Chip Stapleton Highland Presbyterian Church May 8th, 2020 Hunkered Down Devotions
1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 (VOICE)
6 You can imagine my relief and joy when Timothy returned to us with such good news about you, about your faith and love for us, about how you have such good memories of us and long to see us as much as we long to see you. 7 Hearing this about your faith, brothers and sisters, brought comfort to us in our stress-filled days of trouble and suffering. 8 For if you are set firmly in the Lord, then we can truly live. 9 What thanks would ever be enough to offer God about you for all the jubilant celebration we’llfeel before our God because of you? 10 We remain vigilant in our prayers, night and day praying to once again see your faces and to help complete whatever may be lacking in your faith.
As I read the above words this morning, I was struck by the idea that as unique as our current situation is, it is also not the first time that the church has not been able to gather in person for one reason or another. In fact, though we rarely think about it, the entire reason that we have these ‘letters’, which make up the majority of the New Testament, is because parts of the church were physically distanced.
In this passage, I resonated with the clear longing that is being communicated to be together – to be able to see each other, to worship together, and to be able to embrace each other as sisters and brothers in Christ. Even now, as this evening our state is taking the very first steps towards reopening, the opportunity to come together and worship in-person, all together feels very far away (make no mistake – we are actively planning for that time, and working to make it a reality).
Because of our current situation, I read and heard this passage of scripture differently today than I ever have before. And as these words reached my heart and mind, I was heartened by the message that I saw clearly coming from them.
What is that message? What is the hope that comes from these words? Simply, that the connection that binds us together – the very person of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit – is much stronger than any separation – physical or otherwise – could ever be.
Paul and his companions are separated from the churches they birthed and the sisters and brothers in Christ that they have discipled and that they have grown to love (we read Paul state his love just a few days ago). But that distance hasn’t stopped them from encouraging each other. That physical space hasn’tstopped them from bearing witness to and for each other of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
The promise Paul reminds us of – rooted in the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – ‘if you are set firmly in the Lord, then we can truly live’. And when we set ourselves firmly in Jesus, and so truly live it brings hope and joy to all of us.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: Jesus, we know that nothing can separate us from your love. Remind us that because of you and your Spirit, we are connected to each other as well. Help us be rooted in you so that we might fully live and share your love and joy. Amen.