the missing virtue..

First, the dead shall be raised.
Paul makes no bones about that – for all you who are still waiting…
I don’t want you to be misinformed, he writes –
“For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. “ (1 Thessalonians 4: 15-16 NRSV)

There is a definite order in the universe as Paul understands it
– a certain order of things according to God’s ordering of things –
and we, the living, had better be patient.

Except that we are not.

We’re decidedly impatient – puttering around –
seeking with all that is in us to hurry things along –
only our timing matters; only our priorities are important.

So we delight in prediction – the better to hold God (and one another) to the proper time and place.
or we propose pithy, purpose statements

that place us closer to the front of the line in the coming Kingdom;

and we consign ourselves to frustration – that Paul suggests is completely unnecessary,

because first –  the dead.

It was a matter of urgency for those early believers
– the idea that too many of their number had died before Christ’s return.
Perhaps the disciples were keeping something from them
perhaps the Lord was testing them – perhaps..they were mistaken…

And Paul has heard these mutterings and knows those dark doubts
and he calls the faithful to attention.

His charge to the church inThessolonica – and to us – is refreshing:

Mind your prayers – keep the faith – and don’t try to out-guess God.
That day of glory will come like a thief in the night – as he so famously writes in chapter 5 –

but in the meantime our departed  brothers and sisters will be neither disappointed, nor forgotten.

This promised kingdom that comes creeping – still creeping –

seemingly no closer now that it was in Paul’s time,
is an extension of the call of God issued by Jesus on the shore;
come – follow – bring nothing with you – be ready for anything – and above all…wait.
This waiting is not a test – it is our only task.
To exist, in faith, until God decides the time is right
until Christ is again revealed – ‘til Kingdom come…
And Jesus bids us wait too.
Like brides awaiting the groom – in the dark, with our lamps guttering
cold and uncertain – weary and frazzled.
The door might open any moment – the party could start without us –
and in the meantime we are left to consider how we managed to get an invitation at all….
So while we wait, I have to ask…
… what’s your secret?
How have you kept your lamp from going out?
Have you oil for your lamp?  Are you truly ready for anything?
It’s been a long time, here in the dark, and some have long given up.
It’s not that our waiting has been in vain;
We are occasionally roused to wakefulness by the needs of our neighbours,
We have been encouraged by tales of the splendour of the groom,
and been fed by the memory of his feast.
In short, we have not been content to sit idly by the door and wait.

We have sought the will of God in our work  –
we continue to seek God’s truth in ancient texts,
to learn from Scripture and from one another.
We apply the lessons to our lives,
and pray that those acts of living
might somehow reveal God to us and our communities.

And, we wait
– not idly nor impatiently –
but eagerly.
Because we are waiting for something wonderful.
That is God’s promise – that is our hope and the foundation of our faith –
…not that it makes our waiting any easier…


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