If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Friday, July 2, 2010

Finding Hope: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

* This lesson can also be found at: http://www.faithandliferesources.org/curriculum/abs/abs100704.html

Jesus is coming soon! That was the mindset of many of the members of the fundamentalist congregation in which I grew up. Our youth and college age group even put on an elaborate musical called “It’s Getting Late!” about the End Times and Jesus’ Second Coming. I painted a huge mural of Christ returning in the clouds that was dropped down at a “rapture” point in the musical. As a young adult I got caught up in the apocalyptic fervor. At that time I had all the End Times charts and tried to figure out just when the Lord was coming. I got all tied up in worrying about the future.

Like some present day Christians the early Thessalonian believers thought Jesus was coming soon. But this belief soon began to cause questions among the early Thessalonian Christians who lived within decades of Jesus death and resurrection. It was getting late for them. Jesus had not returned. When would he return? Some Christians had died and others would soon enough. Would they miss Christ’s return? They got all tied up worrying about the future.

Since there were so many conflicting ideas about when Christ would return, I soon gave up on trying to figure it out and worrying about the future. The apostle Paul assured the Thessalonian believers that they need not worry about those who had died and did not discuss when Christ would return. After almost waiting 2,000 years the question of “when” seems irrelevant to many today. Paul did go on to describe the parousia, the coming of Christ.

But, knowing the details about Christ’s return is not what is most important in the text for this lesson. It is rather how to live in watchful readiness and hope in the “mean time.” As a soldier in basic training the Army I had to stay awake into the wee hours of the night and keep watch over those who were sleeping, though as a conscientious objector I carried no weapon for any kind of defense! Christians, like unarmed soldiers, bear the weapons of faith, hope, and love in the “mean time” in which we live watchfully waiting for the Christ who comes to us, not just a second time, not just in mean times, but at any time. So, keep watch!

• Does the delay of Christ’s return raise any questions for you?
• Are you fretful or hopeful about the future?
• How are you “keeping watch”?

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