Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lectionary 32 A - 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The Thessalonians were worried that those who died before Jesus returned would be left behind. Paul assures them that God has everything under control and whether one is awake or asleep at the time of Jesus’ coming their hope of salvation is secure. I don’t believe Paul is any more informed than I am about the details and even though he shares his version of the timeline his point is verse 18. “Encourage one another with these words.” The words he meant as encouragement are that those who have died will be included in the future final feast. We don’t worry about the same thing as the Thessalonians trusting that our loved ones are already with the Lord. We even imagine how they are spending their time. Grandpa's gone fishing. Unfortunately these encouraging words have been used to support a less than encouraging theology where a select few are caught up in the clouds (rapture) while the vast majority of people are left behind to endure horrors beyond imagination, although humans are pretty good at imaging and inflicting horrors on each other. I think the true horror is that rapture theology makes the God of grace look like every other god humans have created in their own image. So maybe the encouraging word for us – who no longer worry about where our loved ones are – is that a God who would suffer and die for humanity is not a God who thinks like we do.

1 comment:

  1. It's comforting that Paul knew only that Jesus died and rose again, yet knowing that alone could encourage all to have hope beyond hope for life beyond this life. But, what struck me mostly about your comments is the theology of rapture. I've always found theology to be sort of an odd notion in itself, that we should somehow be bound to believe specific things in specific ways because others before us believed those things in those ways...because somebody told us that's what we should believe. This really hit me recently when I was reading about Mark Driscoll's unfortunate crash and burn as leader of Mars Hill Church. I read something written by a Mars Hill Elder who while noting that while "Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner," they did not find cause for him "to be disqualified from pastoral ministry" because "Pastor Mark has never been charged with immorality or heresy." OK, I really get the immorality piece of it. As leaders Pastors are held to high moral standard. But heresy? Everything Pastor Mark Driscoll did was seen as OK by the Board of Elders for many years because he didn't ever call a specific theology into question? It just strikes me as really strange that this should be the standard. Many believe in rapture theology because believing anything else would be akin to immorality. But, thankfully, a God who would suffer and die for humanity is not a God who is limited by what we believe.