1st Sunday of Advent – 2015 LSB #’s 352, 341, 336 v.1-2
Text – 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, & how you turned to God from idols to serve the living & true God, & to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
OUR TWO-MINUTE DRILL
A close NFL football contest is exciting to watch, especially near the end of the game, especially right around the two-minute warning. The two-minute warning goes back to the NFL’s earliest days when fans & coaches could not look at the stadium clock to see how much time remained. The official game clock resided on the referee’s wristwatch.
So the NFL instituted a two-minute warning; the referee would stop the clock & let both teams know exactly how much time remained.
In the 1960s, the stadium’s clock became the official game clock, but the league didn’t want to do away with the two-minute warning. It had become a strategic part of the game & helped build excitement, even as it offered networks an opportunity to sell more commercials.
As a result, every NFL team today has what they call a two-minute drill. It’s a bold, accelerated series of plays that are designed for those urgent moments right after the two-minute warning. 1 Thessalonians is a book that has a lot in common with the two-minute warning. In it Paul repeatedly states that world history is almost over.
The time is short. The game is on the line. It is time to implement the two-minute drill. So what does that look like for people who follow Jesus? Paul lays it out in 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10. He begins through encouraging us to REST IN GRACE.
“Paul, Silvanus & Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father & the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace & peace to you. . . We continually remember before our God & Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, & your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.” (1 Thessalonians 1:1, 3–4)
Yes, history is coming to an end. Christ will judge both the living & the dead. Every human being will appear before God’s judgment throne. But that does not mean that you need to panic. It is not time to freak out. We don’t have to have our 19th nervous breakdown. Paul is telling us to rest in grace. What does that look like to one of God’s children?
We are “in God the Father & the Lord Jesus Christ.” One of St. Paul’s most frequent expressions is the phrase “in Christ,” & life in Christ means that you have grace & peace. God has chosen you. Believe that & rest in it. But there’s more.
Life in Christ brings with it faith, love & hope. That’s a triad St. Paul reiterates in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 & then famously in 1 Corinthians 13:13. Faith draws us closer to God. Love draws us closer toward one another. Hope draws us toward Christ’s 2nd coming. Rest in peace.
As St. Paul lays it out for us, the 2nd part is to WITNESS TO OTHERS.
“You became imitators of us & of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia & Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia & Achaia; your faith in God has become known everywhere.” 
The time is short so we can’t waste it on unimportant stuff. To make the most of every opportunity during their two-minute drill teams often employ a no-huddle offense. That’s what the Thessalonians are doing. They’re making the most of every opportunity. That means one thing – witness to others. What does their witness consist of?
In 1 Thessalonians 1:5 Paul calls it “the gospel.” This gospel, preached in Thessalonica,
according to Acts 17:6, turned the world upside down! Why? According to Acts 17:7 there is another King – Jesus! According to 1 Thessalonians 1:6 this gospel didn’t just change the people’s talk. It changes their walk. The word “imitators” in Greek is mimetai, from which we get the English word “mimic.” They mimicked Paul & the Lord.
Last month I saw a man in the grocery store & noticed that he was wearing a baseball hat with the name “Jesus” on the front. I asked if he was a believer & I’ll never forget his answer. “All day long.”
You see, it isn’t programs, or stained glass or a parking lot that gives a congregation a credible testimony. It is our willingness to allow the gospel to change us into people who mimic, indeed imitate, our Lord “all day long.”
1 Thessalonians 1:8 says, “The Lord’s message rang out from you.” The Greek word for “rang out” is execheta, from which we get the English word “echo.” An echo repeats what is originally spoken. Our witness echoes the Words of God. We don’t need to create our own witness. God simply wants us to echo what He has already said.
A bee’s stinger is only 1/16th of an inch long. The rest of what you feel is enthusiasm! This is what we need for our two-minute drill! We need enthusiasm to invite others to embrace our loving Lord, & to be changed by Him!
As St. Paul continues to diagram it for us, the 3rd part is to TURN FROM IDOLS. “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living & true God.” 
Thessalonica was only 50 miles from Mount Olympus – the supposed residence of the Greek gods. If you lived, then, in Thessalonica & were going to plant crops you would pray to the god of the harvest, the god of soil, & the god who brought rain or sun-shine. If you were going on a business trip you’d pray to the god who provided safe travel & to the god who offered favor in business dealings. But when the Holy Spirit opened the Thessalonian’s hearts to the gospel, they realized that all their idols could not offer a real solution to their greatest problem. They discovered that their greatest problem wasn’t their harvest & it wasn’t their business dealings.
Their greatest problem was that they had offended a holy & just God. Yet Paul tells them that Jesus poured out His blood to forgive them; rose on the 3rd day to embrace them; & is coming again to restore them. Those words of Paul also apply to you.
To illustrate our need for Jesus, this story has been told: A man from another country visited the United States & when he returned home someone asked him if Americans worshipped any idols. He said, “They have three. In the winter they worship a fat man in a red suit. In the spring they reverence a rabbit. And in the fall they sacrifice a turkey!”
Unfortunately, we have way more than three idols in our culture. It may be a lover. It might be a Lexus, our labor, or our leisure time. Two-minute drills do not have time for competing opinions. We certainly should not have time for competing gods. St. Paul admonishes us to turn away from our false idols, & allow Christ to change how we live.
Part 4 of the Apostle Paul’s layout is this – WAIT FOR CHRIST. “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.”  This is where the analogy between 1 Thessalonians & the NFL two-minute drill comes to an end. In a close game football teams don’t know if they’re going to win or not.
That’s not us. We do know the outcome. There’s no doubt about it! Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come.
It’s like this. There was a duck hunter in the wide-open land of Southwest Georgia. Far away on the horizon he noticed a cloud of smoke & realized the terrible truth; a brush fire was coming & he would not be able to outrun it. So he lit a fire to burn the brush where he was. When it had cleared a good-sized piece of land, he stood in that circle of blackened earth, waiting for the fire to come. The fire came near but it swept over & around him.
When Jesus returns the judgment of God will be like that fire – powerful & destructive. If you & I stand in the burned over place we will be saved. So where, you ask, is the burned over place? You will recognize it as the foot of the cross. The wrath of God was poured out there. All our sins have been cleared away in that spot, & so there we stand.
When a person realizes that time is short, their plans change. Just ask any NFL coach. Better yet, just ask the Apostle Paul! Amen.
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates! Behold, the King of glory waits. The King of kings is drawing near; the Savior of the world is here. Life & salvation He doth bring; therefore rejoice & gladly sing. To God the Father raise your joyful songs of praise. Redeemer, come & open wide my heart to Thee: here, Lord, abide! O enter with Thy grace divine; Thy face of mercy on me shine. Thy Holy Spirit guide us on until our glorious goal is won. Eternal praise & fame we offer to Thy name. Amen.
 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13–18; 5:1–10
 1 Thessalonians 1:6–8
 1 Thessalonians 1:9
 1 Thessalonians 1:10
Pastor Dean R. Poellet