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Friday, October 16, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. (NRSV)
Work, labor, love, hope, power, conviction, joy, inspired: these are the terms Paul employs to describe the Thessalonian church—and we’re only to verse 6. Read over that list again.
This correspondence is thought to be the earliest composition in all the New Testament. If that’s right, it’s a powerful testament to the character of the church’s life from the very beginning, a life of active verbs and vivid nouns. Church was never about sitting quietly and staying out of trouble. These earliest Christian congregations embraced the gospel promise in a setting that was openly hostile to that commitment. Also, church politics is no modern invention; the first churches were as divided as any since. If they hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have half the New Testament, since most of the epistles address church conflict and disagreement.
These opening lines of Paul’s letter to this church suggest to me that neither external threat nor internal strife could tamp down the activity of the Spirit in the church’s midst.
Yet before the second chapter begins (of course, Paul didn’t include chapters and verses in his letters—these were all added by later translators), the tone of the verbs describing the church changes. Turning, serving, and waiting mark the life of faith as much as hoping and working. Turning in trust to God, from all the things we trust in that are not God; serving God by serving those in need; waiting for Jesus, and so for an end to all pain and suffering.
Nothing about the present moment is keeping us from being the church we have been called to be from the beginning.
Eternal God, remind us again of your calling—to follow you in the way of Jesus, in love and hope and conviction, serving our neighbors, and waiting expectantly for your resolution of all things. Empower us by your Spirit for that life in this day and every day. Amen.
Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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