Lectionary Text: I Thessalonians 5:16-24
Literary Unit: I Thessalonians 5:12-22 and 23-28
Sub Literary Units: 12-22, 23&24, 25-27, and 28
Central Message: Right Attitude in the Midst of the Christian Community
Rejoice always is Paul’s advice to the church at Thessalonica. One might wonder if the Apostle Paul were alive today would he offer the same advice given the maladies of the human race in the 21st Century. In addition to daily challenges, reports of war, human rights violations, and spousal, child, and elder abuse in our community and around the world permeate the airwaves. While the 21st Century seems troublesome, history reveals that the Thessalonians lived in a place not unlike today’s world. Even though the Thessalonians did not live in a high tech, fast paced and complex society as we do today, the core of the human condition—sin—was deeply rooted in their culture some 2000 years ago.
Pray always without ceasing…..in all circumstances was constructive advice to the church at Thessalonica and is even more so for modern day Christians. The challenge for most Christians today is to comprehend what “pray always without ceasing” really means. Does it mean pray every second of every minute of every hour of every day of our lives? Perhaps it means that we should pray until we believe our prayers are answered. A more sensible approach is to pray regularly, steadfastly and confidently. The edict to pray is less about frequency and duration and more about forming a strong personal relationship with God. The strength of our relationship with God is the source of our spiritual growth and maturity. Prayer is essential to that relationship. Understanding that, Paul reminds the Thessalonians that Pray always without ceasing…..in all circumstances is a command from God through Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit…..test everything is Paul’s next advice to the Thessalonians. The role of the Spirit is clearly written in the scriptures but understanding, recognizing, and relying on the Spirit is perplexing to modern day Christians. Is it perplexing or is it a matter of comfort? Christians, particularly modern day Christians are not always comfortable with the role of the Spirit in our lives. With this said, how would one determine if they are indeed quenching the Spirit and how would we recognize it if we were? And this brings us to the “test everything” guidance. So, how do we test everything by the Spirit? Struggling with the answers to these questions can prove to be a major challenge to any modern day Christian, just as it was for the Christians in Thessalonica. The struggle is part of the Christian faith. It is through the struggle that prayer becomes essential to developing and strengthening our faith. If all of the answers come too easy, it might be a sign that the source is more human than Spirit.
The letter concludes with what was to become the typical pattern in Paul’s letters: a concluding prayer for the church, a request that they pray for him, greetings to members of the congregation, instruction to share the holy kiss, and the benediction of grace and peace.
Right Attitude in the Midst of the Christian Community (see verse 12-22)
. 1. Respect those who labor among you (v. 12)
2. Be at peace among yourselves (v. 13.)
3. Admonish the idlers (v. 14)
4. Encourage the faint-hearted (v. 14)
5. Help the weak (v. 14)
6. Don’t repay evil for evil (v. 15)
7. Always seek to do good (v. 15)
8. Rejoice always (v. 16)
9. Pray without ceasing (v. 17)
10. Give thanks in all circumstances (v. 18)
11. Do not quench the Spirit (v. 19)
12. Do not despise the words of prophets (v. 20)
13. Test everything (v. 21)
14. Hold fast to what is good (v. 21)
15. Abstain from every form of evil (v. 22)
The People’s New Testament Commentary, by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, Westminister John Knox Press, Louisville, KY., 2009, p.646.
Hymns: Solid Rock, There is a Fountain, O’ For Thousand Tongues, Leaning On the Ever Lasting Arms
Prayer: Dear God, open up our hearts to offer our best to you. Give to us this day the power and wisdom to know that you are always with us. Even when we hunger for food or thirst for water. Remind us that all our treasures are from you as we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And lead us not in to temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thou are the power and the glory forever. Amen.