Sights and Insights
Devotion for 11/17/2020
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 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. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The transition from apartment life to having a house with a yard has many moments of adjustment. This is particularly true with the work that comes with having a yard, and especially a large yard with more trees than I can count and moving in during October just before all of the leaves fall. With the several beautiful days last week, Wendolyn gave our boys their task on Sunday. She pointed to three areas of the yard and told them, “Those need to be cleared before it rains Wednesday afternoon.” The boys were excited to get to use the leaf blower and rake, so they did some work each day. Nevertheless, they did not act with much urgency and only cleared a small amount each day before other things caught their attention.
The parents reminded them each day that the rain was coming, but still they dallied in their work. I got home Wednesday afternoon not long after the skies opened, and the leaves were unmoved from the day before and far from cleared. I asked them why the job of moving the leaves was still unfinished, and received the reply, “It’s raining.” None too impressed by this logic, I sent them out into the rain to finish the job. Thankfully it was not too wet yet, there wasn’t too much left to do, and they actually enjoyed being out in the rain. None of us were worse for the wear for it.
It’s one thing to intellectually recognize that rain is coming and the leaves need raked before it hits. That information on its own might be useful, but it does not always create a sense of urgency. That was true in this particular case, but it is true in much of our lives as well. There are many things that we know are coming up on our schedules but that doesn’t always make us work with vigor to be ready for the deadline, whether it is end-of-semester term papers for students or making sure to brush our teeth well before the next dentist appointment draws near. Knowing something in our minds is well and good, but it takes more for us to approach our task with a real sense of urgency. It takes feeling need in our heart and our gut, as well as establishing the rituals necessary to build up a habit.
The reading from Thessalonians 4 has come up several times lately. In it, Paul is talking about being ready for the return of Christ. The broader concern is that he is telling the people to hold onto a sense of urgency, even though Christ has taken longer to return than they had expected. In this passage he is addressing apprehensions that Christians who have died will miss out on Christ’s return. He is giving assurance that those who have died will also take part in Christ’s return. He tells them that he is informing them of this, but his implication is more than that: he is exhorting them to hold onto a sense of urgency, a sense that Christ’s death, resurrection, and return are things that shape how we live our life now and help us make choices for how to use our time. It is not simply head knowledge, but something to be felt in the heart and the gut. He doesn’t want us to rely on being able to rake in the rain, rushing around at the last minute.