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We who are alive will be caught up with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air

by davesandel on August 30th, 2021

Monday, August 30, 2021 (today’s lectionary)

We who are alive will be caught up with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.

Living in Waynesville, all those 30 plus years ago, was only possible because of Earl and Marlene Fields, who welcomed us with open arms to the community where they had lived all their lives. They helped us find a house, they introduced to their friends, and they made the church we attended a second home for us. From the moment we met, they just assumed we were coming to Waynesville. We seemed to be a match made in heaven, and I think we were.

Earl had Parkinson’s disease, which worsened during our three year stay in their small town. When we left the church had a going-away party, and Earl gave me a gift.

The Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven.

As is the case with all those who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, Earl’s hands shook. That didn’t really stop him from doing much, though. Like woodburning. He made me a plaque for my wall, which I know I’ve written about before in these devotions. I had been a balloonist, and he drew a balloon with the wood burner, and then etched 1 Thessalonians 4:17 below it. At the time I had to look it up, although now I have it solidly in my head.

The dead in Christ will rise first, and then we who are alive, we who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Console one another with these words.

A few years ago Earl passed away, no more suffering, no more sadness, no more pain. He is one of those “dead in Christ” who will rise first.

My friends Jim and Elaine and I saw balloons inflate and rise into the air in Lincoln on Saturday, part of the annual Balloons Over Route 66. I parked and walked through landscaped athletic fields at Lincoln Christian University and caught up with a couple of them, awestruck as always by the sheer size and power of these birds of appetite. When the pilot pulls the lever to burn propane through a burner ten times more powerful than a home furnace, everyone looks up. And then, pure silence. The red and yellow, orange and blue, green and blue, black and white, all those amazing Dacron fabrics float over us, so silently, rising up into the evening sky.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice.

Now twenty-four hours later I’m treading water in a warm Texas swimming pool behind the Hillsboro Days Inn. I’m the only swimmer. I talked to a couple of dusty guys in cowboy hats, drinking beer in their pickup. They asked if the water was warm.

“Yes!” I said. But they didn’t believe me. “You must be from the north,” they said. “Well, yeah.” But they must have been committed to drinking a few more beers before they went inside. No pool.

All day driving, the sun poured through the windshield. The air was scorching hot but quiet in Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas. Just a couple hundred miles east Hurricane Ida has been ripping apart the shores of Louisiana. Not for the first time I’m struck by the power of God’s omnipresence. I’m bound to one place but God is not. I saw seven electric dolly trucks parked in front of a Super 8 a few hours ago. I’m pretty sure they are headed for New Orleans, getting a jump on the catastrophe unfolding there. I’ll bet at least some of those guys know the verses in 1 Thessalonians 4, and are joining God in the rescue effort.

Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Console one another.

Resting in the swimming pool, alone beside a corn field at sunset, listening to two treefulls of grackles and crickets welcome all of us to evening, I thought how calm my day had been: listening to church services in the morning, listening to parts of several audio books, talking to my friend Ken as I crossed into Arkansas until the cell service failed us, trying to eat a piece of fried chicken while I was driving, finding a shady spot at a Taco Bell to take a 30 minute nap, trusting my car and it being trustworthy. And now, sleep, sleep, dream, sleep.

Talking to Ken, I realized that it’s a good thing to catch all the green lights and find the perfect parking place, and to be grateful. What I need to do is add to that, and find ways to be thankful when the lights are red and I lock my keys in the car. My gratitude moves both of these experiences out of “doing”-ness into “becoming”-ness, so I can release judgment and move easily into the NEXT moment of my life.

If that’s as clear as mud to you, try reading Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton. As Merton says about Meister Eckhart’s words, I can also say about Merton’s: “As an expression of inexpressible insight into the very core of life, this is incomparable.”

Good stuff, going down the highway.

(1 Thessalonians 4, Psalm 96, Luke 4)

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