December 13, 2020
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Our second scripture reading from 1 Thessalonians will sound very familiar. Listen as God keeps speaking to you today.
READ 1Thessalonians 5:16-24
For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. What I enjoyed so much about having a piece of this scripture passage as a part of our worship for a whole liturgical year is that in this year of chaos… this year when people keep allowing their worst tendencies and characteristics to stay up front and center… these words paint for us a simple but powerful picture of what it is to have God at the center of your life. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances. Three… I don’t want to call them actions… inclinations, maybe… foci… a threefold cord that not only orients you toward God’s revelation in Jesus Christ… but opens you up to transformation by your being more susceptible to encountering the living Spirit at work in you… through you… around you.
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances. With these three God centering pathways… 2020 gets put into right perspective. I mean, you look at the poisonous over-politization of everything this year… those messages rely upon your dissatisfaction… your anger… your sense of victimhood and powerlessness to find the hooks needed to attach to your heart. What does a constant sense of gratitude do to the grumble of dissatisfaction? How would rejoicing blunt the anger you are carrying around with you? The true power of prayer is not gaining influence and control over God… the true power of prayer is not getting what you want whether it is something material or having the edge over and against those with whom you are competing… to pray without ceasing is to decenter yourself… is to put yourself into a position of silence and listening… is to open yourself completely… to submit to God and God’s ways.
Over the last two Sundays the prophets have been speaking to us whether you could hear it over the Livestream or not… the prophets have been speaking and their message is clear and consistent and relevant for God’s people in their time… is fulfilled through Christ in his time and our time… will shape and provide the foundation for the day to come when Christ returns. Redemption. The way of redemption means caring for those in need, building up our social systems for the benefit of all… primarily the weakest of those around us because the strong do not have that same need. Redemption means remembering that all carry the image of God… and that turning away from our neighbor is tantamount to turning away from God. As Paul writes to this small congregation in Thessalonica… that basic message doesn’t change. I know we tend to embrace more quickly the messages that we can use to judge another… but Paul’s words are meant for the building up of the body of Christ… of strengthening it and leading it towards sanctification… spirit, soul, and body. Holding fast to what is good. Always seeking to do good to one another and to all. Not repaying evil for evil. These are all simple reminders Paul gives to the Thessalonians. In this way we are refreshed in the Spirit.
Today the music celebrates the birth of the coming Christ child. As all our regular traditions are interrupted this year… as our focus gets a bit sharper because of the pain and heartache that surrounds us… I pray we will all have that reminder of what we are still celebrating… of what actually came into the world… and how we continue our celebration through our everyday acts of hope, peace, and joy. Amen.