Monday, February 10, 2014


1Thessalonians 4:9  Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; 10  and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, 11  to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, 12  so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one. 13  But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15  For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16  For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18  Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Paul, Silas and Timothy had begun the church in Thessalonica, the capital city of Roman Macedonia. This community of both Jews and Gentiles grew rapidly under Paul’s teaching in the synagogue (Acts 17:2). However, they had to abruptly break off their stay because of intense opposition from the Jews in the city (Acts 17:6-9). It seems that this letter - the earliest of Paul’s letters - was written from Corinth to encourage the fledgling church they had left behind.    

In the extract above Paul writes to help the new Jesus-followers live without fear of death.  Those who had come from a Greek culture would have feared death because of their belief in a journey to Hades. This required crossing the river Styx by negotiating with the boatman Charon, and appeasing Cereberus, the three-headed guard dog. Those who came from a Jewish background had no idea of life after death at all. The best they could hope for was a life in the shadows of Sheol, without personality or strength. Paul writes to reassures these new Christians that there will be no boatman, no dog, no dissolution into shadows. Instead, “the Lord himself will come down from heaven” and fetch both the living and the dead (1 Thes 4:16).  
Let us be clear – this is not some scientific explanation on what happens after we die. It is written to reassure the people of Thessalonica that they would not die alone. Jesus would be there, to carry them through death to life with God. How this happened not even Paul knew – for he had not yet died! I am suggesting that we take our hope from Paul’s reassurance Jesus will be with us at our death.  “And so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thes 4:17).

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

          Come home, come home,
          You who are weary, come home;
          Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
          Calling, O sinner, come home!
Words & Music: Will L. Thomp­son,

The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
The Rewards of Ministry
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 84.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.    

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