This week’s passages focus on the future. From the Babylonian Exiles looking to a bright future in a rebuilt Jerusalem to Luke’s looking toward the end of time and the challenges the early Christians would face. Each of these passages were written for a specific context, which needs to be considered before interpreting the text for what it means today. This week’s projects then look at the faith/deed balance we live out, explore work and challenges to our eternal soul.
This passage is written by the (at least) third author of Isaiah near the end of the Babylonian Exile as the people dream of their new homes in Jerusalem where they will be free instead of captives in Babylon. The big dream is that they will enjoy the fruits of their labor in a material sense. In some forms of interpretation a tree symbolizes the person drawing it. Begin today by drawing a tree trunk of yourself making sure to use a variety of colors (green, brown, black, red) in the trunk, which will emphasize your curves and motion. Don’t worry about a detailed face but include a caricature of you.
Then add leaves to your tree using different colors to symbolize the different kinds of spiritual practices you do – Bible study, prayer, creative reflection, devotional reading, hymn singing, etc. Make bigger leaves for the ones that are more important to you. Then think about the faith works you do for others and draw different types of fruits on the tree. These don’t have to be detailed just make each fruit a different color.
When you’re done put the drawing away for a few hours until you’re ready to reflect on it: Is there a good balance of leaves and fruits? How can you achieve that balance?
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
I have a problem with this passage because it can be used to deny services to the unemployed, who may not be able to find work, which is a different situation than people “unwilling to work.”
I also worry because what one person may do as work may not be recognized as such by another. My mother, for instance, doesn’t understand when I read or write that I am working because I’m not producing something material. An artist may enhance our civilization through their work, but because what they produce doesn’t satisfy basic needs some may find it frivolous.
Today is going to be a written reflection on “work.”
1. What kind of work do you do?
2. How might someone not consider it work?
3. If you didn’t have to worry about money, what kind of work would you do?
4. Besides money, what keeps you from doing that work?
I can’t help but think when this was written people had a much smaller understanding of the world than we do today. They were aware of Africa, Asia and Europe but we also have Australia and North and South America where war, insurrection, famine and plague are constantly occuring. While we immediately know about typhoons and other natural disasters thousands of miles away from us, they never would hear about it. The point simply being these “signs” of the end are facts of life. That brings me back to verse 8: “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.” But the passage also encourages us not to look at outward things (the beautiful temple) to things that last since by “your endurance you will gain your souls.”
Today’s project requires having masking fluid handy or you can use small strips of masking or painting tape. If you’re using the masking fluid, paint verse 19 in the fluid and let it dry. If you’re using tape, then make squared letters for “SOUL.” Using markers or a wet medium, write over the mask all of the things you see in the world that frighten you in various colors. Add in things about faith you don’t know how to explain. Write on top of previous writing so create what will become a colorful background. Then remove the mask. If you used tape, write the first part of the verse in the letters you taped off.