Even people who hate being told what to do, who hate being constrained, tend to like a schedule. They might not want anyone to schedule them but they probably want to know when other people are available or around. It shouldn’t surprise us that we want to know what is coming up. When we think of upcoming events we need to know when they are actually happening so we can plan accordingly. Knowing my grandson is having a birthday soon is good but knowing his exact birthday is better.
For things like birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations of all sorts, knowing “exactly” when they are going to happen is very helpful, perhaps even required. But what about those things we want to know when they happen but it doesn’t matter? It might be nice to know when the sun will rise tomorrow (I am writing this in Regina on November 15, 2020 so tomorrow the sun will rise at 0815) but it doesn’t make a single bit of difference to me. I am still going to get up at the time I get up regardless of the light or darkness outside. We can get ourselves into trouble when we don’t understand the difference between what we need to know and what we want to know.
In Paul’s first letter to the people of Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11) he opens this chapter with “Now concerning the times and the seasons . . . you do not need to have anything written to you.” (NRSV). The times and seasons he is referring to are all about the return of Jesus Christ, or what happens at the end of all things. Paul never tells people they are foolish or wrong for wondering about “times and season” but what he makes perfectly clear is, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter when Christ returns, it doesn’t matter if we are alive or dead when Christ returns, we are okay.
I grew up with some very peculiar interpretations of this part of 1 Thessalonians, primarily by skipping verses 4 and 5 as if they weren’t there at all or at least as if they had no impact. Those two verses are what turn this passage from a source of uncertainty and fear into a source of reassurance and hope.*
Give the sermon a listen and let me know if you thing I have missed anything or been too simplistic.
“When is the right time?” Knox and St. Mark’s Presbyterian joint service (to download, right click and select “Save Link As . . .”)
Image credit: This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC
*I honestly have no idea what various preachers and teachers were doing with this part of Scripture, peace upon them.
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