2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
“A High Summons”
When I was a campus minister at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, I watched a special kinship and bonding that developed among the members of a class of cadets because of the challenges and hardships they went through together. The cadets found that they could not make it solely on their own individual efforts; they had to work together. And as a result of struggling alongside each other, they developed a strong bond and a pride in who they were as a class.
I am proud to be a member of the Kinston Hurricane classes of 11 (Irene) and now the class of 16 (Matthew). I am proud of how we have worked together to look out after each other and those around us. And not only in storms but during other times of challenge and crisis. I know that will continue, because that is who we are as disciples of Christ.
The Christians at Thessalonica were going through some rather tough times. From what we can tell there was persecution and with it came discouragement, dissension, and misunderstanding. And with all that self-doubt. The believers were afraid that their faith was not going to withstand the tests.
So Paul, knowing that positive reinforcement goes a long way, picked out their achievements and virtues and bragged on them. He bragged in such a way that these despondent, frightened Christians could square their shoulders and say, “Well, if Paul thinks that of us, we will make a fight of it yet.” Blessed are those who heal us of our self-doubting.
There are three things that Paul picked to show the Christians of Thessalonica as evidence of their having a vital faith. They had a faith that was strong, a love that was increasing and a constancy or fidelity that was enduring.
The people in the church at Thessalonica thought the end of time was imminent, that Jesus would be coming back very soon. So they had stopped working and abandoned all ordinary pursuits to await the return of the Lord.
Most of you are proud members of other surviving groups. I am a proud member of the Charleston Hurricane class of 89 (Hugo). Hugo was a category 4 storm when it made landfall, so the wind damage from the storm was massive. Most everyone’s home was damaged. It was an overwhelming site. The entire city, every direction in which you turned, looked like it had been bombed.
Not long after that storm hit North Carolina, an earthquake hit California. Then there were earthquakes in China, and then a typhoon in the Philippines.
Observing all this , the students with whom I worked asked what it all meant. Did I think these were these signs of the end of time? I remember responding, “Well, evidently not. Otherwise I would not be putting back on my house a 30-year roof.
“But if it is the end of the world,” I said, “God is still creator, sustainer, and still in control. And God is still a loving and saving God.” We have that assurance. So we decided we should plan the rest of the semester.
Paul wrote the Thessalonians and told them to get back to their work and carry on with their responsibilities whether or not the end was coming. If Paul were writing us today, I think he would say, “No matter who is elected on Tuesday, no matter what happens, the church’s ministries are going to need our help. So let’s get on with figuring how we can sustain them next year.”
Paul also reminded the Thessalonian believers they had a faith that was strong, a love that was increasing and a constancy or fidelity that was enduring. We have those traits also. And in faith, love and fidelity we pledge our tithes, and miracles happen.
Can you imagine what it would have been like at pledge time last year, if the stewardship team had said, “Next year we are going to have to a lot of work one the sanctuary roof and attic, replace the roof and sheathing, do duct work and insulation in the attic, then major scrap and paint. But while we are doing that we are going to continue sending teams every week to Mary’s Kitchen and to Meals on Wheels. And every month we are going to keep sending out teams. Some will be building wheelchair ramps. Some will assist families at Green Lamp, at the Shelter or ICOR. Some will support youth at The Gate, or participate in Erasing the Lines or Carolina Cross Connection, and the list goes on.
And then in the fall, we are going to have a hurricane with record-breaking flooding, and we are going to assist those around us who are helping as well as those affected. And in the midst of all that our programs for children and youth will keep growing.
Would you have believed we could do all that? I have no doubt that we will see more miracles happen with resources that we pledge for 2017.
It is time for us, the proud Hurricane class of 16, to pledge to bridge the gap for mission and ministry needs in 2017.
It is a high summons that Paul gives to the people of Thessalonica and to us: That we may be worthy of God’s calling and that by God’s power we will fulfill every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified.
We do not need to doubt. With God’s help, we can do this. Amen.