“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!” (I Thessalonians 5:1 – 3)
It is another “Epistle” evening when Paul’s voice and writings resound in my ear. The subliminal psychology of saying “readers you do not need to be told” but he tells it anyway – in great detail. The exhortations and admonitions that belie the salutation that Paul is writing to equals and peers. And the incorporating of ancient texts to illustrate and illuminate his theology. But, you may tell me, that is the essence of Paul! And so it is. “Epistle” evening can be a long evening, beloved reader, especially when the day has been long already.
I confess though, beloved reader, I often think I sound/write like Paul. And maybe that is part of difficulty. When I feel slightly averse to Paul, it makes me wonder unconsciously / subconsciously if maybe I am being too heavy-handed!
“But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.” (Verses 4 – 5)
I admit I was influenced by Paul’s writings in addressing my readers as “beloved” as Paul does in so many of his writings. I have my own theological soapbox as well, and am sometimes complied to put it away. And like Paul sometimes does when making a point, I digress. When I was young Paul-ine writings caused me to cringe theologically. To think that I might now resemble it causes me to cringe again.
“So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (Verses 6 – 11)
When I was growing into my own personal theology (around the time I was moving from adolescence to young adulthood) society was being challenged by feminism and Paul-ine writings were grand fodder to critic and censure. The thing is though that we who read it thus were not taking into account the context and times that Paul was writing in. And we were letting the commentary from male biblical commentators color our perceptions; and letting feminist biblical commentators stir us up by mixing and inter-meshing current issues with the political and social understandings of the past. Paul, we said, had a lot to answer for. When in actuality, we had a lot to answer for in misunderstanding Paul.
We should never stop reading scripture, beloved reader. And we should never assume that there is only one way to understand and apply scripture. I have found for myself, once I allow the Holy Presence to guide me in interpreting scripture, I find scripture reading a lot more pleasant. And writing about it a joy and a way of worshiping. I am coming close to celebrating 30 years of pondering on scripture and writing about it. That fact gives me pause. And makes me very glad I did not give up.
May you, beloved reader, read scripture though it may frustrate you, baffle you, and cause you throw up your hands in despair. In fact, the more scripture does that, the more you should read it! Shalom & Selah!