Posts Tagged ‘Frank Burns’

Hello 1 Thessalonians

Today’s lectionary reading comes from 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10.  In this particular portion of scripture, Paul writes a greeting to one of the congregations that he had started over the course of his missionary journeys. Scholars believe that 1 Thessalonians is the earliest of Paul’s letters that are included in the Bible. Now, I should be able to relay the argument that supports this as I had a class on it last spring, but I’m going to admit that my brain is failing me at the moment and I’m unable to come up with it.  That being said, just trust me, it’s the earliest.

Right away in verse 2, Paul offers us a good example of one portion of prayer life…lifting up those that you know. He says “we always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers…” This offers us insight into just how important the people were in the various congregations that Paul helped found on his various journeys. I can only imagine how long his daily prayers became. Perhaps the best comparison that I can make comes from the movie MASH…not the tv show mind you.   In the movie, the character of Frank Burns, played by Robert Duvall, is a devout Christian and prays every day. In the first interaction with his character, two other characters that share his tent witness him praying for the first time. He begins with the Lord’s prayer, but doesn’t end there. He begins to list various people…he goes on and on until one of the other men ask him how long he goes. He replies “it gets longer all the time…and now I need to pray for you.”  Honestly, its meant as a joke, but I like it…I think its a good example of how we are called to lift up our neighbor. Speaking of the notion of examples…that topic is raised by Paul in this passage. We see in verses 7-8 that Paul commends the Thessalonians for being positive examples of believers for others around Macedonia and Achaia.

Another point that I’m reminded of when reading this passage is a very Lutheran concept of our faith being the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. In verse 5 Paul says that the gospel came in the Holy Spirit. To clarify, as Lutherans we confess that there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. This is the notion of sola fide (faith alone). Namely we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. It is only by the grace of God, not by anything we do. Specifically, even our faith is a gift. Without the work of the Holy Spirit within us, we cannot believe and therefore we cannot be saved.

Now, on this topic, I admit that I wrestle. If that is the case I struggle to understand why the Spirit is not at work in all people. Why doesn’t everyone share in the gift in a like manner? I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have a good answer to this question at this point. I hope to someday wrap my head around it, but that will have to wait for another time, because it’s not my reality today.

One final point that I’d like to draw out of this reading occurs in verse 9. Paul says the Thessalonians have turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God. Now, it is likely that Paul is making the point that the believers have turned away from idols, or false Gods to one that is true. Idolatry was a very prominent issue within the various Gentile communities. Many different gods and religions were practiced through the Roman empire and beyond. Thessalonica was no exception. What I find uplifting about this verse is the notion that we serve a living God. By living I’m referring to active. Our God did not simply create the universe and sit back in a chair. God continues to be active within the world every day. Personally, I find that very reassuring especially on days when I’m struggling with something. Its good to know that we aren’t alone.