Growing in Faithfulness - 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
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 people 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 where 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.
I Thessalonians is the earliest letter of Paul we have. It gives us a first-hand account of how things happened in one of the first Christian communities. This fact gives the letter a kind of primacy in my mind.
Paul wrote the letter around the year 51, less than 20 years after the death of Jesus. It’s hard to understand how much that death shocked the followers of Jesus. Only a small group of them stayed together the night and day after Jesus died. Pentecost, as described in Acts 2, tells us what happened to them. The existence of I Thessalonians demonstrates it. Within 20 years, the little group expanded into a string of Christian communities spanning the 900 miles between Jerusalem and Thessalonika in Greece.
Evidently, the Spirit quickens the spreading of the Good News.
But it was Paul (with his companions) who traveled and whose voice told the story. What kind of collaboration developed between Paul and the Spirit? A crucial question because it’s our turn now, collectively and individually, to do the traveling and the telling.
The traveling part is simple these days. We open the door and we go out. That’s far enough. There’s plenty to do right there. Often it involves responding to needs: poverty, hunger, homelessness, illiteracy, loneliness. In other cases, it requires contributing to the public debate, advocating for the forgotten or despised or outcast, pointing out the need for legal or structural changes, or demanding such changes to correct inequities, prejudice or damage to our environment.
If I maintain an intimate connection with the spirit, I will be able to correct my course where I find myself projecting my own anger on the world. If we collectively foster our intimacy with the Spirit, we will not have to hesitate when people ask, “Where is all this activity coming from?”
Last Saturday some people from MoTA took Thanksgiving dinner to Our Mother’s House (for mothers engaged in prostitution). I wasn’t there, but I hear that one of the mothers asked, “Where did all of this come from? It must have been a Church.” If you are traveling these next few days be safe. Think of how you can take your thankfulness to others?