WITH THESE WORDS
with Rev. Rachel
18 WITH THESE WORDS 1 Thessalonians
I am indebted to at least two persons when it comes to a big chunk of the New Testament. It is as if Amy-Jill Levine and Brad Braxton clear their throats when I as much as approach the Pauline epistles. Their raised eyebrows call to mind:
1. Paul was a leader and was therefore inundated with questions not of his choosing. Because he desired to hold together what had been brought together, he corresponded. “Now about what you wrote…(1 Cor 7)” These letters to the Corinthians, to the Ephesians, to the Galatians, and so on are responses.
2. Paul was practical. This man recognized that not every ditch was one worth dying in and that front burner real estate was precious. He wasn’t going to arbitrate all things in any arena. Ask yourself, are you using your freedom for the common good (Gal 5)? Let that question lead you.
3. Paul put the body first. If and when the situation was messy, he shared what wisdom he had and asked that they—those who had initiated contact—attend to the health of the whole. One baptism, one Lord, y’all; see that your functioning supports others’ and the disease will lose its haven (Eph 4).
4. Paul was no puppet; which is to say that some of his words and actions were his. “I don’t have a command from the Lord…but I’ll give you my opinion (1 Cor 7).”
So when I find myself tasked with 1 Thessalonians, I parachute in with the two affectionately known as A.J. and Braxton. I smile because I can see Paul the pastor and the person. I experience his practicality and his prioritization. Folks are apparently upset because a death in the community has raised questions about the order of things. They’ve written to convey the panic. Paul replies and wisdom drips from the final thought, verse 18: “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” Don’t set this description in stone and beat each other over the head with it. Don’t use my vision to negate everything else that has been said.
‘With these words,’ ‘encourage one another’. It is a summons to reflect on what we do with any Epistle lesson…and with others’ words in general.
To celebrate our teachers and their lasting imprint? Yep. That too~