Community and Encouragement
The Apostle Paul often writes to the early church communities about the role of encouragement. Sunday, we will hear the recommendation to encourage one another through in challenging times in Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica. He writes:
Siblings, we want you to know about people who have died so that you won’t mourn like others who don’t have any hope. Since we believe that Jesus died and rose, so we also believe that God will bring with him those who have died in Jesus. What we are saying is a message from the Lord: we who are alive and still around at the Lord’s coming definitely won’t go ahead of those who have died. This is because the Lord himself will come down from heaven with the signal of a shout by the head angel and a blast on God’s trumpet. First, those who are dead in Christ will rise. Then, we who are living and still around will be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet with the Lord in the air. That way we will always be with the Lord. So encourage each other with these words. -1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Part of our call to stewardship is maintaining our relationships, or put more simply, we are called to be in community. The more we interact and spend time together, the better we are at caring for and encouraging one another. Paul is suggesting here that the sense of community we find as the gathered body of Christ transcends all barriers, even the great barrier of death. This isn’t some new marketing idea or modern philosophy. From foundations of the Earth, we were made to be in relationship with each other. In the beginning, all was formless, and void. And then God said, Let there be… light and sky and earth and sea, and creatures to live and thrive – in other words, Let there be a community. Flocks and herds and schools and packs, and groups of human beings, too, including this community: God said, Let there be Holy Trinity, and let it be a community of compassion, justice, and love. Let it be a refuge of rest and a beacon of hope, a place to heal and a place from which we set out to help the world to heal, a house of prayer and song of praise. Let it be a community of abundance in which we can all invest, so that it might be vibrant, so that it might thrive, for the love of God, and for the life of God’s world.
As you consider the ways God is calling you to use your talents, time, and treasures this month and throughout your faith journey, I encourage you to use the lens of relationship. How can you help build community here and now? How can we better join and harmonize our efforts? How has our community encouraged you and how might you be a part of encouraging others?
I invite you to use this prayer in the coming days to help guide your reflections:
Creator God, who transforms chaos into community, scarcity into abundance, bless these gifts to your creative work, building up communities near and far. Thank you for the joy of participating in your Beloved Community, your abundant life, your love for the world. In the generous, beautiful name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
Grace and Peace,