1 Thessalonians ch 2
You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.
We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, not did we put on a mask to cover up greed – God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead we were like young children among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: you suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul did, again and again – but satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy.
Rev. Robert MacLeod’s message slightly adapted for the website….
We who form the church in the 21st century church are living in some of its most significant years. The church is not what it was – it therefore is in many respects in rural communities fighting for its survival.
That said, we need to remind ourselves of why we exist, what ought to characterise us and what remains our great mandate.
The struggles we face can lull us into apathy, cynicism and even despair.
From the reading in Thessalonians – what marked such churches – congregations that made them ‘turn the world upside down’? What can we learn this morning that we might seek to apply to our ministry here in our parish in the coming year?
1 Biblical in content (v1 tell you…his gospel)
We said here last Sunday that because God is from everlasting to everlasting, the implications are that He does not change, His word, His promises, His objective for our lives. The Faith or the way of salvation is through Christ alone.
We should embrace the word of God as the power of God. Don’t be afraid of opposition. We must tell His gospel. Remind ourselves of the good news by reading the Bible.
The message that Paul preached was full, free and final.
This is our community’s great need. The Bible will still address our greatest needs.
2 Proclaim the message with authority or conviction.
The faith remains the same but we must in the same manner as of old through different media and means communicate a message. The bible says how will they hear unless someone tells – Thus that telling must be unashamed, unapologetic, with unction and passion. Paul speaks as one approved by God.
Paul would say to Timothy – Preach the word….
Billy Graham – repeated phrase ‘the bible says’…
3 Authentic in nature (verse 5)
Verses 5-6 emphasises the character of the messenger. Their reputation went before them.
The genuine nature of the man shines through! No flattery, Look at me, abuse of privileged position, exploit rights. This is remarkable as we consider who he was in the context – red carpet visitor.
Authenticity occurs when real people say real things about real issues with real feelings. There are no hidden agendas. Don’t go around quoting Bible verses but be real. Be gentle.
Authenticity is lived and when lived it impacts. Speak the truth, share truth, admit failure, show vulnerability when appropriate and it will connect.
When we are like this we shall have no problem convincing people that the church has a place within the community. That it is important for the community’s spiritual wellbeing – not some institution existing for the proverbial “Hatching Matchings and Dispatching.”
But when Paul was talking to the Thessalonians he was talking to a body of people, not an institution. They met in houses, not a grand building.
That is our wonderful challenge. How can we BE the church, not just be attenders at a service in a church?
4 Gracious in attitude
“Children” – essence: simple, uncluttered, vulnerable…
“Mother” essence: always there, loving, embrace, pick us up…
“Father” essence: lead, discipline, guide…
We need to embrace this reality. Church is not about power, nor superiority but about people.
It’s a family – no family is perfect and so it’s a process of living, learning and sharing.
No family is perfect. How do we deal with these – with people. Grace will always be gracious – after all our Lord’s concern is ultimately to wipe away every tear.
The church needs to rediscover these attitudes in its ranks – that’s you and me!
The church as an institution is rejected for “knowing all the answers”
How many prodigals are outside because of the unlovely characters of those who profess to be on the inside?
5 Relevant in approach
Vs 12-13 – relevance in action – they connected and the people responded by becoming imitators of them.
Read this recently:
Far more than our cool lights, awesome bands and fantastic children’s ministry, people want to see if we believe.
In the ’80s you could fill a church with great preaching, in the ’90s you could do the same with amazing worship. Today, in a world that is confused, people are searching for what matters and want to find someone who cares. When genuine faith is backed by love, it provides hope. That inspires people, it helps them believe. They want to be part of that.
Deep down they know they don’t have the answers, but will no longer settle for a polished theological treatise covered in biblical brilliance. They want to know if we believe what we say enough to truly live it. They want to see faith in action.
That is our wonderful challenge going into 2022.
Accepting changing times I
Accepting need for review and at times renewal of ways we approach ministry
Accepting of the challenge to finds means of communicating an unchanging message to a changed time!
And this is for all of us, not just those at the front!