Skip to main content

Relationship Keys

 On Sunday, 11/29, we had something very different as part of our service at St. Timothy, there was a wedding. It fit in beautifully with worship. This is the sermon I preached on 11/29, the first Sunday of Advent. The text is 1Thessalonians 3:9-13.



The turkey was carved and eaten on Thanksgiving and we are still eating leftovers. Before we even ended that day of thanks, the world started nudging or should I say shoving us into Christmas shopping.

But today is the first Sunday of Advent, a time that we pray along with Paul that all our waiting for God be characterized by lives of gratitude, love and blamelessness. What a sharp contrast to what our culture expects of us at this time of year: we came, we saw, we bought.

The Thessalonian church, was living a life that sharply contrasted to the society around them. They were a young church and they found themselves in the midst of persecution for their faith. The believers had begun to follow a new King and were seeking to adopt a set of values rooted in Jesus. This resulted in rejecting some of the norms of their Roman society.

Three things leap out of this passage of Thessalonians and they also happen to be three keys to any successful relationship, including marriage. They are thankfulness, love and relationship.
         
These three keys of thankfulness, love and relationship do not stand on their own, but are intertwined, making each other possible. Paul can only express thankfulness in such an effusive manner because of his relationship with the Thessalonians, which is based on a firm foundation of faith. Paul begins with these words, "How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?" (v. 9)

I know that especially today, Kay and Lee are overflowing with thankfulness to God for each other. Even through difficult times, God has faithfully cared for both of you. The two of you have another opportunity for love and companionship. How can you not be thankful to God for each other? And you have invited us all into this time of thanks with you.

Paul continues with the second key, love. "...may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all..." For the Thessalonians, it is love that will ensure their survival in the middle of the persecutions they are suffering.

In the beginning of a relationship however, how can you feel anything but love for each other? It's like you have to pinch yourself to be sure it's real and not a dream. Can you imagine that Paul was praying for an increase in the love between the Thessalonians?

When we have the warm, wonderful feelings that new love brings, it's easy for our love to abound. But things are not always sweetness and light.This applies to the church as well. When we first get to know other people at church, they seem so amazing. But over time, we begin to notice things. We become more critical of each other. This happens in our relationships at church and at home as well.

Our love is not supposed to be just for one another--for those who agree with us, for those who are the same personality type, who like the same things we do. Paul prays that abounding love is for all, for everyone, even those we can't stand or those who are the complete opposite of us.

Christian love is the summary of the Christian life. Jesus told his followers, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”  (John 13:35). God has added each Christian to the whole church; each Christian loves and is loved by the whole community of faith, even those of other nations and cultures they have never seen." This is about love within the entire community of faith, the communion of saints far and wide.

Love is the watermark, the stamp of discipleship on our lives and it starts in the home. We cannot love others when we are struggling to love our own family. Have you ever come to church after having a big fight at home? We smile and greet people even though we feel phony inside.

Let the love of Christ living and working in you be the fuel for the love you have for each other. This is the word for Lee, Kay and all of us. In our own strength we can't love one another the way we should. But God is love and will work his love through us.

The third key is relationship. Paul prays that God will strengthen the hearts of believers in holiness. He summarizes the Christian life as love and holiness, which emanates from our relationship with God and one another. This is a summary description of the Christian life as a whole, the new life oriented to God's act in Christ. Love and holiness are both expressions of the reality of God.To live a holy life is to live as a living and breathing expression of the love, life and reality of God.

Kay and Lee, as you orient your new life together to what God has done in Christ, you will have a firm foundation. And remember, the community of faith surrounds you with love and prayer. We are bound to one another in love,which becomes the focal point of God's activity (v. 12).

The church that genuinely experiences the coming of Christ into its own midst, fully embodies this presence when it extends its love beyond itself and lives for others. Our relationship with Christ and each other becomes a reenactment of the Christ story.

Paul speaks of a Lord who makes our hearts firm and our lives holy and blameless in preparation for the Lord's coming (v. 13). The keys for a successful Christian marriage are the same keys to staying in tune in our relationship with God and the church: be thankful for God's work and each other, love each other as God loves us and nurture your relationship with God and one another.     
Amen.


Google Image

Resources


M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The People's New Testament Commentary

Carl R. Holladay, Preaching Through the Christian Year C

Edward Pillar, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2694

 


 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Come To The Light To Become The Light

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, Jan. 6, Epiphany at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The gospel text is Matthew 2:1-12
Now, this is a story we know. We’ve seen the scene of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus so many times in so many pageants. Epiphany is a time when we celebrate the in-breaking of God’s light in God’s way. The Magi are drawn from the east to come and pay homage to the Christ child. There are many theories as to who the magi were: from Zoroastrian priests to astrologers to magicians to kings, while some believe that the Magi were simply a literary device utilized by Matthew. They may have been any or all of the above, but the point is that they were foreigners and gentile outsiders and yet, God spoke to them through a star, through the light and they followed that light. 
Unusual astral phenomena were associated with the birth of a new ruler according to pagans of the time. There were Jewish traditions as well connecting the hoped-for Messiah to the “star out of…

Go Big or Go Home

This is the homily I shared with the people of St. Timothy Lutheran Church for Ash Wednesday. The gospel text was Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
The first time I heard the expression, “Go big or go home,” was my senior year of seminary. A dear friend mentioned how during a children’s sermon at her internship site, when she was talking with the kids about how God wants all of us, this young man explained it as “Go big or go home!” It really struck all of us who heard my classmate relate this story.

Today’s gospel lesson is like two bookends with a bunch of information between them. The first verse is the first bookend. Then Jesus talks specifically about different faith practices and how they should and should not be practiced. Finally, the second bookend surround the words in between with the final verse regarding the treasure of our hearts.
Before Jesus gets into the nuts and bolts of various aspects of piety, in the first verse he spells out the gist of the entire teaching, “Beware of practici…

Centered in the Spirit

This is the sermon I preached last Sunday, 12/27/19 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The gospel was Luke 4:14-21.
In the time after Epiphany, we see more revelations of Jesus in the gospel. Today’s is Jesus’ controversial proclamations in his home town. We see the centrality of the life of the Spirit in Jesus’ life of ministry.

The Holy Spirit descends on Jesus after his baptism (3:22), then fills Jesus before he was sent out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil and in this passage of Luke the Spirit fills Jesus with power.
The role of the Holy Spirit is central in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus’ first public words were “The Spirit of the Lord.” The first three phrases in Jesus’ reading tie his ministry to the work of the Spirit: “The Spirit…is upon me…because [the Spirit] has anointed me…[The Spirit] has sent me.” In Jesus’ repetition of “me,” we hear his claiming of Isaiah’s words for himself.
Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. Anointed is the English word that means the same as…