Saturday, September 13, 2008
Epistles to the Apostle-- What Did they Look Like?
Sometime ago, my fellow Methodist Colin Morris from the U.K. wrote a wonderful little humorous book entitled Epistles to the Apostle, now long out of print, imagining what the letters written to Paul would have looked like, The following is a sample that could have prompted 1 Thessalonians.
My dear Paul,
The followers of Jesus in this city are in receipt of your letter, which was read out in church a month ago and which appears to confirm a widely held view here that our Lord will be returning in glory at any moment to take believers such as my humble self back with him to heaven. Being a hard-headed businessman I took your words with utmost seriousness. To prepare myself and my family for the Day of the Lord, I sold my business at a knock-down price and gave the proceeds to the poor—and that, let me add, was a tidy sum, but I assume I won’t need cash in heaven! So here I am with my bags packed, my property disposed of and myself, my wife, and my children taking it in shifts to scan the skies for something unusual to appear. In fact, every time I hear a trumpet, I nearly jump out of my skin! And what has happened? Nothing.
I can’t help feeling that I’ve been made to look an utter fool in the eyes of my friends and business acquaintances. They all think I’ve gone stark, raving mad. Meanwhile, the man who bought my business, far from suffering the catastrophe reserved for the wicked, is making a handsome profit and living in my house, which is one of the finest in the city . . . .
Would you kindly tell me what I do next? The tax people are pestering me for last year’s assessment, and I haven’t a lead shekel to pay them with. Being a man of God you are probably unaware that disposing of one’s assets in the interests of a religion which is not recognized by the state does not qualify one for retrospective tax exemption. So, I’m in a pretty pickle, let me tell you! I feel most strongly that the financial implications of the Second Coming should have been given more serious consideration by the apostles . . .
I am in a most embarrassing situation, what with a nagging wife and three children who have gotten completely out of hand because they prefer earthly pranks to what they imagine will be heavenly boredom . . . it is one thing to suffer for the faith; quite another to be made to look ridiculous. However I do not intend to move from this spot until Jesus comes to collect me. Meanwhile it would be quite dishonest of me not to express grave concern at the most unbusinesslike way in which this whole matter is being dealt with. I await an eager reply, other wise I shall be forced to turn the whole matter over to my lawyers.
[There followed a letter from Paphlos’ lawyer telling Paul he had exactly thirty days to make good on his promise of heaven or face litigation in Thessalonike!]