As we prepare to celebrate our founding as a county and look back at documents like the Declaration of Independence, I thought it might be exciting to look at the first document we have from the early church. Before the gospels were written, Paul wrote letters to the churches he had started and used the letters to encourage them in their faith journey. The first of these letters we believe was the letter to the church at Thessalonica or the letter we know as I Thessalonians.
About 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul starts on his 2nd missionary journey from Antioch in modern day Lebanon. He travels across Turkey and then crosses the Aegean sea to southern Macedonia. First to Philippi and then to Thessalonica. Acts Chapter 17 has the adventure of Paul and Silas on this journey. They enter the synagogue as was their custom and he explains how Jesus was the Messiah. Several believed and Paul began to organize them into a house church. The elders of the synagogue attacked the people who were helping Paul and in prisoned them. When released they helped get Paul and Silas out of town.
Later in Corinth Paul hears word that the church in Thessalonica is alive and doing well. He sends Timothy to check out the situation and encourage the church. When he hears Timothy’s report he is moved to write the letter we now have as an encouragement to new Christians who are facing strong challenges to their faith. It is a warm letter of encouragement that reminds all of us that to do anything that makes a difference we will meet opposition. The question is always, “Do we give up when the going gets hard? Or do we Persevere in faith with the strength of the Holy Spirit?”
Those early patriots faced challenges, John Wesley had people show up at his preaching events to harass and shout him down, the early Methodist Circuit Riders faced challenges spreading the gospel on the frontier. Today we face different challenges but they are still Challenges and the question remains, “When the going gets hard are we going to persevere or give up? Paul in the letter to the church at Thessalonica writes a letter that could be addressed to us today. It is a warm letter of encouragement to be a people of the light of God’s love and an encouragement to continue sharing that love with others to bring more light into a world that needs love and light.
Join me Sunday as we share in celebrating the light of freedom, the light of God’s love and the sacrament of Holy Communion.