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Breath of the Spirit
Pastoral, Liturgical, Teaching, and Social Justice Moments brought to you by DignityUSA.
Breath of the Spirit is our electronic spiritual and liturgical resource for our members and potential members. Nothing can replace your chapter or other faith community but we hope you will find further support here for integrating your spirituality with your sexuality and all the strands of your life.
For people of biblical faith, there’s always “another hand:” another way of experiencing things.
NOVEMBER 17, 2019: THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
II Thessalonians 3:7-12
Rarely does the future unfold exactly as we plan. There are always unexpected twists and turns, forcing us to deal with situations we never anticipated. This certainly has been the experience of people of faith, especially those committed to becoming other Christs.
As we know from our Christian Scriptures, one of the most unexpected things in Christian history was Jesus’ delayed Parousia. His earliest followers presumed they’d only have to endure this particular state of affairs for a short time before he returned in the Second Coming and definitively changed how they lived. Though some held onto this belief for a couple of generations, by the time Luke writes in the mid-80s most were beginning to deal with the reality that they’d live their normal life-span and Jesus still wouldn’t have returned. That’s why the third evangelist constantly zeroes in on how to live that life-span.
Luke is convinced we should stop giving into the temptation of constantly looking for signs. Jesus will return when he returns, no matter what’s happening around us. International and cosmic events have no relation to his Parousia. But sadly, because of his delay, Christians will now have to deal with something for which they hadn’t planned: persecutions. Luke’s Jesus warns, “. . . They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.”
Not only that, but their faith will eventually create terrific tensions in their families. “You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name . . . .” But never give up hope. Jesus assures us, “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Yet these unexpected persecutions aren’t all bad. Among other things, they’ll provide Jesus’ followers with a valuable opportunity: an occasion to “give testimony” to their faith. In most places in the 1st century CE Roman Empire people on trial have a legal right to publicly defend themselves. In the case of Christians, their trials will provide them with occasions to explain their lifestyle to whole new groups of people; something they should plan on doing - with little or no preparation.
Of course, Jesus’ delayed return also created other problems, as the unknown author of II Thessalonians eventually discovered. His or her mentor, Paul, was convinced many of Jesus’ followers could live an ideal, communal life, sharing all their possessions with one another. Yet as time went on, some of those ideal communities had to deal with freeloaders: people who received, but never gave. After first setting up the Apostle as an example of generosity, the author is forced to warn these selfish individuals, “. . . If anyone (is) unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” This rather late Christian writing demonstrates the community simply dealt with unexpected problems as they arose. As time went on they more and more understood the implications of carrying on Jesus’ ministry.
Perhaps the prophet Malachi shares the best insight into an unplanned future. Though members of his community were glad to hear that Yahweh would eventually consume the “proud and all evildoers” with fire, he assures them that same inferno would be for them “a sun of justice with healing rays.” For people of biblical faith, there’s always “another hand:” another way of experiencing things. Were the canon of Scripture still open, I’m convinced the saying, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” would have made it into our bibles a long time ago.