24 November 20141 Thessalonians 1:1-10
“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 labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (vv. 2-3)
Psalm: Psalm 65
Do you remember anything from 1994? 1 Thessalonians is widely regarded as the earliest extant Christian text, probably written by Paul from Corinth less than twenty years after the death of Jesus. So, today's reader becomes very closely connected with those early believers and might even capture their sparkle of excitement and risk. It is interesting that the first Christian document is a letter (the first of many) suggesting, perhaps, that Christian faith is passed on rather than taught, something to be shared with friends in the same way as many may even now be preparing to share family news in the annual Christmas letter! As for Paul thinking about his beloved Thessalonians, a letter, or an email or a text message, offers a kind of presence in a situation of physical absence.
Paul was writing to a congregation in ancient Thessalonica, founded in 316BC on the site of an older city. Its position on the Via Egnatia gave it great commercial and strategic significance. In Paul's time it was the capital of Macedonia, and today it remains the second largest city in Greece. Paul had spent at least three weeks there on his travels (Acts 17:1-13), a visit marked, as so often, by controversy and sudden flight! The letter was an important follow-up communication to encourage and exhort these young-in-the-faith Christians. Paul has a gospel to proclaim!
Faith, love and hope (verse 2) are often found together in Paul's writing - there is a suggestion here that they are not merely Christian virtues, but rather the 'badges of belonging' to this new, radical, exciting movement. Throughout the letter, Paul was helping these believers to see that they were emerging into a new community, a "chosen" people (even a sort of 'in-crowd'?) (verse 4) to whom God has been made known (verse 5), who have suffered together (verse 6) and become an example to others (verses 7-9). Together, this group is waiting for the reign of Christ (verse 10) which identifies the people of Christ.
- How prominently do you wear the Christian 'badges of belonging' of faith, love and hope?
- In what ways might it be helpful - or unhelpful - to think of the Christian community as an 'in-crowd'?
- Use Psalm 65, with its imagery of God presiding over a court, to reflect on the 'Reign of Christ' and what that might mean to you today.