The Church has Issues: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-17

Pastor Travis Norton
14 October 2020
Wednesday AM worship

We’re finishing up our series on the Church has issues this morning. Today we go to the church in Thessalonica, the capital city of Macedonia in Greece. We believe that these letters to the new Christians in Thessalonica are the oldest books in the new testament. Paul traveled through Macedoniain the 40s and likely wrote this letter in 50 A.D. You can tell Paul had a special fondness for this churchmaybe because it was among the first that he planted on his missionary journeys. I know as a pastor I have a special connection to the first church I served, Our Redeemer’s in Helena, Montana. Mostly because they knew me as a 26-year-old pastor who made a lot of mistakes which they met with patience and grace. Paul is pastoring the Thessalonians from afar and through his associate Timothy. But even though he has a special place in his heart for them, or maybe because he does, he writes to correct them on some of their issues. As he does with all the churches he writes to, he urges them to be holy, to begin to live as Christians, set apart from the world around them. We’ve talked about that a lot in this series, most of Paul’s letters are heavy in the theme of sanctification. We are saved by God’s grace, but we are saved for God’s work and witness which asks us to live holy lives, free from sin. To the Thessalonian’s, the two main issues Paul addresses is their sex lives and their work lives. As for their sex lives, he tells them that they can’t be promiscuous like the gentiles, they are not to sleep around. In 1 Thessalonians 4:4 he says, each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passion like the gentiles who do not know God, that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this manner. We could do a whole series on sexual ethics, rooted in this passage that sex not be used to exploit others for our own benefit. Christian sex is meant to serve our spouses and not ourselves, a lesson believers and unbelievers still need to hear today. The second issue that Paul addresses is the work life of the Thessalonians. In chapter 4 of 1Thessalonians, he says that they should “aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs and to work with your hands as we directed you.” I think the whole of the protestant work ethic is contained in that verse. Mind your own business, work with your hands. What is that phrase, idleness is the devil’s plaything/workshop? Paul really gets after this issue in his second letter. He tells them to stay awayfrom those who don’t work, who are being idle. Having nothing to do with them. If they aren’t going to work, they shouldn’t eat. Everyone should earn their own living. Now, we have to be quick to saybecause this passage has been misused politically over the years, Paul is not talking about people who can’t work because of disability, illness or circumstance. Paul is not saying that we shouldn’t help those who are poor, unemployed or in need. Paul is talking about people who choose not to work and because of that choice become busybodies who have nothing better to do than disrupt the community. One of the issues was that some believed that Jesus’ return was right around the corner, they thought the end of the world was at hand, so they quit their jobs to wait for Jesus to come back. And once they quit their jobs, they all of a sudden had a lot of free time to fill up. Apparently, they used that free timeto bother the rest of the community, and cause problems. We don’t know exactly what they did, but it was bothersome enough for Paul to tell the community to bar these people from Holy Communion. Although Paul does say that they should still be treated as believers, as members of the community. But they shouldn’t be allowed to eat with the community if they aren’t contributing and only causing trouble. Paul wants the busybodies to be ashamed of their actions and change their ways, go back to work and reenter the community. The goal of all of this is a church where everyone contributes, where everyone is helping to build up the community. So that the church can help believers grow in holinessand then be an example to the community. So, others might come to faith in Jesus. I wonder what the lesson is for us. We don’t have many people who quit their jobs just to cause trouble at the church. We may have people who don’t carry their own weight, although we don’t’ really try to identify them. I know many of us were surprised when we looked at the giving chart of our communityhow the greatest giving to this ministry was done by a relatively small number of people. I think there is something about what Paul is saying that would urge us to contribute to the good of the ministry, to carry our own weight. I remember being counseled early on by a Pastor saying that he’d discovered that those who complain the loudest about the church often give the least, if at all. I know I’ve found that to be true in terms of volunteering. Someone will come to me with a complaint but when I ask if they willvolunteer to help solve the issue, they suddenly become very quiet. And I will be honest that I tend to give greater weight to the critiques of those who serve and support the church than those who don’t. We aren’t meant to be mere consumers of the ministry the church offers. We are meant to be producers of the ministry as well as recipients. So, we must all ask what we can do to make this congregation strong and healthy so we can share God’s word with the world. In our giving, in our volunteering, in the words of encouragement we offer. Even coming to worship at 9am on a Wednesday is an encouragement to those of us who put forth the effort to create this service. Our singing, our prayers, our attendance are all important ways of showing support. Most of what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians show up in lines like verse 4. “We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command.” I would like to echo Paul’s words that you are already doing what is needed for this congregation. You are supporting the ministry with your gifts of time, talent and treasure. When we proposed the Peel house project you overwhelmingly supported it. When we ask for donations for the hungry, you exceed our goals. When we need volunteers to deliver bags to the congregation, we had more volunteers than we needed (I say that because we’ll be asking again for Advent ����.) When the coronavirus forced us out of the sanctuary, you continued to adapt and pivot and support the new ways we are worshipping.So, all I can really say is keep it up. Keep doing what you are doing and watch how God uses it to bless others. We are seeing new people come to the church, people passing by on Cascade seeing us worshipare now joining us and becoming part of the community. We don’t have to do something crazy or out of the ordinary we just need to keep being the church. Keep working on getting stronger, more united, more faithful. Keep learning and practicing the ways of Jesus, keep identifying and repenting of our sin. Keep worshipping and growing, don’t be idle but be active in doing the work of God and watch as God continues to bless and grow this congregation for the sake of our neighbors and the sake of the world.Thanks be to God.

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