1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (NRSV)
5Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3When they say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.
6So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.
11Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
Being a church in Los Angeles requires lots of cameras, chain link fences, gates, and locks to keep building and property secure. There can be so much anxiety about keeping things and people in or out. So it may be just a bit surprising when the Apostle Paul invites the Thessalonians to imagine God as a thief. How crushing might it be to imagine that God was out to steal from you or your congregation!
Many California Lutherans are ones who have come as transplants from other places, like the Midwest or East Coast. The temptation to rest on old forms of church and worship styles, instead of real at-hand relationships in a community is strong. No wonder Paul’s encouragement to Christians is not to fall asleep.
Friends, let our creative God lovingly steal anything that is hobbling your ability to see your neighbors today as children of God, and then let them lovingly encourage you and help build you back up.
Beloved Thief, we are so fearful and yet your work in our lives is always death and resurrection. Help us see new life every day. In Jesus’s name, Amen.