Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.
What would it be like to receive a letter that starts like this? Maybe you have read an opening paragraph that salutes you in similar terms, or perhaps you’re more used to one that begins brusquely and then goes downhill as the writer complains, accuses or even worse?
Paul is to continue with themes of God’s judgement, the need for endurance through suffering and accusations of idleness for at least some of his readers, but he begins by offering God’s grace and peace, and assures his readers that he thanks God for them, their faith, their mutual love and their steadfastness. This is no cheap attempt to sweeten a bitter pill, but rather an honest appreciation for these believers, encouraging them, that through their faith in Christ, they have the resources to cope with what life throws at them.
During this pandemic, it seems, from time to time, that people let their anxiety affect the way they address one another. The tone of messages can quickly become unjustly accusatory and hostile. The way Paul begins his letter can serve as an example for us all as we write; a reminder to give credit where it is due and to remember also to encourage those with whom we may have an issue. In this age of instant written communication it is easy to slip into focussing on negativity whilst forgetting to appreciate the other.
I was once advised by a wise priest to keep any little thank you notes or encouraging messages in a drawer and, when feeling down or unappreciated, to get them out and re-read them as a way of redressing the balance. We are often reminded to leave room for self care – maybe this is another method we should employ?
Loving God, We give thanks for all who remembered, composed, collected, edited, translated and printed our Scriptures; and all who have interpreted their words for us. We give thanks for all the “Daily Devotions” writers. We acknowledge the commitment of the team who bring their reflections to us day by day. Remind us that, even when we disagree with what we read, you will be able to teach us something new. In Christ’s name, Amen.
The Rev’d David Miller, Minister, The URCs of North Staffordshire.