1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Common English Bible (CEB)
From Paul, Sil·vā’·nus, and Timothy.
To the Thessalonians’ church that is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace to all of you.
Thanksgiving to God
2 We always thank God for all of you when we mention you constantly in our prayers. 3 This is because we remember your work that comes from faith, your effort that comes from love, and your perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father. 4 Brothers and sisters, you are loved by God, and we know that he has chosen you. 5 We know this because our good news didn’t come to you just in speech but also with power and the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know as well as we do what kind of people we were when we were with you, which was for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord when you accepted the message that came from the Holy Spirit with joy in spite of great suffering. 7 As a result you became an example to all the believers in Mac·e·dō’·ni·a and A·chā’·ia. 8 The message about the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place. The news about your faithfulness to God has spread so that we don’t even need to mention it. 9 People tell us about what sort of welcome we had from you and how you turned to God from idols. As a result, you are serving the living and true God, 10 and you are waiting for his Son from heaven. His Son is Jesus, who is the one he raised from the dead and who is the one who will rescue us from the coming wrath.
If you ask a random person on the street about Community Federated Church what would they say? It is a question reminiscent of Jesus, who asked, “Who do people say I am?” I am frequently asked where I serve. I tell them “Community Federated Church.” Sometimes with a puzzled look, they say, “Where is that?” I say, “It is the church with the “Open Sunday” sign. The light dawns immediately! It is a great identifier. On a more serious note, if you asked random people on the street where they would suggest going to church, where would they say? What are we known for and how will people know us?
They know us by the amazing people who give their lives to God and service through this church! On this Laity Sunday I thought I’d ask you why you do what you do.
Why do people give their time to the Food Pantry?
Why do persons volunteer in Meals on Wheels? People For People?
Why do people offer themselves to Circle J Camp and Retreat Center in Ten Sleep Canyon?
Why do our youth leaders do what they do?
Why all the effort put into Celebration of the Cheches?
Why did PTL come about, and why do leaders give their time to it?
Why do our musicians give so much time to rehearsals and worship? Why do we attract such talented musicians?
What is the passion that fuels our ministries, great and small?
The “news of our faithfulness” is our greatest witness in the community, and our greatest service to our Lord and Savior.
Paul begins with the identity of the people he is writing to. In verse 1 he addresses the Thessalonians as the “…church that is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. As I read the numerous responses to last week’s question, people mentioned a passion for loving God. They identified the joy of hearing and learning the Word of God. Some spoke of the music that ministers to heart and soul. They identified us as a faith-based church. Paul put it this way: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord when you accepted the message that came from the Holy Spirit with joy in spite of great suffering. 7 As a result you became an example to all the believers in Mac·e·dō’·ni·a and A·chā’·ia. 8 The message about the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place.” [vv. 6-8a]. Isn’t that an amazing image? “The Message about the Lord rang out from you … in every place!” It is like it can’t help but be seen. Your joy and your service stand as a testament to our Lord.
We are a church grounded in belief and love and action, serving the living God. We are grounded in the hope of Jesus Christ (vs. 10).
Did you know there was a “table of contents” of sorts for 1 Thessalonians? One of Paul’s trademarks is to include in the greeting, thanksgiving and prayer in a letter the major points he wants to address with the letter. In this case, it is verse 3. “This is because we remember your work that comes from faith, your effort that comes from love, and your perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father.” Notice the “big three:” Faith-Hope-Love only this time Paul changes the order. Each is introduced or governed by another term.
“…work that comes from faith.” You mentioned things like action, spreading God’s light. One person shared their enjoyment at being a small part of bringing about God’s will and purpose in the world and his kingdom. In a couple of different responses, our choir members spoke of delivering the Gospel message in song. It is clear from your responses that your work comes out of your faith – is a direct result of that faith.
The News about our faithfulness is easily seen in the reputation we have here at Community Federated Church for our music program. We have been the hub of musical activity in the community for years. I believe that is because of the depth of influence that music has in our congregation. One person mentioned as transition in their life from appreciating the music to being called by God to participate in that music. “When I wasn’t involved in the music program but rather sitting as a parishioner and listening the music was so beautiful, powerful, and meaningful. I wanted to be a part of that for years. God kept calling me and finally I developed the courage to do so. Relying on ‘making a joyful noise’ is indeed pleasing to the Lord because a natural musician I am not!”
The next heading in Paul’s Table of Contents is “… your effort that comes from love.” The volunteers in this congregation are so willing to help out. I don’t get, “Well, I guess I could do that.” Instead, I get, “Sure, I can do that.” I never get the idea that people respond our of compulsion, but out of love. Not only do they say, “Sure, I can do that,” but they engage with the task and find so many ways to make it even better. It is in the very fiber of who we are. This letter of Paul is part of the “pastoral letters”. Do you hear the warmth of Paul thanking God for these people? “We always thank God for all of you when we mention you constantly in our prayers.” [Verse 2] This letter is rife with familial imagery – that is the imagery of love and a loving family. In the responses I received people mentioned feeling at home as they walked through the door. Several times it was identified as being comfortable, pointing to the friendliness of a loving church family. It was said that the congregation will support you no matter what. The Community Hall was lifted up as a place for the community to come together in fellowship. It is this “like -minded” group that invites others just by being themselves. Our efforts are fueled by our passionate love for God and our love for each other. But beyond the internal love, is our love for those outside the church who need our love in their lives. Ministries like the Food Pantry, reaching out to those in our community who are food insecure. The wonderful work of Circle J in reaching out to youth and adults with programs to bring people closer to Jesus is a testament to our love for others. Helping out is a theme that speaks directly to this. It was celebrated in one response the power of working together with the Episcopal Church on Vacation Bible School, and the impact that had on learning. One person mentioned the ongoing coordination between pastors and the church across the years. Efforts fueled by love.
The third part of the Table of Contents is “… perseverance that comes from our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ…” It has been 123 years since L.C. Thompson preached for the first time in Thermopolis. Next week, we are going to celebrate that history and legacy. Across the years it has taken a lot of perseverance to continue that legacy. One person shared a story about meeting in empty stores downtown while this beautiful building was being built. There is a character of adaptability over the long term that is a part of this congregation. The normal challenges of changing culture and shifting priorities present their unique needs. But then there is 2020! The Food Pantry has had to adapt by creating a “drive through” food distribution during this pandemic. Speaking of music, one person shared ‘fills my heart and soul. “… my heart and soul are the spiritual part of me that touches everything in me and those around me.” Another shared that “the opportunity to hear and learn God’s Word … fills my heart with joy [and] heals soul” The healing power of serving God is truly amazing. Being a part of this congregation serves to “Magnify prayers for those in need.” These are stories of perseverance in hope.
I want to close with two images that were spoken so well in these responses. First, “As in the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, we know that God is always strong, and his belief in us never wavers. By attending and serving this church, I am keeping my share of the links as strong as I can, with God’s help.”
Second, Serving has always been like a flower garden. The tiny seeds you plant grown into small and big blossoms, full of fragrance.
Our witness “Rings Out “ to our community and world through the power of each of you. God is calling. Is he calling in new ways? Is He calling for reinforcements? Are we listening? Will we answer?
We are a church of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God! Amen!
Here is a complete list of the responses I received. My thanks to all who took the time to put their thoughts and feelings to paper.
“Write down in a sentence or two why serving God through this church is/has been important to you.” To the Choir, I also asked, “Would you be willing to jot down a sentence or two describing why ministering through the music program is important to you.”
Music is a very important part of the church ministry. Singing in the choir is important to me because there is a message in every song we sing, and I like taking part in delivering that message to the congregation.
Music is a part of me – it is in my bones, my skin, my teeth, my toes – everything! But it is mostly in my heart and soul … and my heart and soul are the spiritual part of me that touches everything in me and those around me.
When I wasn’t involved in the music program but rather sitting as a parishioner and listening, the music was so beautiful, powerful, and meaningful. I wanted to be a part of that for years. God kept calling me and finally I developed the courage to do so. Relying on ‘making a joyful noise’ is indeed pleasing to the Lord because a natural musician I am not!
I have had an interest in music for over 50 years. It is so enjoyable to participate with the choir and enhance our services. Several people including the late Bob Brown have expressed how much they enjoy the music. Church doesn’t seem like church without “special” music.
I enjoy the fellowship with the director and the rest of the choir. I like doing my part to spread the gospel through the music.
Opportunity to hear/learn God’s word. Fills my heart with joy. Heals my soul. Gives me a loving church family. Opportunity to serve.
We enjoy being a small part in bringing about God’s will and purpose in the world and his kingdom.
I am very inept with words, so I have always relied on actions speaking louder than words. Action is my way of spreading God’s light.
I started attending this church before I started school. In high school we attended in empty stores downtown while our present building was being built. I’ve served on the board, on committees, taught Sunday School, was an usher for many years. I was married here, my babies blessed here, and the girls married here. For our 100 year celebration, another member and I cleaned and polished the pews. Sorry I couldn’t put this in a sentence or two. This church is too big of a part of my life to cut it that short.
I feel that I have ministered through music, providing meals, and through the food pantry. Our Community Hall has been a ministry to the whole town as a place to come together in fellowship.
Having been baptized in this church – as a youngster- I feel at home when I come thru the door – As I lose more and more of fellow members I need to get close to God – Jesus as I can. And I am so comfortable here and soak up all the friendliness and the blessing of great preacher’s sermons – so gratifying.
It has taught me to co-ordinate w/ different pastors. Most of all, I have grown in my faith w/ a passion for loving God. Communion has taken on a new meaning. I am listening more to the Holy Spirit. And what a joy is had been ministering/sharing in the children and music ministry. My Jesus, I Love Thee.
Being a part of the choir on & off for the past 45 years has been an enriching experience, as well as participating in Bible studies and helping with soup & bread program.
Because the way this church family supports each other no matter what. Because of this I love to share.
Magnify love when in a church group. Magnify praying for those in need. When had Bible School, many children throughout community attended. We often combined with Episcopal church. Hope can do again. Learning songs, crafts, Bible verses taught, & treats. Made feel so good to help out.
I like being with like minded people is why I like to go to church.
As in the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, we know that God is always strong and his belief in us never wavers. By attending and serving this church, I am keeping my share of the links as strong as I can, with God’s help.
It is very comforting and spiritually rewarding, serving God in whatever capacity needed in this wonderful faith-based church. Member of Advisory & Personnel, Pastor Search committee, Building & Grounds, Choir, Bells, and Lay Reader. I am truly blessed.
Serving for me has always been like a flower garden. The tiny seeds you plant grow into small and big blossoms, full of fragrance.
Pastor Paul Grossman