Each week as I turn from studying a passage to writing a sermon I ask myself several questions including: “What music does this passage call for?” Typically this question yields the hymn we sing following the sermon. And when I write that sermon I often hear that music playing in my imagination.
My study of the Second Letter to the Thessalonians immediately recalled the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical Carousel. It might not be considered relgious music, but it is none-the-less deeply moving and perhaps inspiring.
The recipients of the Second Letter to the Thessalonians seem to have been overly concerned about the coming of the new age, when disciples of Jesus Christ would be gathered together. The persecutions that disciples faced in that century boded of a storm gathering through which they needed to keep their heads held high.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. —1 Thessalonians 4:17 (NRSV)
Some may have been jubilant of Christ’s coming and others were fearful that they were not among those gathered and may have blamed their weaknesses in faith for the persecutions they were experiencing. Either way they were being shaken and deceived from their faith in Christ. The jubilant needed to be cautioned not to expect a quick fix and that they too should expect trials and tribulations. While the fearful needed reminders that God would indeed save them.
The election process through which we are currently suffering thunders on the horizon boding unusual turmoil. I have heard from both sides fears that the election may be rigged and the results disputed, perhaps even violently. Both presidential candidates have been demonized with horrid caricatures and their supporters maligned. The lighting on the horizon bodes turmoil rather than a smooth transition from one President to the next.
Yet the apostle reminds us, as he reminded followers of his day, to hold our heads up high and to treat each person, those with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree, our favored candidate and their opposition, as equals, recognizing the image of God that each person carries. When we recognize what is good and decent in our opponents and in their supporters and then seek reconciliation together in Christ, in those moments we exhibit the fruits of the Spirit.
So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. — 1 Thessalonians 2:15 (NRSV)
I will have more to say about the Second Letter to the Thessalonians on Sunday, November 6th, 2016 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor