Isaiah 41: 4-10, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Who has performed and done it,
Calling the generations from the beginning?
‘I, the Lord, am the first;
And with the last I am He’”

The coastlands saw it and feared,
The ends of the earth were afraid;
They drew near and came.
Everyone helped his neighbor,
And said to his brother,
[a]“Be of good courage!”
So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith;[b]
He who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil,
Saying, [c]“It is ready for the soldering”;
Then he fastened it with pegs,
That it might not totter.

“But you, Israel, are My servant,
Jacob whom I have chosen,
The descendants of Abraham My friend.
You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its farthest regions,
And said to you,
‘You are My servant,
I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
10 Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

1st Thessalonians 5: 11-22 (NRSV)

11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. 12 But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[c] to respect those who labor among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; 13 esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, beloved,[d] to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise the words of prophets, 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.

Some Thoughts on Today’s Reading—From Pastor Pam

 Our New Testament scripture this week is believed to be the first of any of Paul’s letters preserved that we read today.

Paul’s letter to believers in Thessalonica—a growing faith community– indicates how he and his companions “worked night and day while proclaiming the gospel to the Thessalonians.” (1st Thessalonians 2:9) It’s believed Paul, Timothy and Silas, rented a shop in town where they practiced their trades as leatherworkers or tentmakers and testified to their faith to all who stopped by. He also preached in synagogues on Sabbath days. (Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament)

Things are going well in Thessalonica until something happens and Paul and his companions are forced to leave. The new little faith community is persecuted, and Paul writes to give them hope. Powell notes the letter is dated somewhere between 15 to 20 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Some 2,000 years letter, we still read this letter as a message of hope and what it means to be builders of a Christian community in duress. Paul writes to us today about how we must build each other up. We must live with integrity and speak truth to lies and falsehoods. There is deep and sacred value to civility.

Paul sees daily life as a community effort in which we build up one another as God is there for all people. We are to be the holy people our Creator made us to be in God’s image. Paul’s words echo the Prophet Isaiah, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” (Isaiah 41: 10) May we lose our fear and be God’s builders!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Pam