Rev. George Miller
2 Thessalonians 1:3-10
Oct 19, 2014
The bond between 2 or more people that say “you belong,” “you are a part of” and “there is something bigger than yourself.”
There are so many different kinds of relationships because there are so many different kinds of people and situations.
Relationships we have with our medical providers. Relationships we have with our mahjong club. Relationships with those we volunteer alongside of.
Relationships we are born into, for better or for worse; relationships we choose to enter for worse or for better.
Relationships like that between Jonathan and David in which our souls are cosmically connected.
If we have lived long enough and we are fortunate enough, we have entered into our share of real, healthy relationships. Not the kind that are phony or based on matters of insignificance, but the kind that are real.
The kind in which you are changed for the better; you are changed for the good. In which your share of tears and frustration, laughter and love are plenty.
A true relationship is one in which you can stand before another and say “This is who I am, these are the strengths I possess, these are the wounds that I carry, these are my hopes, my fears and my dreams.”
For me, an example of a such a relationship exists within the pages of the #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.
This series, set in Botswana, is less about solving mysteries, and more about kindness and community.
The main character is Mma Ramotswe, the owner of the detective agency. She is an independent woman who embraces her full-figure and values the tradition of her people.
She has an assistant named Mma Makutsi who can be stubborn, socially awkward and painfully aware of her appearance.
Mma Ramotswe has escaped an abusive husband and endured the death of a child. Mma Makutsi endured years of poverty and caring for a brother who died from AIDS.
During the course of the series, they don’t so much detect as they drink lots of tea, share stories and live very full lives.
They each find love, raise families and co-exist within the larger community.
There is a scene between them in the 13th book of the series in which Mma Makutsi has had a baby and is on maternity leave.
Mma Ramotswe realizes just how much she misses her assistant and her friend, so when Mma Makutsi stops by for a visit Mma Ramotswe has an immediate reaction.
The author states that “she felt the most exquisite, and regrettably rare, of pleasures-that of welcoming back one who has left your life.”
Her response? “Mma Makutsi, thank you. Thank you for coming back…and thank you for everything you have done for me…I don’t know if I have ever thanked you (enough)…”
Mma Makutsi stares at her boss, her best friend. “You don’t have to thank me. I should thank you. You took me-a nothing girl from (a nothing town)-and gave me a job. You taught me everything. You showed me how to be…myself.”
“You were always yourself,” says Mma Ramotswe. “Right from the word go, you were always yourself.”
That’s one of the most important marks of Christianity. Not just what we believe, or the songs we sing or the scriptures we study, but the fact that we are called to be in relationship with one another.
That our faith is meant to be shared together, not experienced in silence and solitude.
That our faith is strongest when we gather together to break bread, drink the fruits of the vine and call upon God as our Father and Jesus as our Brother.
We get a glimpse of this relational nature in today’s reading. Though people dispute who the true author of this letter is, one thing is very clear: whoever wrote it, they know and care about this particular congregation.
This is not a form letter posted on Facebook for all to see or an e-mail that has been cut-and-pasted with the name of the church changed.
This is a letter from a person to a group of people who are in a relationship together. A relationship that is honest and true, a relationship that is strong enough to span across space and time.
Just as Mma Ramotswe shares with her assistant how much she means to her and how much she has grown, the author of this letter lifts up the recipients and showers them with love:
“We give thanks to you because your faith is growing abundantly; we give thanks to you because your love for one another is increasing.
We are proud of you because even when times are hard, even when things are bad, you do not let that diminish your faith.
Even when people try to hurt you, even when others try to hide your light and take your joy away, you do not let that take your love for one another away.”
These are not false accolades; these are not the words of someone trying to butter them up.
These are the words of someone who has been changed for the better and because of their relationship with them.
These are words shared by people whose history, whose stories have ultimately been changed by their relationship with God; God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The letter’s author and the congregational recipients have discovered that they have a relationship through God who is righteous and working to make all of them worthy for the Kingdom.
They have a relationship through Jesus who is aware of their trials and tribulations and will not let them suffer alone.
They have a relationship through the Spirit who sanctifies them, calls them to stand firm
and to obtain the glory that is presented to them.
This relationship with Father, Son and Spirit, this relationship between apostle and parishioners is what allows them to see beyond their current situation, to see beyond their current afflictions, to see beyond their current worries and woes.
In the words of #1 Ladies Detective Agency, they are each learning how to be themselves and how to be thankful.
From a faith perspective, they’re learning how to be the best Christians they can be, worthy of God’s call and focused on faith’s good works.
But not just through the good times. Not in a way that’s phony or untrue. But in a relational way that is real and really felt.
As we prepare for Reformation Sunday, as we prepare to welcome back familiar faces, as we prepare for our Congregational Meeting, may we strive to be like the church in Thessalonia.
May we continue to learn how to be in relationship with one another and to be in relationship with our Lord.
May we too experience the grace of God and the peace of Christ, so that we can continue to grow abundantly in our faith and to increase our love for one another, no matter what.
Amen and amen.