Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thursday in Easter 4: Living in his presence

Opening Sentence

Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24

Collect of the Day
O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 50

Lessons: Exodus 34:1-17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20, Matthew 5:21-26

A major theme which runs throughout 1 Thessalonians is “the coming of the Lord.” It is a theme which encapsulates the section covering 2.17-3.13. In speaking of his longing to see the Thessalonians, Paul asks, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before the Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy” (2.19-20). Then, at the close of the section, he prays for the Thessalonians, that God “may establish [their] hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (3.13).

Many contemporary interpretations leave readers with little or no practical application for the Scriptures in question. This shortcoming is due to an over-reliance on a chronos (linear or horizontal) view of time. Biblical time, however, is not so easily charted. Quite often, Paul and other New Testament writers view time in terms of kairos (seasonal or vertical). Chronologically speaking, “the coming of the Lord” is the final consummation, the end, or outcome, of all of history, at which time all of history will be understood. Kairotically speaking, “the coming of the Lord” is always an imminent reality. For Paul, his Thessalonian congregation, and all believers who are in Christ, the final outcome of history is already known because the “end” of history has already taken place in the midst of history through the ultimate kairotic event of the life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. It is upon this “world-ending” event that we base our hope for a blessed future in a creation restored to its original perfection, with the personal, healing, redemptive presence of Jesus himself in our midst.

For the believer in Christ, however, that future has, in a very real sense, already begun. The Greek term usually translated “coming,” is parousia, which also means, literally, “presence.” It is one thing to ponder and cast your thoughts afar toward “the coming of the Lord.” It is quite another to realize you are, at this very moment, in the presence of the Lord. Such a realization brings both comfort and concern. We can take comfort in knowing that our Lord has promised never to leave us nor forsake us; that in the power of his Holy Spirit, he is with us at this very moment and whenever two or three are gathered in his name, there he is in our midst. We ought also to be concerned, however, lest his coming catch us unaware. Not knowing the day or the hour of his coming, but knowing every day, every hour, every moment we are in his presence, we ought to live our lives accordingly.

(JAG)

Rejoice, the Lord is King