A Thanksgiving MUsing
So, this musing is going to be a little bit different. It’s a bit more specific and personal to the church here at LaFayette, though I hope others reading it can find something within these words as well.
It is based on the oldest book of the New Testament, which is not Matthew as you might suppose, but is 1st Thessalonians.
Yes, Paul’s letter to this small community of believers at Thessalonica contains the first words of the Christian faith that we know of. Before the Gospels or the Apostle’s Creed or the Book of Acts (which describes the very birth of the church) we have this letter to a group of folks who at the time were not even known as Christians but followers of The Way.
When we consider this letter in those terms the words we find here are pretty fascinating.
Of course like most letters of the day, especially considering there was no return address on an envelope to share where it was from, it begins with a greeting.
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”
That is fairly normal. It says who is writing, who it is going to and then gives a hope you are well. Sort of like the notes I use to collect in class back when notes where passed. Now kids just text!
For example – “Hi Sophia, it is me Zach. Hope you are having a good day.”
After the greeting is out of the way we begin to get to the content.
Paul and company declare, “We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Isn’t it incredible that the very earliest words of the Christian faith are words of thanks? The church of Jesus Christ begins by offering thanks for the faithfulness of other siblings in Christ. And then to show their continued concern for and love of these people, they say that they are praying for them.
Who would not want to receive that letter? A letter that says I am thankful for you and I care for you so much I remember you in my prayers.
And more than that, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy go on to share what it is they tell God about these folks. They note these folks 'works of faith and labors of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
These are the earliest descriptions of how followers of Christ act and the guiding principles they live their life in accordance to.
Again, it is fascinating to consider all of this and perhaps their implications for us today. And yes, I believe there are implications and things we certainly can learn from the words, and I encourage us all to reflect on them.
As I was doing just that I was also reading a bit about the late Eugene Peterson, who wrote the wildly popular interpretation of the Bible which he entitled The Message.
Now as I have mentioned in my preaching, he did not translate the text. Translations like the NIV and NRSV are done by scholars going back to the Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew and sometimes using fragments of parchment they try to literally convert the centuries-old written text into a modern language such as English. It is a tedious process.
The Message on the other hand is an interpretation. Peterson took the NRSV and using his understanding of the intent of text and some poetic license created a version of the text which he hoped would speak to a modern North American audience. It has profoundly done this and continues to do so.
This made me wonder how difficult it might be to do this, and for most texts I imagine it is incredibly difficult. And yet for this text I realized that I could do this but instead of trying to write it for all of North America or even just the US I needed to make it even more specific. And yet after doing this exercise I think it speaks both truth and conveys what I as your pastor would like to say to you this Thanksgiving Eve 2021.
Clay (along with Laura, Sydney, and Brittany),
To the family of faith at LaFayette Presbyterian Church, grace and peace to you all in the name of our lord and savior Jesus Christ and in the love of God who created us and sustains us even in this time and place…
My family and I give thanks for each of you. And yes, that includes you who are reading this.
We are grateful for your life, and we are grateful to God who brought us together.
Each day in our prayers we remember you all. And when we think of you, we recall how you faithfully serve God and God’s people, how you demonstrate the love of God in both your words and your actions, and how even in hard days you have hope in the promised day of God.
We also recall your acts of kindness, your faithful worship, your desire to be good stewards of all God has given you and perhaps most vividly we recall your genuine joy for life and the smiles you share.
Indeed, we thank God for you and do indeed pray God blesses you always and in all ways.