Monday, February 04, 2008

~ greetings ~

Last Wednesday night we began a new inductive study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. Picture nineteen women of varying ages and backgrounds gathered around a living room, dissecting the facts of individual verses to gain a richer understanding of the treasures hidden within… and laughing… and discerning… and edifying one another. There are a lot of churchy words I have grown disaffectionate towards (and I am grateful to Kathleen Norris for sharing her definititions), but edification… building up… strengthening… instructing so as to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement… that is a word I adore.

So, we took time for breaking the ice, for small talk, for introductions. We talked about the background and context of the letter. We read the letter all the way through, without modern divisions, as if we were reading a letter from a friend. Then we dove in with Bibles and pens in hand. Chapter one, Verse one:

Paul, Silas and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.

Grace and Peace to you. Believe me, we pulled a lot out of the few verses we looked at that first evening, including this small salutation, but few words resonated through my heart and mind in the days that followed as strongly as Grace and Peace.

Grace: the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.

Peace: freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.; tranquillity; serenity.

We had actually touched on this subject a bit the Monday prior, while I sat through Perspectives as an alumni on my second go-round. What makes our faith worth sharing? What is the hope we have to hold out to people? What makes our beliefs desirable? Grace and Peace. Most religions hold out a hope of some sort of better afterlife. The hope that we do not have to spend our lives anxiously wondering if we are doing all that is required to get there is something that sets belief in Jesus Christ apart.


Romans 3:19 – 26
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. Righteousness Through Faith But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Because our redemption comes through Grace, we should be able to live our lives with Peace. Paul wrote to the Church in Thessalonia not only because they were new believers in need of encouragement and instruction, but also because they were anxious about things to come. What would happen to them after death? When was Christ returning? How long did they have?


John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Grace and Peace to you. Such hope packed into so few words.

Romans 5:1-11
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Grace and Peace to you, my friends.

1 comment:

Ines said...

i cannot believe i am JUST reading this- where have i been? great prose. great definitions. especially the word *peace*. it captivates me!