Friday, November 1, 2013

Sermon for Nov 3, 2013; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

Rev. George Miller
2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
“Growing Abundantly”
Nov 3, 2013

In preparing for this message, I noticed the image Ruthie used for today’s bulletin: a large tree in full bloom with branches stretched out.

It reminds me of some trees I’ve seen in Sebring; trees that have brought much needed shade and withstood hurricanes and times of drought; trees that some people love while others despise because their roots have disturbed the earth around it and the worry over what would happen if it was to fall down.

Life is often affected by how we perceive things and how that perception affects the ways in which we act or don’t act.

Example: last week during our Trunk or Treat we ran out of candy to pass out to the children of the neighborhood. Is it because we were under prepared? No- it’s because we had 4 times the amount of people as compared to last year.

Running out of candy was a good thing: it meant that people know who we are and that we are here.

In today’s bulletin you’ll see that the need for pies, baked goods, and cheese balls is great. Is it because we don’t have enough people signed up to make them?

No- it’s because we have that many people from the local community who will be coming here next week for our Harvest Home Festival because everyone has worked so hard over the years to develop the reputation that we have.

It reminds me of a story I recently read. Ronnie McBrayer, a pastor, was recounting how he and his youngest son were sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons.

Ronnie was laughing along with the animated hi-jinks when his son reached up his small hands and rubbed the skin around Ronnie’s eyes and temples, burrowing his fingers in his ever deepening crow’s feet.

“What are those?” his son asked.

Ronnie stopped laughing immediately. Despairingly, he said “Those are wrinkles.”

A few days later, father and son were in the family SUV when out of nowhere the son was rubbing his temples and said “Dad, I don’t have any sprinkles.”

“Why do I have sprinkles?” Ronnie asked, mindful of his aching joints, expanding love handles, graying beard and wrinkled face.

“Because,” replied his son, “You need sprinkles to help you smile.”

Dad saw his wrinkles as a sign that he was getting older. Son saw the very same wrinkles as a sign that Dad was happy.

Sometimes, when we worry about our roots or our wrinkles, we need someone else to say “No, you are strong and you are beautiful.”

In a roundabout way, we see this in today’s scripture. The author is writing to a congregation during a very difficult period.

Not difficult as in “Are we able to meet the budget” or “Who can we find to chair the committee” but difficult as in people are being persecuted, afflicted, arrested and even murdered.

It’s enough to cut one off at the roots and to lead one to say “Let’s close our doors forever.”

But instead of seeing their wrinkles or crow’s feet, the author focuses them on their sprinkles- the fact that they are not only growing, but they are growing abundantly.

Not just the fact that they welcome one another, but they love each other in such a true, honest way that everyone around them can tell and see how much they are growing.

Even in the midst of persecution, even in the midst of afflictions they are enduring, they are doing the work which God has placed before them and the glory of Jesus is radiating out of them.

Because of what they are going through, they can only see the wrinkles; but the author is reaching out and saying “No- not wrinkles, but sprinkles.”

The question to ask is “How? Just how are they doing this?”

The answer, I believe, is that the members of the Thessalonian church were able to keep their focus on Christ. In the midst of naysayers and great suffering, they found a way to place it all before Jesus.

We see that in 1 Thessalonians Paul taught them not to exploit one another. They were taught how to live humbly, quietly, without getting involved in gossip or to sit idly by; to do what they can and to respect the work of others

They were taught to live with hope, hope that came from believing in the resurrection. Hope that said even when all seemed lost, God was still active.

They were also taught to see themselves as they actually were: not children of darkness, but as beloved children of light, children of the day who were destined for salvation.

And because they put Christ first, because they humbly lived, because they humbly served, because they humbly hoped, they were able to experience a sense of peace.

And it wasn’t just them who flourished and benefited from their faith in Jesus- it was those around them. They were able to encourage the faint of heart and help the weak of body, all with great patience, all with grace and happiness.

So even as the world around them was falling apart in affliction and persecution, they found a way to love one another even more; they found a way to grow, and to grow abundantly…

…The world can be a difficult, dangerous place. It can also be a place of wonder and adventure. Sometimes it depends on how we choose to view things.

Do we see wrinkles that mean we are old or do we see sprinkles that mean we laugh?

Do we see a giant tree that fills up an entire lawn, fearful of what may happen if it falls down?

Or do we see large, outstretched branches that bear fruit for the hungry, which create shade for the tired, shelter for the scared, a place of climbing for those who seek fun; a place for all the birds of the air to rest and share their song?

Life is affected by how we see things, and how we see affects our actions. How is God calling us to see and to act so that the Lord Jesus continues to be glorified in us?

How do we continue to increase our love for one another and grow in a way that celebrates not only who we are, but whose we are?

May Christ Jesus continue to light the way, may the fruits of the Holy Spirit continue to bless us and may God continue to surround us with glory that brings about sprinkles to our face.

Amen and amen.

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