Being Sober In Christ, Not Drunk On Emotions And Comfort!

Text: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

In the name of Jesus. Amen.  

In the late 1800s, a French Philosopher published a fascinating book on crowd psychology.  In this book, he stated that in every group of people, there is always a mastermind.  In other words, there is always a wizard behind the screen pulling levers; there is always a puppet-master pulling the strings of the crowd.  Very briefly, this French Philosopher stated that the mastermind typically has a rather complex agenda, but he then has to simplify his agenda into bit-sized ideas that are meant to pull at the heartstrings of the masses. And so, the mastermind creates simplified ideas that elicit strong feelings amongst the group that then sweep the group into an emotional frenzy.  And then, once manipulated into an emotional frenzy, the mastermind can manipulate the group in whichever way that he wants. 

Now, even though this French Philosopher was talking about crowd psychology in the 19th century, it still exists today.  For example, look at the influence of cable television news channels and social media. With the snap of a finger, millions of people in America can become instantly offended at the same time with a complex story reduced to clever talking points and an edited movie clip. 

And with just a couple of phrases and a 30-second video, well… it is enough to conjure up intense emotions in large groups of people.  That is right; within 5-10 minutes, modern-day news can get millions of us Americans drunk on emotions with little to no context or thinking.  And once drunk on emotions that are tied to the spirit of the age, well… we Americans are not sober in the moment but overtaken by all sorts of feelings that simply sweep us along like we are puppets in a play or pawns in a game.  The sad thing is that we are not even aware of this half the time.  

Now, perhaps we like to think that the church is different than the world.  However, in the American Church, we often find people drunk on emotions and drunk on the comfort peddled by their mystical, spiritually abusive pastors.  In other words, in the Christian Church, pastors and spiritual leaders can hand out comfort, love, and religious sentiments like they are free candy on Halloween evening.  In other words, they give out superficial assurance to make people feel good, which results in many Christians becoming drunk on comfort.  And once drunk on comfort that is tied to wretched theology, well… these Christians are not sober in the moment but are overtaken by all sorts of feelings that simply sweep them along like they are asleep at the wheel, heading for a ditch. 

To the point; you and I must be careful in the culture and even in the church from becoming drunk with manipulated emotions and intoxicated sappy comfort.  We must guard ourselves from failing to be sober-minded – sober in the moment.  Let me say this again.  It makes a lot of sense how we can be taken advantage of in the culture; however, we must guard ourselves against indulging in so-called Christian comfort to the point where we congratulate each other, saying, 

“We’ve got it made!  Now we can take it easy. All is good.  Peace, peace, love, and love abound!”  

But isn’t this Christian faith about comfort in the Gospel?  Yes, it is. 

However, in our reading from the epistle of 1 Thessalonians, we need to understand that some of the Christians in Thessalonica were acting like fools.  To be perfectly clear, let me capture what some of these Christians were doing: they were skipping work and skipping school, going out in their lawns with lazy boy recliners to watch reruns of Dr. Phil while waiting for Jesus to come back again in the sky.  

Dear friends, listen up! This Christian faith is neither about being drunk on emotions from political zealots nor intoxicated by the comfort of sweet-talking-gushy-pastors.  But instead, this Christian faith is about being sober in Christ.  Yes, it is about being sober-minded in Christ.  

In our reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we hear about being sober-minded as well.  Jesus calls the idea of being sober-minded - ‘wise.’  As we heard in our Gospel reading, there were ten virgins – 10 bridesmaids – 5 were wise, and five were foolish.  That is to say; the five foolish bridesmaids did not have oil – they were unprepared, blockheaded, blind, obtuse, neglectful, and figuratively drunk.  Whereas the wise bridesmaids had oil – they were prepared, thoughtful, watchful, alert, attentive, and sober-minded.  They were not figuratively drunk.  

And so, I guess we could summarize both the Epistle and Gospel reading like this: St. Paul’s sober up! Wake up!  Know your sin, but know even more the One who forgives your sin! Know that you are mortal, but know even more the immortal One who will grant you eternal life. And finally, know this: Jesus is coming back again.  It may be today, it may be tomorrow, or it may be the next day, which is why He calls you to be sober-minded, alert, and awake.  

But what does this look like, practically speaking, to be sober-minded, prepared, and alert? 

The other day I had a visit with a St. Paul’s member about this very topic.  He said to me – and I loosely paraphrase him, 

“Pastor, when I wake up every morning, I say to myself, ‘Today is the day that I might meet Jesus.  Today may be the great last day in which Jesus takes me home, or I may meet him in holy death.  Regardless, today may be the day that I see Jesus.’”  

The parishioner went on to say, 

“So, since every day is a day in which I might see Jesus, I live it alive and awake, which means that I don’t need to get tied up in knots over all the petty stuff of life.”

I have a lot to learn from this parishioner.  We also have a lot to ponder this morning.  

Dear friends, if today is a day that we could possibly meet Jesus (which is entirely possible), does that not change everything?  Because you could meet Jesus today, every one of your encounters, every chore, every deed, every conversation, and every moment is sanctified.  This day is made holy by the fact that today could be the day that you and I meet Jesus.  That means that every day is a sober day – an awake day!  

But how do we get to the point of being sober-minded?  How do we remain alert?  Is there spiritual caffeine that we can consume?  Does it involve sheer willpower to keep our eyes open?  

Baptized Saints, it gives me great joy to tell you this. You do not belong to the darkness.  Indeed, you are not in the dark, so how can you be drunk on emotions and drunk on comfort?  You are sons of Light, not sons of apathetic comfort.  You are daughters of the Day, not daughters of manipulated emotions! You see, when you were baptized, you were snatched from darkness and placed in the Light.   You belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to you, which means that you do not sleepwalk through this life as many others do.  It is true that many people sleep and wander in the darkness, but not you! You belong to the Light because you belong to Jesus.  You are a creature of the day – baptized, forgiven, and recipients of truth.  And so, you walk in the daylight – sober and dressed up in faith, love, and hope that are already yours in Christ Jesus.  

Perhaps it could be stated this way.   Because of Jesus’ Word and Sacraments, you are like a house built on a foundation of rock.  As Christ’s blood-bought-church, why would you even consider standing upon shifting sand?  Only fools do that, and you, dear Saints, are no fools, for you have Jesus and Jesus has you.   

Jesus is coming back again, and you are not in the dark. You are in the Light. Remain in the Light, for this is where you belong – sober, alert, and awake. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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