Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 98; 146, Leviticus 16:20-34, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 6:7-15
Paul told the Thessalonians the Day of the Lord would arrive like a thief in the night or the pains of labor. Those living in darkness – that is, without the light of Christ – would be caught unawares in a false sense of security and suffer the consequences. Those living in the light would be prepared and rejoice. But how exactly is one to prepare? First century Christians expected Jesus to return any moment, and abandoned many earthly pursuits. As a couple thousand years passed, it became more apparent Christ’s return would be less … immediate.
Every century – maybe every decade – had its share of “prophets” declaring the end was nigh. So far they are batting triple zero. Even today some Christians believe Jesus is returning so soon it may be foolish to buy groceries a week in advance. Most of us are a little more skeptical. Should we be?
Living in anticipation of the Day of the Lord is a balancing act. On the one hand, experience says we probably have a way to go, and should steward our resources wisely. On the other hand, any one of us could meet Jesus tomorrow, if only individually. Does anyone want to have to explain why that never-touched rainy day fund was a better use of our money than charity would have been?
Perhaps that tension is useful. When we lose that sense of immediacy, it’s easy to slip into a comfortable routine which resembles resignation more than anticipation. If we’re so zealous that we focus only on “the end times,” we lose sight of doing the things Christ asked us to do – feed the hungry, visit the sick, etc. A while back there was a popular humorous but pointed bumper sticker: “Jesus is coming. Try to look busy.” Are we merely busy, or are we about the business of discipleship? If Jesus shows up today, would you be happy with where he finds you? If we live today as through Christ could show up tomorrow, and he doesn’t … let’s try not to be too disappointed we’ve made the world a little better.
Comfort: Whether Jesus returns tomorrow or in a thousand years, the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Challenge: Set aside some time to contemplate or discuss the balance between faith and works in world waiting for Christ’s return.
Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the promise of the future, and the opportunity of the present. Amen.
Discussion: Where can you strike a better balance between what is practical and what is faithful?
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