Beloved, you are all children of the light and children of the day: we are not of the night or of darkness. 1 Thessalonians 5:5
Master- the servant says- I was afraid! I went and hid this talent in the ground.
This gospel reading from this morning has got me wondering about what we bury in the ground, without hope of it bearing fruit. What we hide, because of our fear.
In our First Testament reading from Zephaniah God is depicted as a watchmen, searching out Jerusalem with lamps and in our reading from Thessalonians today we are called to be the Children of the Day, who do not dwell in the shadowy secrecy of night, but live in the light of Christ. The light of Christ brings clarity, reminding us that nothing is hidden before God but all is unearthed before the One who made us.
In the Matthean parable one of the servants received a talent from the master but buried it in fear. The servant did not take the risk of using the talent to bear fruit, but in fear of the master hid it in the ground.
When I was a child we had a dog named Kayak who was always digging up mysteries from the ground under our deck. She would pull up from the moist earth old bones, toys from some far gone time, like the 70’s, and sometimes even fragments of pottery. The earth often looks smooth and even, yet under it’s secrecy lie layers and layers of history, stories, treasures tied to feelings and long gone faces.
This has got me wondering, that what do we, like the servant, bury in the ground?
Sometimes following Jesus, the dayspring from on high, means uprooting things we have buried in anxiety.
A close family friend, Kaelyn, recently unearthed a painful truth that she had hidden from her family. A successful business woman, beautiful, happy children and husband, from the surface all seemed serene, yet she was struggling beyond words.
Kaelyn told us, with great courage and holy vulnerability, that she was addicted to perception pain medicine.
For a year she had hidden this part of her life from her most dear ones. Afraid of their judgement, scared of bringing to light the depth of her suffering, she worked hard to bury her addiction in the ground.
Until something gave, and Kaelyn couldn’t live torn between two world any more.
For her, it was addiction, but there are many things that we hide.
The shame from divorce, the anger at loosing your job, hidden abuse, a quiet disappointment, crushing debt, eating disorders, and other traumas or unhealthy habits that draw us from our communities and makes us bear our burdens alone.
This has got me wondering, why do we, like the servant, fearfully bury in the ground?
Buried in the ground: no one would understand;
Buried in the ground: you couldn’t love me if you knew;
Buried in the ground: smothered in secrecy;
Buried in the ground: I am a lost cause;
Buried in the ground, let it decompose.
Burying our secrets, hurts, anxieties and fears stifles and constricts the breath of life within us. In the book of Thessalonians and elsewhere in Paul’s writing he contrasts the deeds of day and night- he calls his community to live in the DAY! Not be bound by deeds done in darkness, behind closed doors, and hidden in a paralyzing fear that isolates individuals and binds them in lonely despair.
Healing becomes possible when we open ourselves up to our loved ones and our God.
Beloved, we are not of the night, or the hidden tombs of paralyzing addiction or the dark loneliness of the grave.
We are children of the day, belonging to the One who loves us beyond our comprehension- calls us from the shadows in holy vulnerability and truth.
For the truth is this.
Jesus Christ went into the grave and was raised: thus all things we have laid to waste and buried deep in secrecy, all things hidden in shadows, all things broken beyond recognition; what was lost, what was forgotten, all buried long ago in the ground, or maybe just been lying there three days, can indeed be raised, healed, transformed, revived. Jesus Christ can bring life to dead bones, healing to the broken, resurrection to the buried, and life to dry and desolate relationships.
Death has no dominion over us my friends. And though bringing our brokenness to the light of our loved ones and our God can be an intimidating process, we can find hope in a message from our parable this morning- that God is with us as we take risks. God is able to weave our pain into a new creation, bind up wounds and surprise us beyond our imaginations.
Unearthing the wounds we have buried and bringing from darkness to light the secrets we have shrouded is an act of holy vulnerability.
We are called to shoulder each others burdens, pray for each other, with each other, loving patiently.
Another message from our parable this morning is that where there is flourishing there is no fear. Paul calls us to put on the breastplate of faith and love. The opposite of faith is not doubt but fear- many of us are paralyzed by the fear of judgement, fear of being known or fully seen. Often we fear what others would think of us if they knew the dark things we have buried- but many also fear what God thinks. Many fear the judgement of God. Our dramatic and terrifying reading from the apocalyptic book of Zephaniah speaks of the wrath of God. The readings from this Sunday point us forward to next Sunday when we celebrate Christ the King- which in Sweden is the referred to as the Sunday of Doom. Fear can easily be provoked by such a powerful title, and our Bible is full of images of the Son of Man rolling in on clouds, coming on the day of wrath.
Yet beloved, we are not called to paralyzing fear that would cause us to bury our hearts in the sand.
In Zephaniah the yom’Adonai or Day of the Lord is characterized by a dramatic upheaval of the world. The Yom’ Adonai is the day that God reigns, no more do earthly powers oppress, from wicked tyrants or corporations to the chaos of human sin. It is a day of great reversal of the structures of violence and oppression, an unearthing of the way things are. A reordering of lives enslaved to sin. A reversal of systems dominated by greed and exploitation. It is a day of wrath.
But what, my friends is the wrath of God? It is by no means anger as we fallen humans experience it. The late Biblical scholar and Anglican John Stott defined Biblical wrath as God’s absolute rejection of evil.
Wrath is God’s vehement repulsion of injustice.
And we do not need to only look to Zephaniah to see the wrath of God- but the absolute rejection of evil is seen in the Gospel when Jesus flips over the money changers tables in the temple, driving out those who would seek to make the House of the Lord a den of robbers.
But as we hear of the Yom Adonai- the day of the Lord shines wisdom and power on the present. As the Day of Wrath represents a radical reversal of all the evil and injustice of the world- a great reordering, we are called to look at our lives and restructure them that we might be children of the day. As Paul wrote in our reading from Thessalonians, we are not destined for wrath but life in Christ!
My friend Kaelyn’s life was bound by her addiction to pain medicine- she was trapped in a cycle of abuse and secrecy. She had to unearth this issue and have a radical reversal in her life as she sought healing.
God is able to re-order what is broken.
Let us not dread God but have faith that our Lord is the light of the world, and though this light sees all- it is a healing radiance, not a scolding burn, but an opening, energizing and revitalizing love that is the power of the Risen Saviour.
So let us seek to restructure what is bound by destruction!
As we bring our burdens to the King of the Day, we are called to shine light not only on what oppresses us, but what lies and destruction oppresses others.
For we encounter the God whose Resurrection power is alit in the universe, awakening us from sin to life and confronting the powers of darkness. Paul in the book of Ephesians says children of the light should “expose the deeds of darkness.” Through Christ’s Resurrection we are empowered to participate in His great shining love in the world. To accept responsibility to unmask and expose the powers and principalities of night and the oppression that seek to be hidden, to cast a light on the lies of idle apathy which says that all in our global community and nation is peaceful and secure.
Let us be empowered by the energizing light of renewal! Jesus is the light that liberates the chains of stifling sin and shame and makes a new creation. Aligning ourselves with the power of Jesus‘ resurrection, let us be children of the day!
Therefore, dio, Paul writes, encourage one another, and build each other up, as indeed you are doing. Amen.