22nd Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 27
2As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.
3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. 5Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? 6And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. 9The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, 10and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, 12so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.
13But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.
16Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
Let me tell you a story about a chicken. His name is Chicken Little. He lives in a normal little chicken house in a normal little town. Chicken Little is neither tall nor short. He is neither fat nor thin. He is neither smart nor stupid. He is a completely normal chicken. One completely normal morning, Chicken Little is eating his breakfast in the kitchen. (He likes toast with butter and coffee with cream.) He is reading the internet. He sees a terrifying story with a terrifying headline. It says: THE SKY IS FALLING! He is so scared that he drops his toast into his coffee.
“The sky is falling? THE SKY IS FALLING!” shouts Chicken Little. “I have to warn everyone!”
First, he emails the story to one-thousand of his closest friends. Then runs down the road to warn everyone else. The first person he meets on the road is Gwen the Hen. She is coming from the supermarket. “Good morning, Chicken Little!” says Gwen the Hen. “Where are you going? Why are you so scared?”
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” says Chicken Little.
“Really? How do you know?” asks Gwen.
“I saw it on the internet!” says Chicken Little.
“Holy moly! It must be true!” says Gwen. “Let’s go!” And so Chicken Little and Gwen the Hen run down the road towards the pond. When they reach the pond, they meet Chuck the Duck. He is having a bath.
“Hello, you two!” says Chuck the Duck. “Where are you going? Why are you so scared?”
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” say Chicken Little and Gwen the Hen together.
“Really? How do you know?” asks Chuck.
“I saw it on the internet!” says Chicken Little.
“Oh no! It must be true!” says Chuck. “Let’s go!” So Chicken Little, Gwen the Hen, and the Chuck the Duck run down the road towards the farm. When they reach the farm they meet Bruce the Goose. He is reading poetry to Percy the pigeon.
“Hello everyone!” says Bruce the Goose. “Where are you going? Why are you so scared?”
“The sky is falling. THE SKY IS FALLING!” everyone yells.
“Really? How do you know?” asks Percy the pigeon.
“WE SAW IT ON THE INTERNET!!” they all say. “
Goodness gracious! It must be true!” says Bruce. “There is no time to read poetry now. Let’s go!” And Chicken Little, Gwen the Hen, Chuck the Duck, Bruce the Goose and Percy the Pigeon run down the road towards the town.
On the main street, they meet Fred the Fox. He is sitting at a cafe, writing on his laptop. “Hello everyone!” says Fred the Fox. “Where are you going? Why are you so scared?”
“THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKYYYY IS FAAALLLLING!” everyone yells.
“Really? How do you know?” asks Fred.
“WE SAW IT ON THE INTERNET!!!!” they all shout.
“Wow! Well then it must be true!” says the fox. “But don’t worry, friends, I know the perfect place to hide. Follow me!”
Fred the fox leads everyone through the village, down the road, across the field, and up a hill. At the top of the hill is a big, dark cave.
“Come in! Come in!” says Fred the fox. “There is enough room for everybody! The sky won’t fall on us here. We are safe.” And so, one by one, Chicken Little and all of his friends follow the fox into the cave.
The next morning, Chicken Little and his friends have disappeared. The cave is empty. Where did they go? We don’t know for sure. But I will tell you one thing: Fred the Fox is very happy. He has a big, round belly. “Silly Critters,” he says. And he sits under a tree, gets his laptop, and begins to write again.
THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!! The time that we live in seems to be a very anxious era. We watch the news and we are struck with uncertainty. We read the newspaper and we are filled with fear. We check social media and believe stories that are simply not accurate. We hear from neighbors and anxiety spreads from friend to friend. It’s almost as if our whole culture is one raw nerve of fear. Everything that we encounter has an element of worry and causes upset. Some day’s it feels like the SKY FALLING, but often it is simply a tall tale.
Once rumors get going of what one leader said, or a special few’s interpretation of how events really transpired, or any other sort of disturbance sweeps through a community causing confusion and fracture, it is difficult and absolutely essential to put them to rest in a decisive manner, but this is easier said than done. In our technologically advanced age and in the Apostle Paul’s simpler time – rumors and false news can cause panic and uncertainty.
In our text for today, rumors have spread through this church concerning Paul’s teaching about the end times and these rumors are causing significant distress. Paul focuses upon the true Gospel message and doesn’t become distracted by detailed maps of the end times and time frames for the rapture. Paul’s purpose in the chapter, stated in verses 2 and 15: encouragement that they “not become easily unsettled or alarmed,” but instead that they “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings” he gave them in person. This is a reminder to the church in Thessalonica and in Woodbury that worldly or heavenly concerns, worries, fears and anxieties should not be our focus because of the promises that we have in Christ.
The news, the rumors and the local gossip can make us feel unsettled and shake our confidence as followers of Jesus. We can begin to believe that something other than God is guiding our paths. The church in Thessalonica has grabbed onto a news teaching about second coming of Christ and are paralyzed, scared, uncertain what to believe, and from that, how to act.
This new teaching about the end times may not seem all that concerning to those of us who have been waiting for Christ’s return for 2000 years and have heard many explanations, but for this young congregation, this new teaching has shaken them and left each person trying to figure out how they ought to act:
- should they work or should they wait?
- Should they provide for those who aren’t working?
- Should they make them work?
- Have they already been perfected, and if so,
- why does everything appear to be the same, themselves included?
Paul does spend some time attempting to correct the teaching that had gone so clearly wrong, but the significance of this text is that he spends more time and effort encouraging this congregation to not fear and to stand firm. Again, Paul’s focus is to remind them instead of all the things that need to happen first, so we ought to trust God and continue on doing good rather than obsessing about the end.
For Paul, all is grace. Christians can be confident, encouraged people because we know that we are held as first fruits by God’s choice, preserved through the Spirit.
Ultimately, it is the prayer at the end of today’s readings: 16Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word:
that should receive the most attention from us.
It is the consistent prayer of Paul: a focus on the love and grace of God in Christ, which encourages us in hope and strengthens us in every good deed and word. The fullness of Christ is on the way, do not be afraid, have faith in God, and all will be well. THE IS NOT FALLING! Our lives are in God’s hands, and so are our deaths, and God is faithful. We may experience cataclysms and threat but God is at work silently and persistently to defeat the powers of darkness. If we stand firm in our trust in God and live faithfully, the future will be filled with hope and not fear.
Commentary provided by Edith Humphrey, Matt Gaventa, Mariam Kamell, Bryan Findlayson, Donald Gray Barnhouse, James Boyce, Bruce Epperly, Ray Stedman and https://www.thefablecottage.com/english/chicken-little