Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day 70: It's not the End of the World .... Yet

Paul writes a second, even shorter letter to the church in Thessalonica.  Again, he encourages them, prays for them, admonishes them.  There a some great phrases in this short letter.  I love how he calls the Thessalonians "the first fruits", and how he tells them that God has chosen them "from the beginning."  Paul's perspective:  God chooses us from the beginning of time, but I don't think it's a simple determinism, the way we look at it.  But it's a way of looking at the world and our lives as a story that God is writing.

The main reason Paul is writing back to the Thessalonians is this, though:  it's because the idea of "the end of the world" has infected the community with some unfortunate practices.  Some have even been telling them that the Day has already come, and some people think this is an excuse for lax moral behavior.

So Paul tells them that no, the Day has not come yet, and there are things they ought to watch for, things that must happen before the Lord returns.    He also lets them know that even though they believe the Lord is near, they need to keep working and keep living together.  (Paul's comments about people who eat need to work as well imply that the church in Thessalonica lives together communally, working and living together, and sharing what they produce.)  And while I in no way mean to excuse laziness in anyone, I think Paul's comments regarding eating and working are taken out of context when we use them to refer only (in our day) to people who are out of work and receiving government assistance.  Some interpreters believe those who ate without working may have been "idle rich", who were not contributing to the whole community.  For my money, I'm more interested in that second, more neglected phrase,  "they aren't working, but they are meddling in other people's business."  Really makes me wonder what they are meddling about......

Do you notice that at the end of letters, Paul often says that he is now writing in his own hand?  Most of the letter is dictated, but at the end he provides authenticity by signing his own name.

Tomorrow, we will head over to 1 Timothy.....

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