While in Corinth Paul penned his second letter to the people at Thessalonica. My first response when I read this is that it is a strange little letter. Paul begins as he most often does, thanking God for them and thanking them for their perseverance in the faith. His brief but forceful diatribe here against the Enemy, one of the many labels Paul will use for the Satan, the Evil One and against evil doers of the human kind that are a challenge to the new converts. But just as he gives these warnings as he closes he once again encourages the people to turn their hearts toward the love of God and the fortitude of Christ. This is our strength as well. The strength that is Christ’s. Ours simply for the asking.
By whatever name it is called, if you’ve made it to midlife, you know that there are forces, however we call them, working against us. Almost twenty years ago I wrote my first book. Just as I began to work on the second, my life turned into one crisis and drama after another. And each time I consciously made a resolve to begin again on my writing, something urgent, some personal or family necessity I could not turn my back on, reared its often troubling head. Almost without fail, some stumbling block fell in my path.
I guess one reason I have an affinity for St. Paul, is that I share in not only his enthusiasm but in the sheer force of will against all odds, the obstacles that fell along his path. I have been determined not to let the devil win the day. After a while, it began to occur to me that perhaps there was something to what I was trying to do, and the devil knew, knew that it would be a force for good. This is a thief of both the day and the night. Sometimes it was my own self-doubt. Very clever this daemon. Evil knows. But I would not relent. It occurred to me too that the devil doesn’t have to hang out in denizens of the deep. He’s won the day there. But he’s in places we consider sacred. Lurking about, his bolts of doubt, aimed for the mind. I guess we do need a helmet of sorts.
In this second letter Paul counsels to be on guard, watchful of those things that will lead us astray. Our shield here is keeping our sights and hearts on the love of God as we experience it in the person of Jesus the Christ. Here Paul is again comforting and encouraging the infant church and us as we journey to a more mature faith-life.
It is pure Paul when he says in his melodramatic way: we worked night and day, slaving and straining. At first glance it sounded self-aggrandizing but Paul often uses himself and his companions as examples of how to live lives of fidelity to the faith.
Looking back on my first post, I realized it held a lot of touchstones for me to reflect on. Paul’s first and second letters give us provisions, lots of provisions, for the journey. I won’t post on Sundays as this will give me a chance to think about what I have read so far in a more meditative way. What I find wonderful about Paul too, is that each reading reveals another layer of revelation.
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