I Am At My Worst When . . .

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13  – 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for November 17, 2013

“Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are…” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

images-1Reading certain Biblical verses creates a lump in my throat.

Moses bedazzled by the burning bush.

David wept.

The immortal words about love Paul scribbled in First Corinthians.

Alone near the tomb, Mary confused Jesus for a gardener.

Faith burns. Kings cry. Love triumphs. Death defied.

Then there are those that cause me to gulp . . . but not in a good way.

Second Thessalonians 3:6 is a gulper.

Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition they received from us.

Who were those believers living “in idleness,” that didn’t conform to the “tradition?”

As a fleeting, intriguing faith and history (and faith in history) lesson, I’m glad for those words from the second letter to the faith community in Thessalonica. Maybe Paul wrote them, maybe he didn’t. Maybe Second Thessalonians is mostly an imitation or homage to First Thessalonians (there are numerous similarities in the two missals), or maybe it can stand on its own. Regardless of who wrote it, or its unique/not unique theology, Second Thessalonians provides readers of every generation since Gutenberg’s Bible* a glimpse of a fellowship of believers experiencing turmoil.

Second Thessalonians was likely written between 70-80 A.D. There are scholars that would argue for earlier than the 70s and there could be credible reasons for dating it decades later. But no scholar—ancient or modern, liberal or conservative—doubted that Second Thessalonians addressed tension about the arrival of Jesus’ “second coming.” By the time it was written, years have come and gone since Jesus’ ministry. The promise of an impending new age was questioned as followers of Jesus died—sometimes by natural means, sometimes as martyrs—and always as a reminder of each person’s mortality.

We will all live eternally in Christ!

But what of those who have now died?

And so, in dim rooms illuminated by sputtering candles, in the bright sunshine of dusty village streets, around a glass of wine and loaf of bread at a neighbor’s home, in whispers at the edge of a crowd at the local synagogue, the early believers of Jesus—who knew people who remembered the people who once met some of Jesus’ disciples—debated the Gospel message. When will yesterday’s promises become today’s reality? Who among us is following the best, right, true path to those promises? Continue reading →