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The Church and the Gospel

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Introduction to the Reading

This morning we are beginning a new preaching series looking at Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, that is the church in Thessalonica. And just before Ian comes up to read for us, I want to give you just a bit of the background to this letter and to this church.
It’s all too easy to imagine that New Testament cities belong to ancient history and are too distant from us and our experience. But Thessalonica would be like a lot of cities and towns we know today – a place with a long history, built in a location with good sea and road transport links, with a thriving economy, and with everything on offer for those who could afford it.
It’s all too easy to imagine that New Testament cities belong to ancient history and are too distant from us and our experience. But Thessalonica, like a lot of cities today was a place with a long history, built in a location with good sea and road transport links, with a thriving economy, and with everything on offer for those who could afford it.
Click this map1 to launch in your browser or search ‘Thessalonica’ on a map of the New Testament world.
Thessalonica—modern Thessaloniki, or Salonica—was, and is, a thriving seaport in northern Greece, roughly 200 miles north of Athens. It was a free city with an independent government, and was a centre for the Roman imperial cult. It was also a site of many temples which were dedicated to the service of many deities.
Thessalonica was a free city with an independent government, and was a centre for the Roman imperial cult. It was also a site of many temples which were dedicated to the service of many deities.
Paul came to Thessalonica after preaching in Philippi, where he had been beaten and thrown in prison before pointing out that he was a Roman citizen. He then made his way west to Thessalonica to preach there. You can read of all of thins in .
help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.’
On arriving in Thessalonica, following his usual pattern, Paul spoke in the synagogue (17:1-3). He had some success among the Jews there, but also among non-Jews, as verse 4 records: ‘Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.’
Now, at this point you’ve got to wonder, has Paul got this vision?????????
While they were there the enjoyed some success, but the Jews who had opposed them in Thessalonica heard about it and went to stir up trouble for him there and Pau
On arrival, and following his usual pattern, Paul spoke in the synagogue (17:1-3) and we are told that in response to his preaching ‘Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.’ ()
It’s interesting to note that Paul’s preaching was perceived as subversive, as we read in verse 7: ‘They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.’ Paul had obviously said enough for people to make the connection between a cruci ed Messiah and a reigning Lord, whose lordship encompassed every area of life. The gospel was somehow seen as a potential threat to the religious, economic, and political status quo.
But then some of the Jews who had not taken kindly to Paul’s message hired a mob to attack the house where Paul was staying. Paul wasn’t there so instead the owner of the house, a man named Jason, was dragged to the local authorities with charges of treason and trouble-making. He was then required Jason to hand over a sum of money as a deposit which he would forfeit if there was any further trouble. So, for the sake of Jason and the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul and his companions left for Berea, then Athens and then on to Corinth, where Paul stayed for around two years - indeed it was probably while he was there that he wrote this letter.
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Much of what Luke tells us in Acts is re ected in the letter itself. Paul writes about them being opposed, and yet preaching the good news about Jesus with boldness and power, and about the Thessalonians, mostly non-Jews (so presumably Paul spoke in places other than the synagogue), turning from their idols to God and joyfully receiving the good news in spite of harassment (1:4-10). There can be little doubt that their rejection of the claims of the imperial cult and their refusal to continue taking part in the city’s cults and their associated guilds would mean the new allegiance of the young Thessalonians Christians would be seen as a political and social offence.
We can see in Acts that Paul’s stay in Thessalonica was not long, possibly as little as three weeks and probably just a few months at the most. After leaving, Paul was desperate to see them but he couldn’t return to the city. The people who had opposed him in Thessalonica actually followed him to Berea and chased him away from there as well. Eventually, he sent Timothy back to check on them (which we’ll see when we get to Chapter 3). Had they left Jesus and gone back to their idols? Had they caved in under persecution? Had they lost hope?
Much of what Luke tells us in Acts is reflected in the letter itself. Paul writes about them being opposed, and yet preaching the good news about Jesus with boldness and power, and about the Thessalonians, mostly non-Jews (so presumably Paul spoke in places other than the synagogue), turning from their idols to God and joyfully receiving the
good news in spite of harassment (1:4-10). There can be little doubt that their rejection of the claims of the imperial cult and their refusal to continue taking part in the city’s cults and their associated guilds would mean the new allegiance of the young Thessalonians Christians would be seen as a political and social offence.
On arriving in Thessalonica, following his usual pattern, Paul spoke in the synagogue (17:1-3). He had some success among the Jews there, but also among non-Jews, as verse 4 records: ‘Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.’
suggests their visit was only three weeks long. In reality it may well have been longer, though perhaps not by much. But it was long enough for Paul to instruct the Christians and to work among them (and Paul says in that he received aid from the Philippians more than once while he was in Thessalonica). However long it was – three weeks or a few months at the most – after leaving for Berea and then Athens, Paul was desperate to see them, but was prevented from doing so. Eventually, he sent Timothy back to check on them (see 3:1-2). Had they left Jesus and gone back to their idols? Had they caved in under persecution? Had they lost hope?
But all was not well, as Luke goes on to say (17:5-9). Some of the Jews in Thessalonica hired a mob to attack Jason’s house where Paul was staying. Since Paul wasn’t there, Jason was dragged to the local authorities with charges of treason and trouble-making. The city authorities required Jason to hand over a sum of money as a deposit which he would forfeit if there was any further trouble. So, for the sake of Jason and the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul and the others left for Berea and then Athens.
suggests their visit was only three weeks long. In reality it may well have been longer, though perhaps not by much. But it was long enough for Paul to instruct the Christians and to work among them (and Paul says in that he received aid from the Philippians more than once while he was in Thessalonica). However long it was – three weeks or a few months at the most – after leaving for Berea and then Athens, Paul was desperate to see them, but was prevented from doing so. Eventually, he sent Timothy back to check on them (see 3:1-2). Had they left Jesus and gone back to their idols? Had they caved in under persecution? Had they lost hope?
It’s interesting to note that Paul’s preaching was perceived as subversive, as we read in verse 7: ‘They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.’ Paul had obviously said enough for people to make the connection between a crucified Messiah and a reigning Lord, whose lordship encompassed every area of life. The gospel was somehow seen as a potential threat to the religious, economic, and political status quo.
Timothy brought back ‘good news’ (3:8). They were suffering, yes, but their faith, love, and hope were thriving. And they were missing Paul as much as he was missing them. Paul says he wants to see them even more, but writes a letter as a substitute for visiting them. And he writes with thankfulness and joy the letter we now know as 1 Thessalonians.
Timothy brought back ‘good news’ (3:8). They were suffering, yes, but their faith, love, and hope were thriving. And they were missing Paul as much as he was missing them. Paul says he wants to see them even more, but writes a letter as a substitute for visiting them. And he writes with thankfulness and joy the letter we now know as 1 Thessalonians. Having been in Corinth for a while by this point (), Paul probably wrote the letter from there, in or around AD 50.
Much of what Luke tells us in Acts is reflected in the letter itself. Paul writes about them being opposed, and yet preaching the good news about Jesus with boldness and power, and about the Thessalonians, mostly non-Jews (so presumably Paul spoke in places other than the synagogue), turning from their idols to God and joyfully receiving the

Introduction

During the past few weeks
So here we have this letter, sent by the Apostle Paul to the young church in Thessalonica. So what is it about? Well he has heard from Timothy that they are doing well, in spite of persecution, and so much of the letter is taken up with encouraging them to continue in living out the gospel and instilling in them a hope for the future. In many ways this letter ties in perfectly to our new vision statement and through it we’ll see again these themes of ‘Living, Serving and Sharing the Good News of Jesus.’
In our reading this morning we can see that the Thessalonians have been living out their faith, sharing in fellowship, and active in service. And there is a clear progression through these things. By rooting their lives in God, they are a people who are inspired by a shared hope in Jesus, and through them we are told that ‘the Lord’s message rang out’ from them. What a great reputation they seem to have.
What a great reputation they seem to have.
Throughout this chapter Paul is talking about the Church and the Gospel. In the first half of the chapter he shows that the church is created by the gospel, and then in the second half he shows that the gospel is spread by the church. The gospel then creates more churches and the gospel is spread yet further. This letter shows us that God’s plan for ongoing evangelism in the world, is through local churches just like ours. And so as we go through this passage we’re going to consider three questions about the church. What makes it? Who makes? And what does it look like?

What makes a church?

What was there in Thessalonica that meant Paul could write to them? If I wrote a letter to “The Church of Scotland, Edinburgh” the letter would likely find its way to the Church of Scotland’s offices in George St. But there were no church offices in Thessalonica. So was the letter delivered to the congregation’s building? No, they didn’t have one. Was the letter for the minister? They did not have one of them either. So what did they have? What was there in Thessalonica that made it possible for Paul to write to the “church” there?
What was there in that town that meant Paul could write to the church there? If I wrote to “The Church of Scotland, Edinburgh” the letter would likely find its way to the Kirk’s offices in George St. But there were no church offices in Thessalonica. So was the letter delivered to the congregation’s building? No, they didn’t have one. Was the letter for the minister? They did not have one of them either. So what did they have? What was there in Thessalonica that made it possible for Paul to write to the “church” there?
The answer is that there was people. The Greek word for ‘church’ is ekklēsia, which means ‘an assembly’. Nowadays this is a religious term, that almost exclusively refers to the church. But when Paul was writing it wasn’t a religious word, it was simply a word that referred to a gathering of people for a particular purpose. If the people of the city were getting together for a public meeting, perhaps in an effort to sort out wheelie bin collections, or to find out what on earth is going on with all these roadworks, then that meeting, that gathering would be ‘ekklēsia’, church.
The Greek word for ‘church’ is ekklēsia, which means ‘an assembly’. Nowadays this is a religious term, that almost exclusively refers to the church. Ecclesiology for example, is the study of the church. But when Paul was writing it wasn’t a religious word, it was simply a word that referred to a gathering of people for a particular purpose. If the people of the city were getting together for a public meeting, perhaps in an effort to sort out wheelie bin collections, or to find out what on earth is going on with all these roadworks, then that meeting, that gathering would be ‘ecclesia’, church.
Stott, J. R. W. (1994). The message of Thessalonians: the gospel & the end of time (p. 27). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Nowadays this is a religious term, that almost exclusively refers to the church. Ecclesiology for example, is the study of the church. But when Paul was writing it wasn’t a religious word, it was simply a word that referred to a gathering of people for a particular purpose. If the people of the city were getting together for a public meeting, perhaps in an effort to sort out wheelie bin collections, or to find out what on earth is going on with all these roadworks, then that meeting, that gathering would be ‘ecclesia’, church.
The first thing this tells us is that meeting together is important. If you don’t gather together with God’s people and share in the life of faith, then you are not part of the church. Members of a golf club, for example, are all associated with one another, connected through membership of a particular golf club, but they may not ever assemble together into one place. As long as you pay your fees then you’ll be a member. But they are not a church. They may have something in common, but not something that brings them together for a particular reason. The word “church” refers only to people who meet together for a particular reason.
Paul goes on in verse 1, to spell out what that reason is. They are those who are “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v.1). But what does that mean? What does it mean to be “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”? Different translators have tried to capture different things. JB Philips says ‘founded on God’, the Message says, ‘assembled by God’, and another translation says ‘belonging to God’. One might argue that ‘in’ means that they have God as Father and Jesus as Lord. Now, all of these things are good and true. The Church, as we’ll see in a moment, is founded by God, and the people of the Church do belong to God and they do indeed know God as Father and Jesus as Lord, but being ‘in’ God seems to be so much more than even that.
In we can read that Jesus spoke of his disciples as being ‘in’ him as branches are ‘in’ the vine, while Paul wrote in that Christians are ‘in Christ’ as limbs are ‘in’ the body. In both cases the relationship in mind is a vital, organic union which makes possible the sharing of a common life. With that in mind, John Stott suggests that we should perhaps “paraphrase the preposition ‘in’ as meaning ‘living in’, ‘rooted in’ or ‘drawing its life from’. Church then, is those who gather together because of their common relationship to God, chiefly their being “in” him, and sharing in his common life.
Church then, is those who gather together because of their common relationship to God, chiefly their being “in” him, and sharing in his common life. A new society had been formed, not by the mutual association of different people coming together as e.g. for an ramblers club or whatever. This society was the work of God, his creation (v4,5). Its existence came about through the bringing of people into a living relationship with God, & through that to one another. So that, these church people 1) were rooted in God, living in him, drawing life from him. 2) bearing fruit for God.
People in “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v1). Church is those who gather to build the body of Christ, to acknowledge their common commitment to love & serve God. Does that bring us back to the building? the minister? the furniture? etc Clearly not, for the church in Thessalonica did not have any of these. So what made that group of people “a church”? It was their common relationship to God, their belonging to him (v1), their being “in” him. A new society had been formed, not by the mutual association of different people coming together as e.g. for an ramblers club or whatever. This society was the work of God, his creation (v4,5). Its existence came about through the bringing of people into a living relationship with God, & through that to one another. So that, these church people 1) were rooted in God, living in him, drawing life from him. 2) bearing fruit for God.
Church is those who gather to build the body of Christ, to acknowledge their common commitment to love & serve God. Does that bring us back to the building? the minister? the furniture? etc Clearly not, for the church in Thessalonica did not have any of these. So what made that group of people “a church”? It was their common relationship to God, their belonging to him (v1), their being “in” him. A new society had been formed, not by the mutual association of different people coming together as e.g. for an ramblers club or whatever. This society was the work of God, his creation (v4,5). Its existence came about through the bringing of people into a living relationship with God, & through that to one another. So that, these church people 1) were rooted in God, living in him, drawing life from him. 2) bearing fruit for God.

Who makes it?

So that’s what the church is, a community of people, gathered together through their union with Christ, their shared life of God. But how did it come to be in Thessalonica? How did it get there? Who made it?
We see the answer in verses 2-5. The existence of the church in Thessalonica was the work of God, his. We can see this in a couple of ways. Firstly, Paul writes in verse 2, ‘We always thank God for all of you...’ Now, why would Paul write that? In our house, whenever we’re opening parcels, be it for Christmas or a birthday, Alison or I generally make a list of who each gift is from in order that we can write thank you card to the appropriate people. We want to make sure that the person responsible for the gift is the one who is thanked. In thanking the person, we are acknowledging that they are the ones who brought this gift, whatever it is, into our lives.
acknowledging that
By thanking God for the Thessalonian Church, Paul is saying that the church there has been brought into being by God. Now, it is clear that Paul, Silas and Timothy have all been involved in the creation of this church, but the chief architect and builder is God. In verse 5, Paul talks about how it was himself, along with Silas and Timothy, who brought the gospel to the Thessalonians. But, we can read in that it was the Holy Spirit who sent them, we can read in that it was the Holy Spirit who gave them the message, who empowered them to preach and we can see in this passage, in the second half of verse 5, that even while Paul, Timothy and Silas were the ones who were preaching, it was the Holy Spirit who took their words and planted them deep within the hearts of the hearers. We see it again in verse 7 - they received the message with joy, given by the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel, without the Holy Spirit, is a bit like the unplugged toaster we were looking at earlier in our service - it won’t do what it’s supposed to do. However, with the Holy Spirit, the Gospel has the power and conviction that will transform our hearts and lives. It will reveal the greatness of God’s love for us, it will show us that Christ’s death upon the cross, his dying in our place, means that we can be brought into fellowship, into a relationship with the living God.
This society was the work of God, his creation (v4,5). Its existence came about through the bringing of people into a living relationship with God, & through that to one another. So that, these church people 1) were rooted in God, living in him, drawing life from him. 2) bearing fruit for God.
Its existence came about through the bringing of people into a living relationship with him, & through that to one another. So that, these church people 1) were rooted in God, living in him, drawing life from him bearing fruit for God.
1. Rooted v2-6.
The Church was not a society created by the like-minded coming together & agreeing on some activities. It was the work of God in their lives that created the Church. Their whole life & being was reshaped through their encounter with God, & the wholehearted response that that had drawn from them. They were now in Christ;; their life meaning & purpose was different;; their aspirations changed, their motives transformed, their standard of behaviour altered... The Gospel brought them into a community, not based on rules or activities, but on a common life rooted in God himself.
Paul, v2, says “we always thank God for all of you”.... why? Because their faith, their Christianity, their being church was due to God’s work. It was God’s message that they welcomed (v6), that changed & transformed their lives. So it made sense to thank God because God had done this work in their lives. Wee Jimmy gets a birthday present from Aunt Matilda. So he sits down & writes a thank-you letter to his Aunt Mary. Why? If Matilda had given him something why send a thank-you note to Mary? Why would Paul be thanking God for the church in Thessalonica if someone else, something else, including the people of Thessalonica themselves had created the church? Why thank God for that?
That’s why the question of ‘Who made the Church?’ matters. Because it tells us that the Church is the people who know the Creator, people who know God, people who have & enjoy the presence of God. Too often what passes for church life is about what we do, what we like, what we try. It is often done with best intentions, but done with the sense that God’s in heaven, we’re here, & what really matters is doing the best we can so that we can eventually get into his presence (after we die). But that is not the Gospel Church is not our activity, but our response to the love of God which has taken us from death to life, from darkness to light, & brought us into his living presence, where as his sons & daughters we can enjoy a fellowship not just with one another, but with the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Whatever else this means for us as a church, it means that our focus should not be on running programmes, maintaining the institution, providing a safe & pleasant place to be, but on encountering & experiencing God in our midst.
But the Gospel is firstly about his love for us, his coming to us, his choosing us (v4,5) - & he gives us not just words or ideas or information, but the Gospel which comes in & with the power of the Holy Spirit (v5). That is, the message brings & gives life. The Gospel brings us into fellowship, into a relationship with the living God. The Church is the people who know God, people who have & enjoy the presence of God. Too often what passes for church life is about what we do, what we like, what we try. It is often done with best intentions, but done with the sense that God’s in heaven, we’re here, & what really matters is doing the best we can so that we can eventually get into his presence (after we die). But that is not the Gospel - that is not Christianity. Church is not our activity, but our response to the love of God which has taken us from death to life, from darkness to light, & brought us into his living presence, where as his sons & daughters we can enjoy a fellowship not just with one another, but with the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Whatever else this means for us as a church, it means that our focus should not be on running programmes, maintaining the institution, providing a safe & pleasant place to be, but on encountering & experiencing God in our midst. How we do that, what helps with that is part & parcel of the church’s raison d'être.
thank-you note to Mary? Why would Paul be thanking God for the church in Thessalonica if someone else, something else, including the people of Thessalonica themselves had created the church? Why thank God for that? But the Gospel is firstly about his love for us, his coming to us, his choosing us (v4,5) - & he gives us not just words or ideas or information, but the Gospel which comes in & with the power of the Holy Spirit (v5). That is, the message brings & gives life. The Gospel brings us into fellowship, into a relationship with the living God. The Church is the people who know God, people who have & enjoy the presence of God. Too often what passes for church life is about what we do, what we like, what we try. It is often done with best intentions, but done with the sense that God’s in heaven, we’re here, & what really matters is doing the best we can so that we can eventually get into his presence (after we die). But that is not the Gospel - that is not Christianity. Church is not our activity, but our response to the love of God which has taken us from death to life, from darkness to light, & brought us into his living presence, where as his sons & daughters we can enjoy a fellowship not just with one another, but with the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Whatever else this means for us as a church, it means that our focus should not be on running programmes, maintaining the institution, providing a safe & pleasant place to be, but on encountering & experiencing God in our midst. How we do that, what helps with that is part & parcel of the church’s raison d'être.

What does it look like?

2. Fruited v7-10
So far we have seen that the church is a gathering of people created by God, with their lives rooted in him and in the gospel. But what we see here is that living this life, rooted in God, as part of this community, is a life that produces fruit.
Generally, roots are below the surface - they are crucial for life, but not always discernible to the naked eye. In a similar way a genuine experience of God may start within, but sooner or later the fruit of that new life with Christ will be seen. If you look at verses 7-9 you can see that the Thessalonian church ‘became a model to all believers’, the Lord’s message, ‘rang out’ from them, ‘their faith in God became known everywhere’, and others would tell of how they ‘turned to God from idols’. In other words, the fruit of being rooted in God, of being rooted in the Gospel, was a life that proclaimed in word and in deed that very same gospel.
In verse 3 Paul speaks of the Thessalonians faith producing work, their love prompting labour, their hope inspiring endurance (v3). As is seen in , when the Gospel first came to Thessalonica, the church there faced violent opposition. But Paul doesn’t say to them “my dear Thessalonians, I am so sorry that it has turned out this way for you. I had hoped that you were going to be blessed and here you are getting persecuted.” Instead he speaks to them as though being a follower of Jesus quite naturally leads to work, labour and endurance.
In verses 9 & 10 Paul describes the Christian life, this life of mission, as turning, serving and waiting. There were many Greek and Roman Gods in the city of Thessalonica who could be placated through pagan worship and sacrifice. There was also Emperor worship and cities like Thessalonica were falling over themselves to show devotion to the Emperor in order to gain his favour. But followers of Jesus had to turn from all of that. Today, the turning is from the individualistic materialism & consumerism of our society. It is from a moral relativism that denies any serious distinction between right & wrong.
Being a Christian is always seen in the New Testament as an active involvement & engagement. Paul describes the Christian life as turning, serving, waiting (v9,10). They turned from idols. Then, there were many Roman & Greek gods to be placated & won over. Recently, Emperor worship had crept in & cities like Thessalonica were falling over themselves to show devotion to the Emperor in order to gain his favour. But the Christian had to turn from all of that. Today, the turning is from selfish materialism & consumerism. The turning is from a moral relativism that denies any serious distinction between right & wrong. In our time it is to challenge the world view that puts our individual self at the centre, that measures worth in what you can own, that cares only about our rights & denies that we have much by way of responsibilities. Today the Christian is to turn from such, just as definitely & as particularly as the Thessalonians had to turn from following the many idols around the city. But Christian living is not just about what you give up (turn from) but also about what you do. They were to serve God - how? By doing his will, by living out his ways, by sharing his life, by making his kingdom values seen in all we do, by taking opportunities to explain what & why we believe, by defending God’s reputation through consistent, faithful Jesus-shaped living. And to wait for Christ - looking to the future with hopeful expectancy. Waiting does not mean doing nothing - just as a couple waiting through the pregnancy for the birth of a child are not doing nothing, but getting on with life & getting ready for a baby, so our wait is getting things ready for Jesus. And notice, v10, it is not us going to heaven, but Jesus returning to us, to the
But Paul doesn’t just write about what we are to turn from, he also writes of what we are to do. And there are two things. Firstly, we are to serve the living God by doing his will, by living out his ways, by sharing his life, by making his kingdom values seen in all we do. And secondly, we are to wait for his Son, Jesus - looking to the future with hopeful expectancy. As Paul mentions in verse 3, this hope of Christ’s return can inspire endurance when things are hard. We saw that last week when we were looking at didn’t we? The exiles were able to serve God in the city of their oppressors because of their future hope.
renewed creation. Were you going to be spending a weekend at Buckingham Palace, you would have some preparations you’d likely want to make.... how much more would you be active & making preparations were the Queen coming to stay at yours for the weekend! Our waiting is a getting the place ready, for Jesus is coming. It is to live in such a way that our goal in life is not to get as much wealth as we can, stay as fit & active as we can, but do as much as we can to have the world in as good a shape as we can for Jesus’ return.
Waiting on Jesus’ return then, does not mean doing nothing. A couple waiting through the pregnancy for the birth of a child are not doing nothing, they are getting ready for the baby’s arrival.
I imagine that some of you watched the Royal Wedding yesterday. (My heart goes out to you!). Anyway, I’m sure many people enjoyed watching it. But imagine for a moment if you had been invited! What would you have done to get ready, as you waited for the day? A haircut? A new outfit? Maybe try and find a nice gift? You’d probably have done all of these things. Now imagine that instead of getting an invite to the wedding, you’d been told that the happy couple didn’t just want you at the wedding - they wanted to bring the wedding to your house! In that instance your first thought is probably not about what you will wear or what your hair will look like - instead you’ll be thinking about tidying, cleaning and maybe even decorating.
In the same way, if we think about us going to heaven, then our primary concern will be for ourselves, but if we are waiting for Christ to come here, then it widens our perspective
The fact that
If we think about the Christian life as us going to heaven, then our primary concern will be for ourselves. But if we are waiting for Jesus to return, to come here from heaven, then our concern won’t only be for ourselves, but for the world around us. Waiting for Christ to return not only gives us a hope inspires endurance, it also shapes how we live and serve today. It is a hope that empowers us, and sends us out in mission.

Conclusion

The church then, is a community of people brought together by God, through the work of the Holy Spirit and the gospel. And rooted in the life of God, the church proclaims that same gospel in faith, in love and in hope.
If you were told that there was a new airport opening in Lanarkshire you might be interested in using it. If you were told that this airport was to have no shops, no cafe, & no baggage handling facility you might have doubts about using it. That doesn’t sound a very good airport. But if you were told the airport would have top class facilities, good shops, cafes, lounges etc - but that there wasn’t anywhere for planes to land or take off.... then you would reckon not that it isn’t a good airport but that it’s not an airport at all. In the same way we cannot say that buildings, organisations, programmes etc don’t matter to the Church. They do - just as the shops, car park, lights etc matter to the airport. But no matter how good these things are in & of themselves: they do not make a church. Church only exists where there is a gathered together people rooted & fruited in God. Our notions of “membership” imply that people can belong without participation. We talk of church as though it has an existence distinct from, apart from its members. The Church is the Church only where we are gathered on the basis of shared life in God, a common faith & experience of grace, and where we are helping one another become more faithful & fruitful in “turning, serving, waiting” Is the basis of our association our shared life in Father, Son & Spirit? Apart from being in same building, the same room, a common participation in eg hymn singing, is there a real connection that is God focused? Do we mention him to one another? Do we look to see the fruits of Christ’s life growing in one another?
In the same way we cannot say that buildings, organisations, programmes etc don’t matter to the Church. They do. But no matter how good these things are in & of themselves: they do not make a church. The Church is the Church only where we are gathered on the basis of shared life in God, a common faith & experience of grace, and where we are helping one another become more faithful & fruitful in “turning, serving, waiting”
Almighty God, who on the day of Pentecost sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples with the sound of wind from heaven and tongues as of flame, filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel, send us out in the power of the same Spirit to witness to your truth and to draw all people to the fire of your love, through Jesus Christ, our Lord who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
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