Near is the Day of the Lord

Text: Zephaniah 1:7-16 / Matthew 25:14-30
Date: Pentecost XXIII (Proper 28a) + 11/16/14

“Be silent.” “Be silent before the Lord God! For near (very near) is the day of the Lord.” St. Paul wrote, “we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped” (Rom 3:19). Jesus concludes the Parable of the Talents with the words, “cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 25:30). And thank you for not giggling as we then said, “This is the Gospel of the Lord.” For the Gospel of salvation through the forgiveness of sins to be applied to anyone the Law of God must first say, “Be silent” “so that every mouth may be stopped.” For you have nothing to say, no worthiness or righteousness in yourself with which to bargain with God.

If you don’t believe that, hear the word of the Lord, for the day of the Lord is near. What is that day? “On that day I will punish all who have sinned and fallen short of my glory; I will punish those who are complacent” who do not really take my word to heart, both for good and for ill. “The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast,” a day of wrath (dies irae), a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry.” “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

On that day, says our Lord, “it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.” God the creator has entrusted His creation to mankind, to have dominion over it, “to work it and keep it” (Gen 2:15). So what do we do with it? What have we done?

The parable is about God’s people, His Christians who work and keep what He has given bringing forth good fruits of their labor. These receive the praise and honor and benediction, “Well done, good and faithful servant…. Enter into the joy of your master.” Because you have allowed God to change you, to cause you to repent, to see your real need and to despair of your own powers or abilities (blessed are the poor in spirit), that Day of the Lord, the last day will not be one of punishment, of darkness and gloom, distress and anguish, weeping or the gnashing of teeth, but will be bright with the light of the grace and glory and salvation of God. Remain faithful over the little He has given you and you will receive the crown of life.

Those who hear only the Law of God, however, who consider God to be only a wrathful judge will hear just what they expect, “You wicked and slothful servant!” and will be cast into the outer darkness, eternal separation from God with no hope of return. So the Law and the Gospel together speak today saying there still is hope. Turn from your proud, spiritually blind ways and turn to the Lord God who is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Notice that neither of the first two servants in the parable were invited to enter “heaven” or “the kingdom,” but to “enter into the joy of your master.” In other words they were already citizens and members of the kingdom of heaven here by faith in their Savior, enjoying His provision and gifts just like you are albeit through tears and struggle. What they longed for, what we are to long for, is the final joy of being rid of sin which hangs on until sin itself is ended and we attain the fullness of salvation.

Dear fellow baptized and redeemed by Christ, we are ready every day to enter the joy of our master. Until then let us joyfully use the gifts God has given us to His glory and the benefit of our neighbors, however impressive or however simple they may be, according to our particular vocation or station in life. It is our witness and works of mercy in our life together, the fellowship of the faithful that our Master and Lord and gracious God desires from you and for you. May you live in the joyful hope of hearing that final benediction on that day of the Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master.”