Encourage One Another - Thessalonians 5:1-11
“Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
When Ann was in early high school, Ms Jones invited her to be the secretary of a school club. Ann eagerly accepted, feeling honored to be asked. She missed the first meeting, however, when she didn’t have a ride. The next day Ms Jones took Ann to task, saying that no ride was no excuse— she needed to ask if she needed help! Even though Ann was an underclassman, Ms Jones held her to higher responsibility—and Ann rose to it. Ms Jones encouraged Ann through giving her an opportunity and teaching her to be accountable, and Ann says it made her who she is today.
Indira learned something new about her mother, Kantha, who passed away this week.
Among the mourners who came to pay their respects were a number of Lutheran pastors.
As a Christian in the religiously diverse country of India, Kantha long had built relationships with an number of churches and supported them financially. Indira herself was expected to give gifts to Lutheran pastors when she came home from college. What Indira learned is that her mother supported 25 Lutheran churches until her final days. Kantha encouraged fellow Christians in her area through her generosity.
Another member I spoke to this week has been attending 12 Step meetings for years.
Part of the 12 Step process is to share your story, both as a means of keeping your own walk honest, and also as a way to encourage others to work the program.
Often an unexpected person will thank you, sometimes weeks later, for sharing your story.
It’s an example of how simply speaking from the heart with compassion and humility
can powerfully touch someone else and encourage them to keep on keeping on.
That’s what today’s letter from Paul to the Thessalonians is all about:
encouraging people to keep on keeping on and to stick to the faith.
Thessalonians is the earliest letter we have from Paul, written perhaps 15 or 20 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. One of the central teachings of Jesus and his apostles was that Jesus would return again to bring all believers with him into the kingdom of heaven.
The early Christians thought Jesus would return in their lifetimes, but now almost a generation had past and believers were starting to die.
In the section preceding our reading for today, Paul takes the opportunity to reassure the Thessalonians that those who die before Jesus returns will also be brought into the kingdom along with the living. He continues in our passage by reminding them that the timing of Jesus’ return is unknown, like the thief who strikes at night or labor that comes on suddenly.
But it wasn’t enough for Paul simply to remind the Thessalonians of Jesus’ promise to return. Given the length of the delay, people were starting to get restless. Was Jesus coming back? Would this time of waiting ever end? A kind of hopelessness set in. People were thinking: Maybe all that we have been working toward really doesn’t matter.
So Paul reminds them of who they are: children of light and children of the day.
Daytime people stay awake, alert, on their game. They don’t distract themselves with gluttony They don’t let listlessness creep in, but stick to the disciplines that promote faith, hope, and love. It’s like putting on armor every day—
But notice, it’s not offensive gear, no swords or weaponry here—
It’s all defensive—breastplate and helmet.
Putting on faith, hope and love every day wards off malaise and despair.
He concludes with the injunction: “Encourage one another and build up each other.”
Encouragement is important in all times of life, but it is essential in the waiting times, in times that test your patience and fortitude. That’s the kind of times we are in, too.
Even if you are still employed and able to pay your bills Even if your family is healthy, It is easy to get weary. We have all suffered the loss of routine, community, and mobility—and many people so much more.
It has been eight months since the beginning of the pandemic and our collective resolve is beginning to wear thin. We ask with the Thessalonians, When will this time of waiting come to an end? How do we sustain hope for the long haul?
I find Paul’s words to be just what I need:
Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
I love these words because they do not ask us to do more.
Instead they remind us to look for what is already happening – the hope and encouragement among us. One way we see that hope is through the impact stories we are hearing this month from members. You can read all of them on website under the Sermons tab. These short testimonies remind us that God continues to show up in our lives and the world today. They encourage us to keep on keeping on with the disciplines that give us faith, hope and love. They encourage us to show up every day to life knowing we are covered with defensive gear And empowered by the Spirit of Jesus himself.
And armed with faith, hope and love, we can encourage one another With a word, a listening ear, an act of kindness. We can share a song like the hospitals that are playing the Beatles’ Hear Comes the Sun when a covid patient is discharged. We can send a card like our confirmation class did to homebound folks for All Saints’ Day.
Jesus didn’t come when the Thessalonians expected—in fact, we still await his final return.
But he does show up in the lives of believers, in our actions and presence.
Together we can encourage one another to keep on keeping on.
Together we can to stick with our St Matthew mission:
To dig deep, reach out, and change lives in Christ’s name
And trust that God is faithful.
Pastor Julie - 11/15/20