Seize the Day
Sermon - November 16th, 2014
Grace and Peace…
A week and a half ago, my brother and I took a little trip to Cincinnati. We had tickets to watch our favorite football team the Bengals take on the in-state rival Cleveland Browns.
Those of you who follow football, already know it was a rough game. And the trip didn’t get off to a good start either. We checked into our (finger quotes) non-smoking hotel room, and when we opened the door it smelled like we stepped into an ash tray. In hindsight, we probably should have taken it as a bad omen.
Of course, it didn’t get any better after that. We arrived at the stadium, got our seats, only to find out that somehow we were surrounded by a pack of obnoxious Browns fans. Great.
The game was horrible. The final score was 24-3 and the Bengal’s quarterback delivered the worst performance ever. And I’m not exaggerating. Bears fans, if you think Cutler was bad on Sunday, our quarterback literally had the worst statistical game in team history. (And did I mention it was cold and windy?). GREAT!
But at least I can say I saw history being made!
We got back to our throat-burning hotel room feeling dejected and a little beaten. But we decided - right then and there - to make the most of our trip and find something (anything!) interesting to do the next day. That way, when people asked us why we went to Cincinnati we wouldn’t have to talk about the real reason.
We decided to seize the day.
We googled Cincinnati attractions, and found something called the American Sign Museum....whose website proudly boasted to be the only sign museum in the whole country! It couldn’t be any worse than the game was, so we went and goofed around and took funny pictures. And I have to say, the American Sign Museum was by far the highlight of our trip.
But we weren’t done seizing the day. When our GPS led us to a Starbucks that no longer existed, we wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. We drove 5 miles out of our way to find a decent coffee shop where we commiserated with a barista named Kelly who was also a Bengals fan.
When we saw a sign for Bob Evans - one of our mother’s favorite restaraunts - we stopped for lunch, even though it we weren’t hungry, to take a selfie by the sign and send it to her!
And I have to say, that despite the horrible, no good, awful game, we ended up having a lot of fun. It was a resurrection kind of turnaround for us. We had an unbelievably depressing start to the trip, but we finished it with a flourish! We seized the day!
Well, I got a similar kind of feeling when I was going through our readings for this week, because they all use this kind of ominous, depressing “God-is-coming” language, but when you stick with them, they end up in this hopeful, seize-the-day kind of place.
The first two readings, are about God’s judgment on the earth.
The prophet Zephaniah is talking about the “The Day of the Lord” when God will come to bring doom and gloom!
And in case you think, oh, that’s just an angry God, Old Testament thing, Paul writes to the Thessalonian church - a church grieving the death of some of its members. He writes, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” And “then sudden destruction will come upon them...and there will be no escape!”
Wow, that’s dark! God would seem super scary if you stopped reading there. And if that were the end of the story it would have been just as depressing as my Bengals game. But Paul and Zephaniah aren’t writing warning stories, they are writing a call to action.
Paul tells the church in Thessalonia to “stay alert.” In the margins of my Bible I wrote “carpe diem,” seize the day. Don’t fall asleep. Be ready.
Here you have this church in Thessalonia that is grieving the death of some members, and Paul is telling them, don’t worry! God has come for those people, and God is coming for you, and that is a hopeful sign.
Paul concludes that the way to be ready - the way to seize the day - is to encourage each other, and build each other up. Stop the bickering. Stop the fighting. God is coming, he says, and therefore we should respond with faith, love and hope. We should look out for our the people around us.
His conclusion is to seize the day. Don’t sit around being idle. Go out and do something positive with your time, because it might be short...because it might be short.
Isn’t that what the gospel story is about today? Jesus is telling the parable of the talents. A master gives one servant 5 talents - more money than a normal laborer would make in a lifetime! Another receives two talents - 30 years worth of income! And the last received one talent - 15 years of wages!
The first invests the 5 talents and makes 5 more talents! The second invests his two talents and makes 2 more. But the third takes his talent and buries it in the ground, because he’s afraid of what the master will do if he loses it.
But when the master comes home, he tells the first two - well done, good and faithful servants! But to the last one who did nothing with the talent, he threw out into the darkness.
I want to be clear - Paul reminds us that we have nothing to fear. We are children of the light - already saved through baptism and faith. Our work isn’t urgent because we need to save our own skin. Our work is urgent because our time is short and God’s world is in need.
Make the most of what you’ve been given. Don’t bury your gifts in the backyard. Don’t sit on your hands. Don’t be idle.
And there are so many ways that you can do that! It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, how able or disabled, how busy or tired - you have all kinds of opportunities to seize the day - all around you, all the time.
Last thing: I want you all to take a look at the Bethany Weekly that you should have received when you came in today. Go ahead and pull that out. And I want you all to open it up to the middle pages.
There’s a ton going on at this place, and the stuff on the list isn’t even the half of it. But what I want you to do now is to take out a pen or a pencil and circle something that looks interesting to you - something that you’d want to be a part of.
Look at the Thanksgiving dinner boxes - you can provide somebody a Thanksgiving meal through our community food pantry.
The Family Christmas Project is coming up - they need shoppers and donations and wrappers and deliverers.
Attend a fellowship event, and lift up each other through love and friendship and laughter - that’s just as big a part of what we do as anything.
Check out the community harvest food drive - Give some struggling folks in our community a boost by donating food.
Our gospel tells us not to put this stuff off until tomorrow. Don’t put it off. God is coming - life actually is short! So let’s spend our time lifting up our neighbors. Let’s spend our time giving back. Let’s spend our time being joyous and loving.
Let’s seize the day.
Thanks be to God. Amen.