by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The Reading for the August 9 and 16:
1 Thessalonians 3
I haven't read this text in many years, and I read it just after having a Facebook chat with a friend--sort of like writing letters, only more immediate. So perhaps I was more inclined to see this text for what it is--a letter.
I was struck by Paul's tone--not only is he encouraging the very new church, but he's also drawing encouragement from them. There will be persecution, yes, but it is survivable, with the good news that other followers remain faithful.
Through the years, many people ask me why I go to church. Many of them assume that I'm going so that I can secure my lodging in Heaven after I die. A nice spot in the afterlife would be grand, but even if we knew that there was no life after this one, I would still go to church. For me, it's not about the next life, but this one.
I spend much of my day surrounded by people who are not motivated by any vision of an alternate life worth living. Many of them aren't exactly inspired by this life--but neither are they inspired to work for change.
I go to church because it's where I've found a community--both locally and larger--where people are committed to that vision of God expressed again and again in Scripture, a vision where everyone has enough, where no one feels the boot on the neck. I go to hear where people have seen God at work. I go to be encouraged.
I have a good grasp of history, so I know that we will not live to see all of the transformations that we'd like to see, whether in our personal lives or the larger world. I think of it as building a cathedral, a project that took many generations of workers' efforts to come to fruition.
And I know that the transformations that I want to see won't take place at all without the efforts of ordinary folks like the kind I know from church. The most enduring social movements have a base of faith.
I read Paul's earliest letters to one of the earliest churches, and I smile in recognition. They feed Paul, as he has fed them--and thus, the wider world is fed too.