Thursday, March 26th

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.  For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.  For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

 

“Are we there yet?”

 

Vacation season is just around the corner.  Soon, parents will be hearing those words from the back seat ten minutes or so after pulling out of the driveway.  We want to know where we’re going, when we’ll get there, and we don’t have much patience on the way.

 

Here in the 4th chapter, Paul gets down to the other reason why he wrote to the church in Thessalonica.  In the first half of the chapter, he reminds them of the importance of living holy lives.  Lives free from fornication, lives devoted to spiritual growth, please God.  Such lives keep our neighbors safe and free us to live as God would have us.

 

Then come verses 13-18.  These verses are full of images that have inscribed themselves into popular Christian imagination, into songs of power and hope.  I’ve read these verses many times at the bedside of people near the end of their lives.  I’ve used them in funerals.  All of this has been appropriate since the purpose of these verses, as Paul himself says, is to encourage one another.

 

But these verses also point out that, even for Paul, theology was a work in progress.  Even Paul didn’t know the whole truth.  Even Paul was learning on the way.  Here, in the earliest of New Testament letters, Paul continues to expect that Jesus will be coming back to wrap things up very quickly.  Paul expects Jesus to come back in his own lifetime – “then we who are alive” – but that just wasn’t going to happen.

 

“Are we there yet?”

 

That early vacation plaintive wail from the back of the car quickly gets irritating to parents.  They would rather the kids enjoy the drive and see that the drive is just as much a part of the vacation as the destination.  But that’s hard for kids to do.  Miles of America rolling by doesn’t quite cut it when Wally World beckons at the end of the trip.  But the journey does matter.

 

These lives we are living matter.  The ways we treat people along the way does matter.  Maybe Paul was wrong in his timing on when Jesus would come back – but the intensity and passion he poured into life, living with the expectation and anticipation of the end, was fueled by his awareness that the journey itself participates in the destination.

 

We’re going somewhere good.  The journey is worth it.  Live well the journey.

 

Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, we wait for that day when we see you face to face.  Sometimes this time of waiting is full of anticipation, other times it is full of fear.  Draw near to those to whom death draws near.  Draw near to those who are wasting their lives away.  Encourage us with reminders that we belong to you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

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One Response to “Thursday, March 26th”

  1. Robert Bratt Says:

    I would expect that everyone would value the hope of eternal life. Yet I have an atheist friend, who has no such hope, and who responds that it’s OK with him that he will die and it’s over for him for eternity. I’m not sure how to respond to this.

    You should hope for eternal life?
    Well, if you don’t care, then Christianity is not for you?
    Something else?

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