SER # 36V
FIRST UMC – NEBRASKA CITY
23RD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 17TH 2019
TEXTS: 2 THESSALONIANS 3: 6 – 13
THEME: CHRISTIANS ARE PROVIDERS
This is the second letter that Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonica from Corinth. This letter was written about AD 51 or 52. People seem to have misunderstood the first letter that Paul wrote to them. They interpreted that Paul was telling them that Jesus was coming back real soon. Some thought there was no need to work because the end was coming real soon. The increased number of persecutions of the believers added to their conclusion that the end was near. Some of them then started to be idle, disorderly and gave excuses for not working because Christ coming back is imminent. People abandon their responsibilities because Christ was coming soon. This kind of behavior repeated itself several times in the history of the church. Some have been known even to dispose of their assets because they will not need them anymore. So, we can never be surprised with what happened in the time of Paul. Paul was reminding the people of the basic things that every Jew knew, that was one had to work so as to sustain himself/herself or family. In fact, the Jews had a saying, “He who does not teach his son a trade they said, teaches him to steal” (William Barclay The New Daily Study Bible The letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonian Page 254). Maybe my father had read this letter of Paul because he would remind me often that he had not seen any person dying for working hard. (He did not mean forced labor which could kill). The Jews believed in the dignity of honest work. The Rabbi and teachers all had a trade they worked on above their teaching or preaching. Some were bakers, carpenters, pottery, mason ……… In this letter Paul wanted to make clear that people have to continue with their usual life activities and not blame it on the second coming of Jesus Christ. “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come, until the rebellion occurs and the man and lawlessness is revealed the man doomed to destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
Paul indeed make clear to everybody that they needed to function in the normal way without any excuse as they performed their work. People were giving excuse of being lazy by saying that the Lord is coming soon so there is no need for them to work. Paul is reminding us therefore that we should work with our own hand to provide for our families as well as work to grow the body of Christ. I would like to focus on what it means for us to work to grow the body of Christ. When it comes to our daily provision many here know work is what makes us and help us to support our families.
Paul want us to get back to the mission that God gave us to grow his body – the Church and he suggests the following means:
- By Spreading the Gospel: This quickly connect us to the Great Commission that Jesus gave his disciples before he left the earth. To them he said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all Nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28: 19-20). This Commission has a couple of things I would like to lift up: a) Making disciples; This is the mission that Jesus expect of us. This fall under our second part of our mission statement in our church of – Knowing Christ and Making Christ known. We make Christ known by our testimonies, doing evangelism and outreach to the people we get in contact with. We spread the gospel by living a Christ like life. When people look at the life, we live they the get attracted to the Jesus we profess. A life full of love, non-judgmental, inclusive, caring…… b) All nations: Jesus never intended his gospel to be spread only in one country or one continent but to the whole world that he created. We are reminded to that is second coming is also subject to if the gospel has reached the whole world. “And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” Matthew 24:14). c) Baptizing; This is a sacrament that is very important in the life of a believer. Through baptism we are welcomed to the family of God. We are marked by the symbol of the cross that represents Christ love for us. The water represents the new birth that we receive through his name. Through baptism we die to our sin and rise to life in Christ. d) Teaching; In the Methodist Church, we start this journey of teaching when kids are small through children Sunday school classes, then to confirmation, youth groups, small bible study groups study for adults, fellowships and worship services. Teaching is part of who we are as believers. “And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” Matthew 24:14).
- Reaching to Those in Need: Jesus was very clear when it came to the people in need and what was expected of the believers. It was James who taught us what a true religion ought to be. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). We are reminded that we are the hands and the feet of our Lord Jesus. It was Jesus who reminded his listeners that they had to be practical and be responsive to people’s physical and emotional needs as part of their calling. We can’t just focus on going to heaven without caring about our brothers and sister are who in real need and are struggling everyday. We can’t escape from this unjust world but rather we are here to be that source of Justice, be the voice to the voiceless. Jesus told the parable of the final judgment or in my words the entry question to get to the heavenly kingdom. When I look at these questions is like take home exam. How one performs on take home exam depends on how much commitment and how much one is ready to put in. Take home exam people don’t perform well because they wait until the last minute and do a real bad job. I speak like a person who has spent a third of my life in world of books. The parable is recording in Matthew 25:31-46. And you can read later. But here is what Jesus expect from each of us to act or respond to the need of those around us even when they seem to be the least in the community. They might be those we might think that they don’t really matter. Always keep in mind the story of Lazarus and the rich man and how things ended up and the rich man failed to notice the struggling Lazarus who was feeding the crumbs under his table (Luke 16:19-31). In the parable of judgment Jesus remind us to act accordingly. How do we respond to the people who are in need? a) To the hungry – give food. Jesus wanted to feed the people who have no actual food many not because of their own making but life circumstances. Jesus feed the 5 thousand at one time not counting the children and women (John 6: 1-14). Jesus was always aware of the needs of his people. I believe those who help in our food pantry have stories they can share if you visit with them. Some people are just a pay check away from being homeless, b) To the thirsty – give drink. This could be actual water especially in countries where this commodity is rare and people have to go many miles to get water. But also, it could be spiritual thirst like the one Jesus talked about to the Samaritan woman “Jesus answered, Everyone who drinks this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water willing up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14). c) To the stranger – invite them in – Those who travel in foreign countries know how it feels to have someone met you with a hug. Strangers have no confidence to know where everything is. Hospitality is very important it should be part of believers’ DNA. d) To the naked – give them clothing – There are people who need actual clothes yet some of us have clothes that they have not put on the whole year because we have more than we need. e) To the sick – Visit them – when we visit the sick, we are letting them feel loved and we encourage them in their struggle. Some may never get healed while on this world but they will know God cares. f) Those in prison – visit them – a visit means a lo to a person who has been shut out from the social life of the community. This becomes a special care that creates a special connection with a message that God cares.
- Building the Church, his Body: We are the body of Christ his church. The challenge then that Paul was putting to the Thessalonica church was to build Christ body. How do we do that? I believe Luke who is the author of the Acts of the Apostles can help us by looking on how the early church was built. “They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42) There are 4 ways that we can build the body of Christ that I would like to unpack here. A) Through teaching. A body of Christ that wishes to grow must spend time in leaning. Learning can be achieved in two major ways: by being students or by being teachers. The choice is yours. But we can never grow in our faith if we are unwilling to learn. Setting for learning experiences vary with individuals but the common ones are: belonging to a small study group or paring with a friend to study. You can discipline yourself by following individual study through a study guide too. B) By fellowshipping: This important where you meet as a group to encourage one another. The fellowship could be of two people or more who are willing to gather together. This also help to create a form of accountability team or group. C) By breaking bread: Communion is I key to our unique connection. As we break bread that represents the body of Christ and take the juice that represents the blood of Christ, we are united with Christ and the saints that are living and those gone to be with the Lord. D) Praying: This is an important part of who we are as believers. We know through prayers many things happen some that are beyond explanation. You might remember the story of Paul and Silas while they were in jail and they prayed and the jail doors were opened. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open and everybody chains came loose” (Acts 16:25-26). A body of Christ called the church, one of its core responsibilities is to pray. Jesus himself demonstrated this by taking time off his busy schedule to go and pray. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountain to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). The following day he had a task to choose the twelve disciples. Jesus wanted a guidance from his father as he backed on this important assignment of getting helpers in the ministry. E) Reading the word of God. Paul writing to Timothy underlined the importance of the word of God He told Timothy “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).