Paul spent a lot of time writing letters to Christian communities. The letter to the Thessalonians is one of many. He wrote letters filled with ways for communities to live out their faith. He wrote letters reminding communities that they were struggling to get along of the importance of love. He wrote letters about how to be the body of Christ in the world. As I read the text for today, I wondered what Paul would write to us today at Cochrane Street United Church. Here is where my imagination led me. A letter from Paul to Cochrane Street United Church
I, Paul, together with Silas and Timothy, greet Church of Cochrane Street in the name of God and Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace.
“You need to know friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it’s a must. Your faith is growing; you’re love for each other is developing. It’s only right that we give thanks. You are steady and determined in your faith despite hard times. We tell people in the others church all about you. We’re so proud of you; you’re so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you. We tell everyone we meet in the churches about you. ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3 -4)
I am so thankful for the pleasure you take in one another’s company as you gather for worship or to do work. I can see it as you share tea and conversation, as you greet one another with the peace of Christ, as you work together towards a common goal. You are a church family shaped by friendship and care for one another.
As church family, the last year has been challenging for you. We keep you in our prayers as you continue on the journey. I have no doubt that after a year being away from your church home you are feeling a bit weary of being on the road. It is not as easy to do the activities that you are accustomed to doing when you have no permanent home. Yet, in faith, you carry on with worship, groups and all the things that make you a church family. Even in the midst of the challenges you continue to support and care for one another. I am grateful that you have you are keeping the faith.
I know being in a temporary location is not the only thing that has made this past year difficult. There have been losses along the way. Beloved members whose lives of faith were an example to so many are missed in the life of the church. And there are some faces that we do not see in as often and that is yet another loss.
In spite of the losses and challenges, you keep going. You reach out your hands to care for one another and for people in the community who need extra assistance. I give God thanks for the work you’ve done in the name of Jesus. The way you reach out to care for people. As I look back over the last few years, I’m amazed at the journey you’ve been on and the ways this church family has stepped out in faith. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that you were wondering how you were going to pay for oil and keep the church doors open.
Even when things were at their most difficult, when you did not know what the future would hold for you as a church family you continued to reach out to help others. Gathering together to get ready for deal of a meal or bbq in the park or bringing food for Bridges to Hope or hosting a meal for Stella’s Circle Inclusion choir. You have a heart for God’s people and do all that you can to care for others. I’m grateful that you’ve persevered.
Your faith through the many meetings and big decisions has remained firm. Even when the task seemed daunting, even when you didn’t always agree on the way forward, you did your best to discern a way for you a church family to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. I’m guessing that it was with both fear and faith that you decided to use all that you had to provide for others – whether it is homes or community space or a place to create beautiful music. In those difficult moments, when the weariness kicks in, remind yourselves of the good work you are doing, of the lives your faith will touch. Through your generosity, many people will get a chance at a new life. Imagine people getting a new start looking out the beautiful views from the windows in their apartments. The way of Jesus is all about new life and second chances.
As you live your faith, give thanks for those moments God is guiding you as you dream new dreams. Whether it is the right people coming forward at just the right, the windows in the right places or the right number of doors – the Spirit of God is at work. Those holy moments are reminders that you are headed in the right direction. That God in Jesus will be with you as strength, courage, love, grace and guide.
Remember to continue to offer prayers of thanksgiving for God’s abiding presence and for the Holy Spirit who both inspires and guides. Continue to pray for one another, for the leaders in church, and for the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit as you follow in the way of Jesus.
As you move forward, may the grace of Jesus, that changes lives go with you. “May ... the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole and, put you together – spirit, soul, and body – and keep you fit for the coming of Jesus. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it. Friends, keep up your prayers. Greet all the followers of Jesus there. Make sure this letter gets read to all the brothers and sisters. Don’t leave anyone out. The amazing grace of Jesus Christ be with you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 – 28)