What I’m Thinking: Useful Preparation

Some believe that Jesus will return soon. Others believe he will not return for some time. Others – including the Apostle Paul – make no claim to know. It remains useful to prepare for the Messiah, however.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the fifth chapter of First Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). The passage surprised me – it probably shouldn’t – but I tend to think of the theme of the unexpected return, or the unpredictable time of the full emergence of the reign of God into the world, as a theme that you find in the Gospels.

Well, you do find it in the Gospels. Last week’s lectionary selection from Matthew (Matthew 25:1-13) was the story of the bridesmaids, the five who had prepared and brought extra oil in case of the bridegroom’s delay and the five who had brought just enough – which, with the bridegroom’s delay, turned out to be not enough. Just before that in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 24:43-44), Jesus told the story about the homeowner whose residence was burgled in the night. If he had known that the thief was coming he would have been home to prevent it.

And here in First Thessalonians Paul took up that same image – the thief in the night. The day of the LORD will come like a thief in the night. It’s one of those marvelous reversal images, isn’t it?

We live twenty centuries after the first century. For us, the delay in the full emergence of the realm of God is an old, old story. To the Apostle Paul, writing earliest of those that have been preserved in the New Testament; for Matthew, writing some years later; for those other letter writers and Gospel writers and sermon writers and reflectors whose work also we have in the New Testament, this was a central question. Jesus had come, but then Jesus had gone. When will he be back?

When would we see God’s full grace and glory, God’s justice and God’s forgiveness revealed in the world?

And the answer that they came up with was: Not yet, but be prepared.

In the twenty-first century, some are looking for an imminent return of Jesus. Others are not. We do, I observe, have a tendency to look for Messiahs in a lot of other places. Folks look for Messiahs in political candidates, whether that be President or Vice President or a local member of the county council. Folks look for Messiahs in business leaders or in union leaders, sort of depending on their place in life. For heaven’s sake, we look for Messiahs in actors and actresses, in athletes, and even (occasionally) in pastors, rabbis, priests.

I think it’s good to be looking for the return of the Messiah in the sense that it is good to be prepared. The preparation is worth doing no matter whether the Messiah returns today, tomorrow, or many years from now, because the preparation is love and compassion and care. The preparation is prayer and worship. The preparation is living in faithfulness to God and at perfect peace with our neighbor.

The preparation is worth doing no matter when the Messiah comes.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , , | Posted on November 9, 2020

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