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Archive for December, 2012

I Thessalonians 2:14

For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews,…

Judean followers of Jesus called the non-followers “the Jews.” Out of this “familial” argument among Jews arose anti-Judaism, which hardened into anti-Semitism, with pogroms and Holocaust. Out of the fulmination of the early days of the Jesus movement arose a great darkness to distort the great light.

But be “imitators” of love. This has the capacity to prevent fiascos of historic proportions.

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I Thessalonians 2:13

 We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.

Merry Christmas! Peace on earth, good will to all. And God’s word, a.k.a. God’s spirit, a.k.a. God’s personal loving presence, is at work among the believers then and among us now. We’re not in closed social systems where we must fight over scarce “goods.” No, there is constant divine input, so that our “cups may overflow.” May we on this Christmas Day take the next wonderful steps toward this divine experience.

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I Thessalonians 2:12

…urging and encouraging you and pleading that you should lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Hmm, this is kind of unnoticed, too often, I think. Faith is about being called into glory, not just a bitter slog through necessary beliefs and ethical obligations. In fact, it is neither of those. Rather it is “glory.” One Hebrew word that is translated as glory in the Old Testament is kabod. This word also has the connotation of weightiness or significance. Faith, I think, is finding the weighty significance – the glory – of life. From that sense of great substance flows belief: belief in undying hope, and the indefatigable power of love. From that sense of great substance flows an ethical commitment, but not as obligation. Rather a compulsion and courage and joy to live in generous love begins to well up. So there is belief and there is an ethic. But it is glorious. Happy Christmas Eve!

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I Thessalonians 2:11

As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children,

This sounds somewhat paternalistic. I think the intention is not to affirm actions from on high unto the low ones, but rather familial kindness and connection.

On an unrelated note, in my Sunday reflection this morning, I said that there is no right to bear arms against other people. That is an Anabaptist-Mennonite ethical commitment. But where does this commitment take us? How do we articulate and deploy an adequate sense of security and defense without remaining in the addiction to lethal force? I think a collaboration between military strategists and non-violence strategists needs to be tried (or tried again, if it has been tried.).

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I Thessalonians 2:10

You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was towards you believers.

No mooching, manipulating, baiting-and-switching, spinning the facts. Just the love of God – “how rich and pure, how measureless and strong” as the hymn goes. Where all do we find love like this? It is worth everything.

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I Thessalonians 2:9

You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

It may be well for workers of the gospel to receive pay. But Paul’s marker here is that even with no expectation of support he still offered the gospel, which again is love poured out, not an abstraction, but through giving “ourselves” (vs 8). Not a “professional” approach or a “performance” but giving ourselves.

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I Thessalonians 2:8

So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Here is genuine care, on the ground. Not only the gospel, in the sense of a form and a message and an approach. But “our own selves” – the depth of personal relationship out-distancing even Paul’s beloved sense of the gospel message. But he is, of course, here offering a fuller gospel, not only of words or even of memory and history, but of personal risk and commitment and passion.

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