Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts guide our understanding, O Holy One. Nurture us whenever we choose to grow into who you would fashion us to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Last week I alluded to the fact that we can find texts in our scriptures that lend themselves to preaching hell fire and brimstone kinds of sermons. Today’s text from 2 Thessalonians is another one that lends itself particularly well to certain streams of fundamentalist ideology – especially the parts once again omitted from the Revised Common Lectionary, which again, I chose to read anyway.
I would like to challenge us, however, to view them through a lens in an age and a time two thousand years further along in spiritual understanding and human development. In doing so, I hope we can find an alternate interpretation more fitting to where the Holy Spirit seems to be leading faithful ones across the realm of human kind.
The original readers of the letter probably knew to what and/or to whom the veiled remarks in today’s passage referred. Alas, even good students of history cannot pinpoint exactly what the persecutions against the Thessalonians were, nor who perpetrated them, although we can make some educated guesses based on how the Roman Empire treated subjugated peoples at various times in its colored past.
We do not know specifically who the “lawless one” was, although again, an educated guess would be one of the Caesars who took his empirical title literally and whose ambitions burned with unholy passion against Jews and Christ-followers alike.
“Walter Wink has persuasively argued that because most of us no longer believe in creatures like Satan or the lawless one, we tend to dismiss them as unimportant.
Yet these creatures remind us that catastrophe and evil are real, even if we no longer personify them. The worldview of people in New Testament times included a host of principalities and powers they took to be quite real. “What the ancients called ‘spirits’ or ‘angels’ or ‘demons’ were actual entities, only they were not hovering in the air. They were incarnate in cellulose, or cement, or skin and bones, or an empire, or its mercenary armies.”
Wink suggests that we might reinterpret the biblical principalities and powers for today as symbolic projections of spiritualities inhabiting institutions, nation-states, regimes, economic systems, and other entities that exercise power over our lives. Accordingly, we might interpret the lawless one as a spirit of extreme arrogance, embodied in anyone or anything that claims to be godlike but is really anti-God.”
I won’t say any more about contemporary embodiments of lawlessness or extreme arrogance, but I would like to remind you not to forget to get your votes in for Tuesday.
I would also like to tread carefully a little farther through a progressive theological perspective which outlines an opposite view of the all-too familiar fundamentalist leanings eschewed from today’s text. Namely this:
“Creation did not happen once by a flick of the divine hand and now it’s slowly winding down toward Armageddon and tragic Apocalypse (which is the hopeless universe inside of which many fundamentalists live). Creation is in fact a life-generating process … that is what Love always does for all that it loves.”
“Historically and to this day, it seems that when a new level of maturity is found, there is an immediate and strong instinct to pull backward to the old and familiar. Thankfully, within churches and society at large there is always a leaven, a critical mass, a few people who carry the momentum toward greater inclusivity, compassion, and love.”
For true progressives,
“This is the Second Coming of Christ: Christ embodied by people who know that hatred and greed are always regressive, and who can no longer live fearfully or violently. [These are those] who have touched upon Love and been touched by Love, which is to touch upon the Christ Mystery. This is the shape of ‘salvation.’”
For me, the clearest message for us from today’s text comes from commentator Neta Pringle:
“Deep inside, each of us knows that there are times when, despite our best efforts, we do deny God’s rightful place in our lives. Rather than speculate about the who and the when of Christ’s return, we need to tend our own souls. Rather than try to identify the lawless one, we need to recognize our own tendency to play that role.”
Friends, for the sake of God – for the sake of our own soul membership in God’s Realm – let us be engaged in the work of God, for this is our way forward. As the writer of 2nd Thessalonians says, “16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.”
Amen? May it be so.
 Blodgett, Barbara J. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).
 Rohr, Fr. Richard. Daily Mediation for November 2, 2016. “The Cosmic Christ: Week 2; One Great Act of Giving Birth.”
 Rohr, Fr. Richard. Daily Mediation for November 3, 2016. “The Cosmic Christ: Week 2; The Pattern of Evolution.”
 Pringle, Neta. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ).
Questions for Reflection
The writer of Second Thessalonians implores his readers to “hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter” (2 Thess. 2:15). Identify some traditions you should hold on to. Are there traditions we should reclaim? What about traditions that have served their purpose and can be let go? What are the traditions of the church?
Household Prayer: Morning
God of life, for this new day we give you thanks. May we bear witness to the gift of life in all we say and do, from the flowers that bloom to the critters that creep, from the friends we seek out to the strangers we encounter. As the birds sing out their praises, may we, too, be found making joyful noises unto you. May our words and our actions reveal your good news. Help us to be inspired and awed by your extraordinary creation. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
Holy God, you have indeed done marvelous things and we give you thanks. Throughout this day we were challenged and found hope; and were surprised by the places and people who gave witness to you. Be with us and those we love this night we pray. Comfort those who are uneasy or afraid. Guide us through the night to the dawn of a new day filled with hope and promise. Amen.