Tuesday 13th October 2020 1 Thessalonians – The Lord’s Coming
1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 18
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. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Few people go through life without experiencing the pain of bereavement or without having to go through a time of grief. It is one of the wonders of human life that we are able to love each other so deeply that we grieve, sometimes so profoundly, for those who die. Of course, the particulars of every experience are different, but grief is an experience we can recognise across the years. And here is a Christian writing to other Christians, who are grieving. It may be that their grief was made worse because of fears that, by dying before Jesus had returned, their loved ones would not rise with Christ. But, whatever the specific situation, this piece of this letter offers something to anyone of us who might read it. Paul does not tell these Christians in Thessaloniki not to grieve, that death is nothing at all, or that those for whom they grieve have gone into the next room or ‘passed away’. He tells them to grieve, but not to grieve ‘as others do who have no hope’.
There is no escape from the pain, or the work, of grief. As someone once said, ‘the only way through it is through it’. However, we grieve, as Christian people, in a context of hope. Just as Jesus died and rose again, just as death could not defeat him, so death does not have the final victory over our lives, or the lives of those who have already died.
Few of us might feel we can say more than this, about times and seasons. But the Christian faith is founded on the conviction that even the deepest pain and wounds of human life, those profound experiences of grief and loss, can be framed with hope.
O God, who knows my heart, give me grace to grieve, when I must, with the fierce courage that love demands, and the hope that faith inspires, in the name of Jesus, the Risen One, Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is Minister of Taunton United Reformed Church