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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, November 12, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Thessalonians 2:1–5, 13–17

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.

Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?

But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word. (NRSV)

In 2 Thessalonians Paul writes to a community of Christians who likely believed that the return of Jesus was imminent but wondered how, when, and where it would happen. In this passage, Paul reminds them that there are whole hosts of forces posturing as the day of the Lord or the final intervention of God in human history, luring the community into thinking that what is happening is Christ’s return.

Few of us interpret the difficulties of our lives as Paul did in the first century. We probably don’t believe in a Faustian Satan warring with God over our lives. But when horrible things happen, we might find ourselves wondering “why?”: Evil? Satan? The deceiver? The Apostle Paul has such faith and trust in God and in the early Christian community that he challenges the people to look squarely into the face of these forces with no denial of the power of anything that would undermine the power of the risen Christ and at the same time with an absolute faith in God’s radical “Yes” for this world!

We still are waiting for the fullness of God’s realm to be established in our midst. We are also called by Christ to usher in the realm of God today! There are days when we wonder if the forces for ill have the upper hand. But the kind of liberation that this passage forwards is one that unequivocally trusts that God has not abandoned us to the forces that work for harm or hinder the flourishing of our days. We are to stand firm and hold fast to what we know: that Jesus loves with an unrelenting love that will not let us go. When we open our lives to his love, we are strengthened to face even the things that shake us out of our wits!

Present God, we live in troubled days with so much that is beyond our control. Help us trust that you are right here with us and calling us to fullness of life. Stand firmly with us. And help us know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you come to us, you abide with us, that you will never let us go! Through Christ. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

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