Friday, March 27th

But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.  And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them.  See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.”  1 Thessalonians 5:12-22


Paul ends this first letter to the Thessalonians with the words of verses 26-27: “I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”  These words answer the question, “Why did Paul write letters and why did the early church preserve them?”  He wrote them as his strategy to continue to shape the faith of others even when he couldn’t be in two places at once.  He wrote them to encourage their growth in grace.


Christianity is a team sport.  When you read Paul’s exhortations regarding life in community, you get a vivid picture of what it takes to live together, work together and share a common purpose.  “Admonish, encourage, help, be patient, do good to one another – this is the way people who love one another and share a common mission treat one another.  This is how teams play.


But when the members of the team focus only on themselves, their statistics, their acclaim, their glory, their team suffers and even splinters apart.


When team members get along, play together, encourage one another, they develop an infectious spirit of fun.  They truly enjoy one another and have mutual respect for one another.  There is an attitude that flows through such teams.  Paul captures that attitude with the words, “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.”  Such an attitude results in the feeling that you just can’t lose.  Regardless of what happens along the way, the joy of the team is the victory.


But great teams need great coaches.  Someone needs to be there providing guidance and structure and boundaries and discipline.  The coach of the Christian faith is the Holy Spirit who comes to us through the word of God, using human voices to direct that Word where it needs to go.  “Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of the prophets, but test everything.”  Listen to your leaders but hold them accountable to God’s Word.


As we work our way through Paul’s letters, they continue to do among us what they did among their first readers.  They remind us that we are part of a faith movement that stretches back to the very beginning.  They remind us that we are on a team that is much bigger than our local gatherings.  And they bring us the comfort, encouragement and focus we need to play the game to the best of our God-given abilities.


Let us pray:  Dear God, thank you for coming to us through the words of your servant Paul.  Thank you for his leadership, his witness and his guidance.  As we live our lives, use our gifts, do what you have called us to do, we pray for your continued guidance and encouragement.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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