2nd Thessalonians 3:7-12
When I was a boy there was a toy I got just about every Christmas that was both a joy and a terror.
Remember these things? In my stocking every year, I got a paddleball.
For five minutes of pure joy I would hit the ball, it would return, I would hit the ball again and it would return again and again and again. Until the rubber band broke and the ball would go sailing off.
For weeks and months after my moment of pure joy, the paddle became a device for corporal punishment, something I feared greatly.
As I reflect on today’s scripture readings, I see a strong correlation between my paddleball experience and what God is trying to share with us with His Gospel message.
Please bear with me on this. To me, the paddleball reflects our relationship with God. The paddle is God or Jesus Christ, the rubber band is the Holy Spirit that links us to God, and the ball is us.
We long to soar, to bounce through life with much joy, but still want to be connected to God.
Sometimes the connection gets severed and we go flying off in unknown directions and down unknown paths.
Occasionally the paddle gets put into the hands of someone who wants to use it in a way it was not designed (Apologies to my mom).
In other words, the Word of God can get corrupted or abused by humans and used to strike terror into our hearts where there should be an abundance of joy.
At the time of Christ there was this thing called the apocalyptic tradition. Today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel is a part of this tradition. But Christ is trying to say something more here than just scaring the bejeebers out of us.
In fact, some scholars say Christ is trying to infuse hope into the fear found in the apocalyptic tradition.
But by infusing hope within a mindset of fear, Jesus is throwing us all a lifeline, a rubber band to tether ourselves to God, so we won’t be afraid as we fly through life.
Sure, the end will come eventually. But fear not.
When the apocalyptic paddle is placed in the wrong human hands it can create much anxiety and fear.
Perhaps you remember the book The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey in the 70s. His theory stirred up many Christians to think we’re living in “End Times.” We all know about the wacky preachers who predict dates on which the world will end. Perhaps you’ve even read one of the Left Behind books and bought into this thinking.
No matter how much fear is present in our current culture about the “End Times,” no one, not even our Church, knows when the End will happen.
Jesus is rebuking all those who would use the paddle to spank his elect or strike fear into our hearts. Jesus is reminding us that as long as we remain connected to God, tethered to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can soar without fear and have much joy in our lives.