Wednesday 14th October 2020 1 Thessalonians – Wait for the Lord
1 Thessalonians 5: 1 – 3
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!
“You know very well,” says Paul, “that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” This theological statement is rooted in his congregation’s everyday reality. Although the Roman Empire was technologically very sophisticated, it had never mastered the forces of nature. Storms, plagues, earthquakes and volcanoes could turn life upside down at any moment, with no warning – just as criminals could. The Roman Empire’s claim of offering “peace and security” was – ordinary people knew – pretty hollow. This was a natural metaphor for the disruption of the world that would signal the arrival of the true peace and security of God’s Empire.
We post-War baby boomers have lived through a most unusual period in human history when it appeared that the western European empire in which we lived could indeed offer peace and security. We need not fear war; nature had largely been tamed (at least in our part of the world); and even crime rates were down. Passages such as these therefore puzzle us, as they fail to connect with our lives. The God they describe seems rather vindictive – why would He want to disrupt our peaceful existence in this way?
It may be that 2020 will come to be seen as the year when all that changed. A global pandemic – preceded for us in south Wales by destructive floods – have shown us a nature far from tamed. The floods came like a thief in the night; the arrival of COVID-19 was sudden. Perhaps we can now reconnect with Paul’s apocalyptic theology. It turns out that we are after all dependent on nature. The Empire in which we trusted has failed to protect us as promised – indeed, some of its actions have made things worse. There is no escape from our need for God.
Creative, powerful, world-overturning God,
we have for too long relied on the peace and security
offered by political systems and possessions.
Forgive us for trying to escape from your presence,
for dismissing the Biblical passages which talk of your judgement,
for praying for our comfortable life to carry on as ‘normal’,
for resisting the coming of your Day.
Wake us up to the coming of your Kingdom
and prepare us to meet you.