Sermon for Nov 20

By on November 20, 2016

Final Words

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on November 20, 2016

1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

NIV 1 Thessalonians 5:12 ¶ Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.

23 ¶ May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

25 ¶ Brothers, pray for us.

26 ¶ Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

27 ¶ I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

28 ¶ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

 

Introduce / Establish Need

 

There are times when we want or need to hear final words.  Graduates hear final words at commencement speeches where they are challenged to put their education and life to a useful purpose.  Each week I attend a staff meeting with the commander and after everyone else has briefed, she offers her final words.  A eulogy is a final word of celebration for a life.  And as we come to the end of a biblical letter, Paul makes sure he has the final word.  Final words are meant to be lasting in our lives, the ideas that we remember, inspire, and motivate us.

 

As you hear today’s scripture text in light of what is going on in our country and in even in the church, Paul’s words have timely meaning for us.  Let’s let God’s word sink in and explore its applicability for us.

 

Into the Biblical World

 

First and foremost, we must remember that Paul was speaking to a church community.  He is charging them with the ability to get along with one another and to exhibit behaviors in keeping with the family of God.  And yet, as we hear these words, they speak truth into our national family, too.

 

Paul begins by saying there are 3 types of people in the fellowship who are to be respected and held in highest regard in love because of the work they do for the church.  These are people who work hard, who have leadership roles, and those who can exercise discipline.  That sounds like common sense to me, but we have this need to be reminded.

 

And so Paul says to live in peace with one another.  John Wesley would call this a catholic spirit, meaning that we are united together in Christ and we adopt the idea that in essentials unity and nonessentials, charity.  How do we do that?

 

Paul might say, glad you asked.  One cannot be idle in the Lord, so contribute in a meaningful way.  There are those who need encouragement, so do so in a good way.  And sometimes we need to add in some patience.  Marjory reminds me of that from time to time.

 

Paul invokes his version of the Golden Rule: make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and everyone else.  Can you imagine what our communities and country would look like if this was our go to behavior?

 

And what if our lives and our churches lived the life of joy, always giving thanks, and praying continually?  Add on to this an active belief that God guides us with his Holy Spirit and the faithful interpretation of the scriptures.  I know we would experience the peace that passes all understanding.  We would find true contentment in Christ.  And I believe we would understand better the proclamation of Jesus that the kingdom of God is at hand.

 

I often talk about Wesley and his general rules for Methodists.  If you don’t know them, here is a scripture reference that gives two of them.  Wesley said to avoid evil of every kind and to do all the good we can, which is what Paul says in verses 21 and 22.  The third rule is to attend to the ordinances of God which is the practice of worshipping God and following as a disciple of Jesus.

 

After all of this instruction, Paul offers a prayer that God would do this work of sanctification in our lives.  We talked about this 3 weeks ago, that sanctification is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus in the way that we live, so that we are striving to do the very things that Paul has said in this passage.

 

Finally, Paul asks for prayer.  I’m privileged as a pastor and as a friend when people to ask me to pray for them.  And likewise, it is a blessing to know that people are praying for me.  We ask for prayer because we know that we are in need of God’s grace in our lives.

 

Greet each other warmly.  The scripture says a holy kiss.  Our culture is different, in fact, the living bible says a holy handshake.  Henri would tell us to greet each other with a holy hug.  Or maybe it is a holy wave and smile.  The point is to treat each other as family.

 

Paul charges that this letter be read to all of the church.  In your hearing today, we have read the entire letter and preached though it.  God’s word is not for the few or to leave us uninformed.

 

The final word is for God’s grace to be with us all.  And that sums it up.

 

Into Our Experience

 

Here is what I want us to consider from Paul’s conclusion to his letter.  We have an obligation to one another to live in harmony with each other in the church.  That sounds so simple, yet life happens.  And Paul addressed more than one congregation with these words of encouragement.  I’m glad to report that we live in harmony here.  And when the body of Christ is living in harmony, we can proclaim the kingdom of God into our community.

(Recap Thanksgiving service as a direct application … fellowship, hard work, mission outreach)

 

And so these principles apply to our community as well.  The problem is that others may not hold on to these values, but that should not stop us from living lives of love, peace, respect, and goodwill to one another.  In doing so, we are proclaiming the kingdom of God.  Especially now.

 

And not only do we have an obligation to live in harmony with each other, we are to live in harmony with God.  Let us not quench the power of the Spirit in our lives; instead let us live with confidence in the grace of God.  We do this by yielding our lives to God’s control and his will.  As a response to this word, let us sing Take my life and let it be.

 

 

 

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