Ebbs and Flows

“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (Rom. 14:5 ESV)”

Paul in that extended passage of Romans puts things like how you mark time into the realm of Christian Freedom. God neither demands days to be observed of the Christian, nor does he scorn such piety. The church in most times and places found setting aside certain days to be a healthy piety. We live in the United States, which is largely the creation of the Reformed strains of Christianity (Presbyterian, Congregational, Methodist, Baptist).  And the Reformed strains were the highwater mark of Reformation iconoclasm, the destruction of the icons or any other representational form, like a church year.  The Pilgrims would not have even marked Christmas.  The best construction on that is their assertion that every Sunday is Easter Sunday.  The week started on the LORD’s Day.  When that week to week same framework hits industrial capitalism you get how we mark time.  Monday starts the week.  Monday to Friday are for work with Saturday and Sunday being the weekend for play. 

The Christendom that inspired the Church Calendar marked time in a different way.  It didn’t run in machine like precision.  It ebbed and flowed, hurried and then waited. We move feasts – like All Saints – to the nearest Sunday after as a concession to the industrial-Reformed way. But we should recognize what this does.  We are moving the things of God, at least those that we supposedly are convinced in our own minds are important to piety, to satisfy the things of man. We should not be surprised then when other things insert themselves between what we say we are convinced of and our personal piety.  We neither have a Church calendar that affords us days of holy obligation which we take off from work to worship God, nor do we have the every Sunday is Easter piety of the Pilgrims.  We have 5 days of work and 2 days of play.  Worship doesn’t fit easily in that.

One of the religious effects of observing a Holy Day on the nearest Sunday is that the assigned texts for that Sunday get erased from ever being heard. The first letter that Paul ever wrote – 1 Thessalonians – is one of those that gets erased.  The Sunday prior to Reformation Sunday we read the opening, but the next two weeks get erased for the fixed Reformation and All Saints texts. In Sunday Bible study we have continued with the Thessalonians reading.  There are three short observations that I feel might be good to hear.

  1. “So as always to fill up the measure of their sins…” (1 Thessalonians 2:16)

There are two other such mentions of filling up sins in the bible. Genesis 15:16 where Abraham is told of 400 years of slavery in Egypt so that the sin of the Canaanites would be full.  Daniel 8:3, in reference to the final empire of this world.  This world has two streams.  The streams of the river of life which the children of God have washed themselves receiving forgiveness, and the stream of those sins collected until the day of the LORD.  Part of Paul’s message to the Thessalonians is his thankfulness that “you received the Word of God.” This causes trouble in this world, but it is because you are being prepared for eternity.

  1. “For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:20)

This is Paul’s expression toward the Thessalonians.  Those people that he has instructed in the faith are both his glory and his joy.  Jesus would tell the apostles that “they would sit on thrones judging the tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).” The glory and joy that Paul is talking about is that here is his tribe.  On All Saints we see the 144,000 in their tribal ranks.  This is in Paul’s mind. What is also in Paul’s mind is that these Thessalonians have imitated him in this.  They have “become an example to all the believers of Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:7).”  The faith is received and spread by discipleship.  It is rarely learned mystically like Paul, but it is taught.

  1. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…(1 Thessalonians 4:3)”

Paul’s metaphor for sanctification is walking. There is a way that we should walk.  It is a walking in the footsteps of Jesus which he has laid out for us (Eph 2:10).  It is a walking that is pleasing to God and which they learned from Paul (1Thess 4:1-2).  You have heard and believed the Word of God and so have been justified in Christ.  Now walk in His way.  Walk toward your glory and joy.

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