“Parousia (greek): presence or coming. Referring to physical proximity…occurs most often in relation to the coming of the Lord Jesus as human history moves to closure.” (HCSB 2 Thessalonians)
Today’s Readings: Leviticus 15, Psalm 18, Proverbs 29, 2 Thessalonians 3
Were you hoping I’d write about Leviticus 15 this morning? In my mind I see thin sheets of bible pages flapping furiously as folks rush to that page…not quite sure they remember what that chapter was all about! It was definitely the first read for me and after some research I was able to put a few of the pieces together in terms of the historical context. My take away from Leviticus 15 is really that fundamentally, God wants us to go through the process in order to achieve salvation. Once I got my snickers out (it helps if you actually eat a Snickers bar while reading) I really gained an appreciation for what the Israelites were going through. I learned that the frequent mention of “discharge” isn’t sexual in nature but rather refers to a chronic infection that affected much of the community. There are so many references to both men and women being considered unclean. Then there are so many steps in order to get clean. Of course the Israelites were human just like us, so surely a few short days after getting “clean” they made the same mistakes and were right back to square one of uncleanliness.
All of this ritual cleansing got me thinking about my own attempts at getting “clean.” My most recent trials have been related to clean eating. Inevitably, I last about a week scrupulously monitoring what I put into my body and making sure that I am following all the laws of clean eating. Then, when my time is up I go nuts. Sugar and carbs and high fructose corn syrup, oh my! As I think through this very real pattern that we all indulge in one way or another, I’m reminded again that I’m nothing but an Israelite in jeans and a t-shirt. I’m as unclean as it gets, stained by the chronic infection of sin. It’s all pretty overwhelming when I think it through, realizing that I’m going to continue to fall day after day. How can we change this pattern, this very human tendency that we have to fall into uncleanliness.
Then I arrived at second Thessalonians. Early on in the book this word parousia [pah roo SEE ah] appears. Paul uses it first to describe the glorious coming of Jesus Christ and the destruction of all his enemies. In today’s reading, chapter 3, he is warning the Thessalonians about irresponsible behavior. He reminds Christ’s followers to
“…keep away from any brother that is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
He goes on to say that we should not grow weary in doing good. He closes his letter to the Thessalonians by assuring them of his genuineness and that Christ is indeed near. When I think of this word parousia, I think of how I need some of it right now.
I need to feel that in the darkness of my jeans and t-shirt days that there is a feeling of parousia. We all need to feel that this process of building and testing our faith through our struggle is drawing us closer to Jesus. Sometimes, he just doesn’t feel so near. The truth is that he wants us to work and strive and fall down now and again in our attempts to be with him. This letter from Paul to Thessalonians is tangible piece of evidence to which we can hold fast. He is near. And so, friends, on this Monday morning we must not grow weary of doing good. Instead, let us continue in His work whether it be 7 acts of kindness for 7 precious lives lost here in Bloomington/Normal or just showing grace one more time when you just don’t think you have it in you. Yes, there is darkness but He is near, He is a presence in our lives and He is coming.