Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess. 5:16-18)
How can we properly give thanks to God? According to Paul’s letter to the community of faith in Thessalonica (Thessaloníki), it isn’t just by our words alone. As his letter comes to a close, Paul reminds the local congregation that Jesus is coming. We don’t know when, but we are asked to be prepared to welcome him. We are to remain sober, “putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet,” and all the while trusting that he will remain true to all his promises.
In other words, yes, we will share in Christ’s ultimate victory through faith, but we aren’t to be lazy while we wait for it. Our salvation isn’t just about our needs and our feelings. We are part of a much bigger, cosmic battle and purpose where we are to live – and yes, in some ways die – for one another: “encourage one another and build each other up”; “acknowledge those who work hard among you,” loving them and respecting their call to leadership; “warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” It might require putting our needs behind the needs of others. We might need to forgive someone who hurt us or be gentle in our reproach. Ultimately, we are to humbly love and serve one another and all those entrusted to our care. That can be hard!
Yet actively discerning our call from Christ, we are empowered to go forward in confidence. Victory is assured. We respond in thanksgiving by seeking to follow his Holy Spirit wherever it leads, no matter the risk or cost. Our Christian lives prove to be a great and noble effort based solely upon the love of our God and never our own legacy. We give thanks by being more than “country club” church members. We are to live actively as Christ’s disciples and saints, for by grace through faith that is exactly who we are.
So, yes I give thanks in prayer for all that we have shared and accomplished these past five years together at Messiah. I give thanks for our wonderful shared legacy of forty-five years serving Mechanicsville, Hanover County, and beyond. I remain thankful for all the saints in my own time and before who continue to inspire me. Yet most of all, I rejoice with you in our call to shared life and ministry; one that might prove hard at times but always consists of a future full of hope. It is together as church where we find the abundant life that Jesus promised us, and I am grateful for living as church with you.
This life of discipleship is Christ’s way, leading us and all the saints to the eternal feast of thanksgiving yet to come. To help celebrate, I invite all of us to reflect upon how we can live out Messiah’s mission more fully, “To share the good news of Jesus Christ and to invite all to join us in faith, worship, and service,” for there always remains room at Christ’s table.
Christ’s peace be with you always. I send you my prayers for a blessed Thanksgiving. Please pray for Kristine and me as well.
Your brother in Christ,
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2013 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.