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Work in Faith, Labour in Love, Hope with Patience

I Thessalonians 1.1-10


Pentecost 18, Proper 24, series A
Lutheran Senior Services at Meramec Bluffs  
Ballwin, Missouri

Sun, Oct 16, 2011 

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 In our epistle reading for today we hear St. Paul commend our brothers and sisters in the Thessalonian Church.  He says:

[I Thessalonians 1.2-4]

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

2 St. Paul makes mention of three things that mark the Thessalonians as faithful Christians: 1) their work of faith.  2) their labour of love.  and 3) their patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  By sharing these words with us today, the Holy Spirit reveals that these three things are not only the marks of some Christians St. Paul knew a couple thousand years ago.  These words describe every Christian.  Throughout the ages, and throughout the world, the church puts its faith to work for the Lord.  Every Christian expresses his love in labour for the Kingdom of God.  And in all the Church, all those redeemed by the blood of Christ live every day in patient hope as we receive the blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ, and long for his promised return in glory. 

3 What was true of the Thessalonian Christians—and what is true of the whole Church—is without doubt, true of us as as the Church in this place.  We, too put our faith to work.  We, too labour in love for the Kingdom of God.  And each one of us patiently hopes, day by day, for the coming of our Lord while we faithfully receive his blessings now through His holy Word and blessed Sacraments.

4 We put our faith to work when we make use of the holy things God has given us to sustain us in this life.  Our faith is at work when we hear and study God's word.  Our faith is at work when we take hold of God's baptismal promise of forgiveness through confession and absolution.  We put our faith to work when we eat and drink Christ's body and blood for our forgiveness and salvation.  We labour in Christian love every time we help our brother or sister in their time of need.  We labour in Christian love through our generosity, through our charity, and through our efforts to provide help for others.  And all the time we live in patient hope of Christ's return, knowing he sustains us now by his gracious blessings, and knowing also that even greater blessings are yet to come.

5 And yet, when we hear St. Paul say that he and the Church remember the Thessalonain's work of faith, labour of love, and patient hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, we also know that we could be more faithful.  We know that we could be more loving.  And we know that we could be more consistently hopeful.  We do not exercise our faith by meditating and contemplating on the Word of God as often or as deeply or as thoroughly as we ought.  We fail at times to express our love in generosity, charity, and help for our brothers and sisters in the faith.  And sometimes, we live as though we put our hope more in the things of this world, than in the promises of God.  For these sins, today the Holy Spirit calls us to repentance.  God holds the faith, love, and hope of the Thessalonians before us today to remind us of our sinful shortcomings in the Christian life.  And God also speaks these words to us today to encourage us—to encourage us to be more faithful, more loving, and more hopeful than we are right now.

6 St. Paul tells the Thessalonians:

[I Thessalonians 1.5-7]

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.  And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.  So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia.

7 The same gospel St. Paul delivered to the Thessalonians, is delivered unto us today.  The word of God, spoken and preached, comes to us in word and power and in the Holy Spirit.  As we hear God speak from the pages of the Bible, we too have much assurance.  From these sacred pages we see what manner of men first delivered the gospel to people long ago, and by the Spirit, God's prophets and Christ's apostles deliver that same gospel to you and me.  The Word of God—the divine Law and eternal Gospel of God—compel us to follow the saints of old, and emulate their faith in Christ, their love for their neighbour, and their hope for the return of our Lord.  And the Spirit of God, by this very Word, makes us faithful Christian examples to a world that stands in great need of Christian faith, steadfast love, and fervent hope. 

8 As we live the recurring cycle of faith, love, hope and repentance that is the Christian life, we stand together with Christians of the past, with the Church of today, and with all the faithful yet to come.  And by God's grace we do what the Church in Thessalonika did long ago.  With them, we

[I Thessalonians 1.10]

. . . wait for [God's] Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

While we wait for Jesus to return in glory, we are sustained in our faith, love, and hope by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are upheld in our Christian life by Christ's forgiveness when our faith, love, and hope are found lacking in the eyes of Almighty God.  Thus upheld by our Lord, we work in faith, we labour in love, we hope with patience because we know we have been redeemed by Christ our Lord.  Rescued from God's wrath by Christ's death on the cross.  Redeemed and saved for eternal blessedness at the final coming of Christ.  And while we wait for Christ to make his glorious return, we make known to the world the gifts which Christ has so graciously given us: 1) Faith that works for the sake of Church and the world.  2) Love that labours on behalf of our brothers and sisters.  3) And certain hope that Christ will indeed return and save us from the wrath of God that will be poured out on the last day.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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