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“Concerning the Last Day”
The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
(audio begins at 31 seconds)
As you may have noticed, all three scripture lessons we have read this morning have left us leaning forward; looking to the future, thinking about what Amos calls “the Day of the Lord,” what Paul describes as the second coming, and what Jesus points to as the last day.
In Amos’ fierce sermon, he tells the people of God that if they think that judgment day is going to be good for them and bad for everyone else, they are going to be as disappointed as someone who has escaped a lion, only to look up and see a bear!
Then, in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, Paul does the opposite. Amos tells Israel they need to be more worried about the last day, but Paul tells the Thessalonians they need to be less worried about the last day. “Don’t worry about who will and won’t be left behind,” says Paul to the Thessalonians. “Those who have died, and those who are alive, will all be gathered up to be together forever.”
And, then, in today’s lesson from Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about the last day, which he concludes with that urgent admonition for us to keep awake, and stay ready, because, while everyone knows that some day will be the last day, no one knows which day will be the last day.
The last day will come for all of us, because death will come for each of us. For some, death will come suddenly and tragically; for most, slowly and naturally. For some, death will come as an enemy to be resisted; for others, as a friend to be welcomed, because, while most of us will get to live until we have to die, some of us will have to live until we get to die.
But, whenever and however death comes, the one thing we know for certain is that it will. Some day will be the last day; which is why it is so important for us to live whatever is left of our lives as deeply, fully and faithfully as we can; with that quiet sense of urgency to which Jesus calls us in this morning’s parable, when he says, “Stay awake and be alert, because you do not know when the last day will come.”
Of course, careful speech requires us to say that to live each day as though that day will be the last day would be unsustainable. No one can maintain that level of urgency day after day. However, everyone can live each day as though some day will be the last day.
And, that alone is enough to make us new people. To say to yourself, on a regular basis, “Some day is going to be the last day. And, as far as I know, I’m not going to get to come back around, do this over and get it right next time,” is to come alive, and to begin to live whatever is left of life as deeply, fully and faithfully as we can.
To get up each day and decide to live that day as though some day is going to be the last day is like being born again, all over again, every day, until the last day, when the door will close on this life, and open to the next; over on the Other Side.