Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the Word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the Word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus Who delivers us from the wrath to come.
In our Lutheran tradition we always begin our sermons the same way as the apostles began their epistles. Here Paul simply says, “Grace to you and peace” In Romans and other places the greeting is,” Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This comes from Jesus Himself when He said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” You see, it is “the peace which passes all understanding.” It belongs to you, regardless of any situation you find yourself in.
On the other hand the world’s peace depends on everything being in proper order. If you have good health, if you have good friends, if you have money enough to meet all your needs, and if you feel good about yourself, then you have the world’s peace. But even with their peace, comes the nagging question, “How long can this last? What if something goes wrong?”
But God’s peace depends only on Him and our relationship to Him. Paul asks the question and answers it: “31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
And that is what you and I also have namely “the peace which passes all understanding”. Come what may, God is for us, God is with us! “Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge and consent.” And you are of more worth than they are! So peace and grace be unto you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers…” Paul was thankful for the way they displayed their Christian faith. It was not just words. It wasn’t just attending worship and reciting prayers and singing hymns. No, it was the Holy Spirit working through them and producing Good Works which became known in other parts of the world. Paul was thankful for them and when he prayed he recalled them and their good deeds with gratitude.
You and I are also thankful for those who have been partners with us in our Christian faith. And we thank God for them as we recall what they meant to us, or what they mean to us. We here in this church, unless we are under 25 years old, we have not spent our entire lives here. We have come from other congregations, other church families and we have fond memories of some of those fellow pilgrims.
Pastors, Sunday school teachers, fellow members, who smiled and greeted us when we came to church. Some of them visited us in our homes. We were “family” to each other. We shared a common bond and that was love of Christ, love of our church, love of each other.
Remember Bing Crosby’s song? “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep I count my blessings instead of sheep.” Well how about this- Christians (sheep!) are blessings to each other! It works for me. I often recall those people who were so meaningful to my Christian walk and I thank God for each of them by name. I picture their faces.
Think about it…there were some great people who shared Christ’s love with you. Parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, spouse friends, fellow church members, pastors, teachers, yes even fellow workers. When these people come to mind our hearts warm, sometimes even tears come to our eyes. Oh how we wish we could see them again! But of course, some of them are here in this congregation as well.
Good news! You will see them again! When their time came, a holy angel tapped them on the shoulder and said, “Come for all things are now ready” and seconds later Jesus greeted them by saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” That same thing will happen to you! Swing low, sweet chariot. Coming for to carry me home. Swing low, sweet chariot. Coming for to carry me home. That spiritual hymn may not be exactly true — maybe no chariot, but an angel carrying us home! Something will bring us home where there will be fullness of Joy.
Our text says also this: “For not only has the Word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven…” That is how they responded to God’s love; now it is our turn to do the same as we wait either for the trumpet to sound or our coming home to be with Jesus.
But! there is work to be done! Fences to mend? Letters to write, calls to make? Apologies? Admonitions? Letting someone know how you really love them, appreciated them? Encouraging someone who is hurting? Sharing the Gospel with someone who has forgotten it? Whatever it is — the Holy Spirit will lead you. Listen to Him. Indeed, follow His leading. Amen!
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