish from him: “Oh no, mom—I don’t have the 50’ of nylon rope on the list!”  I thought about it for about 30 seconds, and replied, “I think I have that it my purse.” He looked at me like I was crazy—what would his lawyer mom be doing carrying around 50’ of nylon rope in her purse?  I unzipped my large bag and triumphantly pulled out an unopened package of 50’ nylon rope.  I had put it in my bag a month or two before in case I needed it to hang quilts at a school fundraiser. 

Another son was not as meticulous—he claimed he didn’t need half of the stuff on the list.  Some people prepare for contingencies—others decide that they will wing it.  The Scriptures next week emphasize the importance of being prepared.

Sunday’s Scripture texts open with a reading from the book of Amos.  Amos was an unlikely prophet.  He was a farmer and shepherd, called by God to speak the truth. His name means “burden-bearer.”  His burden was that underneath the surface of a prosperous nation, Israel’s soul was decaying.  It was Amos’s burden to communicate that to the people and to point them in the right direction.  Parallels have been drawn to the modern-day decline of Western civilization, and in that respect, Amos’ warnings are eerily current.  

The people of Amos’ generation were calling for the Day of the Lord, or God’s ultimate judgment, yet it was one of those times when you should be careful about what you ask for.  The people he preached to thought that they were prepared for the Day of the Lord, but they misunderstood what it was.  They thought that it was a battle day when Yahweh would demonstrate his dominion over all creation. 

Amos asked them, “Why do you long for the day of the Lord?  That day will be darkness, not light.  It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him” (Amos 5: 18-24).[1]  

He knew that it would not be a day of deliverance—but instead a day of judgment.  God’s judgment will bring great joy to believers who will be reunited with God and their loved ones in the faith, but it will be a day of darkness for all others.  He warned them that longing for the Day of the Lord was yearning for their own demise. Amos understood that there is no contradiction between a just God and a loving God.  If God loves us, then surely, he hates the sin that consumes us—just as we hate the cancer that consumes a loved one.  Amos goes beyond theology to explain the nature of God himself.  God is a God of justice as well as a God of love.  

Unlike Amos’ audience who thought that they knew God’s nature and the answers to the mysteries that lay beyond, the members of the church at Thessalonica sought answers.  They wanted to know what would happen to them and to their fellow believers upon death.  They wanted to know how to prepare.  In the verses following next Sunday’s text, Paul addresses the question of “the Day of the Lord” directly: “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you,  for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. . .  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5: 1-3, 6).  In other words, be prepared.

Paul also told the Thessalonians to encourage each other, “And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4: 17b-18).  

The gospel text (Matthew 25: 1-13) continues the admonition to be prepared.  In the Parable of the Ten Virgins Jesus tells a story of ten bridesmaids who waited for the bridegroom. Five of them took extra oil but the other five did not.  The girls had to wait a long time.  When the bridegroom finally arrived, the young ladies went out to meet him, but the light from the lamps of the five who had not brought extra oil waned, and they prevailed upon the others for more oil.  But there wasn’t enough oil to share, so the five who had not prepared were shut out.  This parable asks the question, “What should you do while you are waiting to see Christ?”  The answer?  Always be ready, go about your daily life, and keep the faith.  

David reminds us to seek help from God along life’s journey, “Hasten O God, to save me; come quickly Lord, to help me” come quickly to me, O God. . . You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay (Psalm 70: 1, 5). 

Be prepared.  Don’t run out of fuel.  Don’t let your light go out.  Your spiritual well-being is your responsibility. Keep fueling your faith by turning to God for help, studying the Word, and using the opportunities that are presented to you to strengthen and to share your faith. Keep the tank full and fully charged. Let the Christ light shine through you to those around you.  Faith cannot be transferred from one person to another, but you can share your joy in Christ Jesus.  Follow Paul’s advice to encourage others.  

Commit to being prepared and encourage others to do so. 

Prayer: Lord, we thank and praise you for who you are—a just God and a loving God. Help us to remember all aspects of who you are so that we can prepare ourselves for the day when we will see you face-to -face.  In the meantime, help us to turn to you for help as we seek to follow your direction.  Keep our eyes fixed on you.  We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen 

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost are Amos 5: 18-24; Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4: 3-18; Matthew 25: 1-13.

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