Tag Archives: end of the world

Proper Waiting

Waiting comes in different forms. We wait for good news, or for bad news, hoping it won’t come but half expecting it will. All waiting can do strange things to the way we live:

  • ordinary things sometimes lose importance
  • or some things get more important
  • we may do “displacement activity”, busy with irrelevant things
  • we may do nothing – and just “freeze”

When Paul writes 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, he reminds the Christians in Thessalonica that he had told them of Jesus return as King. It was, and is, an important part of faith. It should be reflected in a proper way of life, not fully absorbed in what is now, and the way people do things now. We sometimes talk about a pilgrimage, us on a journey, with the idea of “passing through”. But we easily forget that really we’re waiting for someone else, and we can’t hurry the journey along.

Of course, someone always gets the wrong idea. Some Thessalonians heard Paul, and gave up work. What was the point if Jesus was coming back? So not only did they sponge on other people for food and necessities, in their idleness they started gossiping, giving the whole community a bad reputation. Paul is not having that. He had worked – not that he might not have claimed support, but he worked to give them an example.

This is not suggesting that the unemployed should starve! It is a reminder that Christians should be usefully occupied. All Christians. If you have to work for a living, good. Do it well, and make the most of those contacts you make to witness to your faith in Jesus. Not easy? Try to find help, and learn ways to do it properly – without bullying. Students, don’t waste that course! You have a responsibility there. If you don’t have to work for a living, or can’t get a job at the moment, good. Give thanks for your freedom, but don’t imagine you needn’t account for your use of time and energy! There is a lot to be done, in family & community.

Everybody, avoid gossip, and idle chatter which leads to general (and proper) criticism. There is a story (was it of John Wesley?), who was asked what he would do if he knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow. He took out his diary, checked his engagements, and said yes, that was what he’d do. We are all meant to live, to be ready for Jesus to come, but also to carry on as long as necessary. It’s all part of our understanding of God’s Kingdom:

  • on the one hand Jesus will come back, so don’t get too used to the way things are; don’t imagine that what everybody else does must be right
  • but don’t get so focussed on the future that you don’t do a good job of work (paid or voluntary!), or forget to help people now

Christian faith is never to be an excuse for not doing what needs to be done on earth now. But we always live knowing that what is on earth now is not as important as what will be at the end.

Panic or Potter?

Most of us are less kind when we are being threatened, and less generous if we’ve had a shock or been unsettled. No wonder, then, that Paul wants to settle and reassure his friends in Thessalonica who have been shocked and disturbed by conflicting teaching about the end of the world.

As we read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 and 13-17, we see Paul’s balance. He has told these Christians to expect Jesus return, with power and judgement, bringing vindication for the faithful. It is not surprising that they are disturbed by reports that Jesus has already returned – while they are still struggling with persecution and difficulty.

On the one hand, Paul reassures them that Jesus has not yet returned. That is still (for them, and for us) in the future, and they should take heart and be encouraged. It is a difficult time, but that is to be expected.

On the other, Paul urges this church to stand firm. They are to get on with Christian life, showing and sharing the glory of the risen Lord as they go about their work. God’s grace will give them all they need, and they are secure in what he has promised.

It is interesting to ask whether your Church over or under emphasises teaching about the end of the world. There is much which will be clear only when it happens, but the promise of the full realisation of God’s just and gentle rule is something to look forward to. It encourages us as we get on with the sometimes difficult reality of Christian living.

[I found Mariam Kamell’s comments on the Working Preacher website very helpful, and think you might too.]

Ready? (Advent 1a)

Some years ago I had a car accident. I was driving home in busy traffic when, without warning, there was a thump – a boy had run out and been hit by my car. I stopped, jumped out, was relieved to see him getting up, but made him wait to be checked by ambulance paramedics. Thankfully, he was OK – shocked (a nasty colour 5 minutes later, and very shaky), bruised. Police came, breathylised me and took a statement, then talked to the boy, and his friends. When they had done all that, they said it would probably be OK – the boys had been chasing one another, and it was an accident. Relief!

I had to go and take my licence and insurance to be examined at a police station. I found my licence, looked for the insurance. It wasn’t in the file, so I rang up the company. It was my wife’s car, and the insurance rolled over year by year automatically – but her bank card had been renewed, and the old one had not paid. No insurance! That’s a criminal offence. I went and reported, feeling terrible. I anticipated being called to court – and reported in the press “Vicar sentenced . .”

It took me an uncomfortable week to realise that while I was driving my wife’s uninsured car, my car was insured. And that insurance covered me to drive another car! Straight back to the police station. Relief! Life began again.

With Advent Sunday, we begin a new Church year, – you’ll see the gospel readings coming mainly from Matthew (it was Luke until last Sunday). We focus on the coming of Jesus – but today, the Second Coming. Not the baby of Bethlehem, but the return in power of the Son of God at the end of the world.  Our readings are full of it – Matthew 24. 36-44, Romans 13. 11-14

We are told it will be unexpected, -that many will be caught unprepared. There is a strong implication that it will then be too late to put things right. Judgement will follow, and as Christians we are warned to be ready  – ready to give an account of ourselves, our lives, our stewardship of all that God has given us, materially and spiritually.

Judgement does not mean God is hostile and wanting to punish. Think if you like of being seen as you really are. Think of how I felt, facing prosecution for driving without insurance! Yes, that was unintended, and accidental – but if the accident had been more serious, my insurance might have been needed to provide continuing treatment and care for a casualty. I would have been mortified to be exposed as failing to provide what the law required. I was so relieved to be – accidentally – not guilty.

Judgement is real. Everything we are, everything we do, everything we want, will be known – with all the reasons, and none of the excuses!

Do check your car insurance!
Do check your life is ready for examination in detail, without notice. The Son of God will return – it could be thousands of years after we die, or Tuesday afternoon. We don’t know, we are just told to be ready.