Today's Lectionary Text
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When 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! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But 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. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
Many of us just don’t like surprises. We want to play it safe in all things and not take any chances. Some Christians who don’t like surprises must have real issues with Paul’s description of Jesus returning “like a thief in the night.” They must spend a good part of their time trying to figure it all out – or simply burying their heads in the sand.
From the very earliest years of the faith, Christians have anticipated that Jesus will return to our world from heaven as the glorified and all-powerful Son of God. It’s been nearly 2000 years since the Resurrection, though, and that primitive Christian belief is starting to lose its hold on the spiritual imagination of many people. (I don’t use the word “primitive” as a derogatory term here – merely as a statement of the very early origins of this belief.) Yet for others the “Second Coming of Jesus” is an event to occur any day now.
In fact, the belief that Jesus will return is the flip side of the Easter affirmation that Christ has risen. We use the whole of that affirmation in the midst of the Great Thanksgiving each time we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It’s there – in the mystery of faith. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. This is basic to our belief in Jesus as the Christ. Jesus told us he will return. He also told us that only the Father knows the day or the hour.
We live in times that make many Christians watch for signs of the impending end times. We’ve just spent the better part of a year with altered expectations of life due to COVID-19. We have been slammed with fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and wind-storms. We have endured a bitter season of political hostility that has not yet ended. All these events, folding in on each other, are easy to construe as the signs and portents of the end times that apocalyptic biblical literature warns about. But over all of that hang the words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel as he tells his disciples that only the Father knows the day or the hour (Matt. 25:14) – and Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians that when God decides it’s time to reboot creation it will come without warning.
It seems to me that all Christians would better serve ourselves and those who look to us for guidance by bolstering the faith, love, and hope of those whose lives we touch. That’s what Paul told the Thessalonians to do – and it’s still good advice. Jesus will return in God’s good time – not in ours – and the best thing we can do is to encourage one another and build up each brother and sister so we aren’t worrying about surprises.
--Rev. Robbie Fall, retired elder
Prayer for Reflection
Ease our fears, O God, and help us to focus on doing the work Jesus set before us – to love you with all our being, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves -instead of worrying about the future. Amen.
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