11/15/20 – Pentecost 24- “Children of the Day” – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. One of the most iconic, memorable movies of my childhood was the 1994 Disney movie, The Lion King. It’s this great story about the lion, Simba, and his rising to power as king after his evil uncle, Scar, killed his father and drove him away. Ever since the death of his father and his fleeing from Uncle Scar, Simba has been wandering aimlessly living like a nomad with his good friends, Pumba and Timon. With Pumba and Timon, Simba is living a life of freedom, no responsibilities, and ultimately “no worries.” It’s the good life, really. But in his selfish, nomadic life of “no worries”, Simba is living a life which ignores reality. His Uncle Scar, who is now leading the pride of lions, is abusing his leadership role and is running the world into the ground. Things are getting really bad. But Simba is complete oblivious. He sticks to his new life motto, “Hakuna Matata”, which means “no worries for the rest of your days.”

But Simba’s life begins to change quite quickly when one of his father’s good friends, Rafiki shows up. Rafiki ends up leading Simba on a wild goose chase of sorts to a pond where he has a, frankly, really weird experience. He sees the clouds in the sky part above him, and an image of his father, Mufasa, appears in the sky. Mufasa says to Simba (in that wonderful voice of James Earl Jones): You have forgotten who you are and so you have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. Remember who you are. You are my son… Remember… And the voice and image of Mufasa fades away into the clouds. This moment proves to be a turning point in the life of Simba. His father reminded him of who he is: You are my son. And this reality changed the course of Simba’s life. Being the son of Mufasa characterized the life of Simba and shaped the way he began to live. And so, Simba returns to his home to be who he was made to be and to reclaim his throne.

2. Now, this idea of being the “son of” something being significant in shaping and characterizing a person’s identity and future isn’t unique to The Lion King. This concept is actually a very biblical idea. Let me give you two examples. The first is in Genesis 35. The second half of this chapter is where Jacob’s wife Rachel gives birth to her son Benjamin and then dies shortly after. Verse 18 tells us that as Rachel had just given birth and knew she was about to die, she named her newborn son Ben-oni. In Hebrew, “Ben” means “son” and “Oni” means “my sorrow”. So, she names her son, “Son of my sorrow” because her sorrow characterized this son’s birth. But Jacob, knowing all about the importance of the meaning of a name, calls his new son Ben-yamin (or, if you Anglicize it, Benjamin). “Ben”, of course, means “son” and “Yamin” means “the right hand”. So, he names his son, “Son of the right hand”, or more colloquially, “Son of strength”, since the right hand represents strength in Hebrew thought. And the strength of Benjamin and his descendants becomes significant when only the tribes of Benjamin and Judah remains faithful to the rightful king of Israel when the nation is divided. Being the “son of strength” characterized the identity and future of Benjamin.
3. Another example of this is with Jesus himself in the New Testament. Jesus favorite self-description in the gospels was “Son of Man.” Now, there’s a ton of significance to this title, but one of the most important claims that Jesus is making when he calls himself “Son of Man” is that his identity is characterized by the fact that he is human. Yes, he is God, but he is also the truly human one who came to be what the first man, Adam, was not—the faithful human who was obedient to God’s plain to the very end. Being the “Son of Man” characterized the identity and future of Jesus. And so, you can see how in biblical thought, being the son of something shaped and characterized a person’s identity.

4. And so now we come to our text for today from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. In this text, Paul is doing two things. First, he continues the message that we heard from the prophet Amos last week—the Day of the Lord (Judgment day) is coming. We are living in the end times and there’s nothing we can do to change that reality. We heard all about the seriousness of that day last week. But the seriousness of that day (which we shouldn’t downplay) leads Paul to his second message in our text, which we see in the first part of verse 5: You are all children of light, children of the day (literally, “sons” of the day). Paul calls his hearers “sons of the day” not because he’s trying to be gender exclusive (actually, the Greek term includes both males and females). Rather, he is drawing on this rich biblical imagery of how being the “son” of something shapes and characterizes a person’s identity. You are a son, you are a child of “The Day”. The great Day of the Lord, that final day when Christ will return in glory is what characterizes our identity. It’s who we are. We are children of The Day. The Day of the Lord is your triumph. This is Paul’s message to you today. You don’t need to fear what the future might bring, you don’t need to fear judgement at the end of all things because on That Day, Christ will come to bring salvation to his children. In his gracious love, Christ has made you a child of The Day. Because we are children of The Day, our identity is characterized by the salvation that Christ will bring on the Day of the Lord. Our future is secure. So, no matter what happens in the world around us, no matter what happens in our lives we can live in confidence knowing that the Day of the Lord is our triumph because you are a child of that Day.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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