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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, November 17, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  1 Thessalonians 5:1–11

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 labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.

So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (NRSV)

For most of us, the word urgency is stress-inducing. After all, few things that appear in our lives as “urgent” turn out to be good! There are urgent emails or texts, trips to urgent care clinics, urgent needs from church programs or social service centers, and even things that are designed to feel urgent, whether they are all-caps headlines or breaking news flashing up on our screens. Living our lives in a sense of urgency, as Paul seems to be advocating in this passage from 1 Thessalonians, sounds like an exhausting endeavor.

But while there is an unmistakable sense of urgency in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (nothing says panic like “a thief in the night” and “sudden destruction”!), this urgency isn’t ultimately grounded in panic or calamity. Instead, it is grounded in importance. Paul’s exhortations to stay alert are meant to encourage the Thessalonians (and us) to live lives from our faith, hope, and love—“encouraging one another and building up each other.”

While we equate the word urgent with “dire,” being an urgent person has a different connotation. To be an urgent person is to live earnestly and persistently for that which matters most in life. To live urgently is not to panic but to recognize that everything we do matters: what we say, what we do, what we support, what we buy, and so on. Rather than finding that stressful, I believe that Paul is asking us to embrace that—to claim our responsibility to live from our faith, hope, and love.

Loving God, help me remember that everything that I do matters, and inspire me to live from that sense of urgency—not merely for my benefit but for the benefit of all. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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