Acts 17:1-9; 1 Thess. 1:1-10
(watch here: https://youtu.be/9_oLBk4LvUc)
After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.’ Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.’ The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go.
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace.
We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.
This morning’s readings remind me of the one about an older couple affectionately known as Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie. Well, Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie are in their eighties and have been married for more than sixty years. They have farmed all their life and live a very simple life. Their white frame house is not a show place, but it is a comfortable place to go and visit. Aunt Sadie will have tea cakes in the cookie jar, which she will offer you along with a cup of strong black coffee brewed on the electric range in a tin coffee pot. Both are what you would call “the salt of the earth” and their daily routine involves a lot of sharing which is one reason they have survived for so long. The other day Uncle Sid decided to take Aunt Sadie out to eat. They had never visited a fast food restaurant before and he decided to take her to the Burger Doodle in town. As they entered the establishment that caters to a more younger crowd, heads began to turn. With their simple clothing, and not so spry walk, the younger folks noticed right off that this couple from the farm was somewhat out of place. However, Uncle Sid walked right up to the counter and placed his order. He ordered one hamburger, one order of French fries (tater as Uncle Sid called them), and one soft drink. After getting his order, he and Aunt Sadie took a table near the back wall. Uncle Sid unwrapped the hamburger and cut it in half. He then placed one of the halves on a napkin and gave it to Aunt Sadie. He then counted out the fries into two separate piles and placed one of the piles next to Aunt Sadie’s hamburger half. He then took a sip of the soft drink. He gave it to Aunt Sadie and she took a drink. Then they set it down between them and Uncle Sid began to eat his hamburger and fries. During all of this preparation to eat, a young married couple across the restaurant had been watching them. They were concerned about the old couple and came to the conclusion that Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie could only afford one meal between them. The young man approached Uncle Sid as he ate his hamburger and offered to buy them another meal. Uncle Sid thanked him and told him they were just fine. They were used to sharing everything. As the young man returned to his table, his wife noticed that Aunt Sadie hadn’t eaten a bite. She was just sitting there watching Uncle Sid eat and taking a sip of the soft drink when it came her turn. Again the young man came to their table and offered to buy them something else to eat. This time Aunt Sadie told him thank you, but they were just fine and shared everything together. Uncle Sid finished his hamburger and was wiping his mouth off when the young man came back to the table for the third time. Again he offered to buy food for the old couple and again he was politely told no thank you. He couldn’t stand it any longer so he asked Aunt Sadie, “Why have you not eaten your half of the hamburger? You said you share everything. What is it that you are waiting for?” With a grin on her face and a laugh in her voice, she said, “The teeth.”
Now that’s what I call sharing! I understand getting old isn’t for wusses but come on…sharing a pair of teeth?! Terribly cute yet terribly disgusting! But I think it illustrates something important about life: the importance of sharing. Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie figured out somewhere along the way in their long lives and similarly long marriage just how important it is to share in life. After all, it was one of the reasons they attributed to such long lives and a long marriage. Their story is an embodiment of that old proverb, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie went far because they went together, sharing in everything…sharing in life. It’s an interesting notion that kind of runs against reasoning. One would think that going alone in life would allow for less resistance along the way, that hoarding wisdom and resources would ensure a longer life. But in reality, sharing wisdom and resources and lives together results in far longer lives than expected. Perhaps in sharing we inadvertently compensate for each other’s weaknesses and shortcomings and we become inherently stronger as a whole. Perhaps in sharing we build off each other’s strengths to create better versions of ourselves. Regardless, sharing inevitably produces fruit for all those involved. And we all have something to share if not through our own unique abilities or blessings then through God’s love bestowed on all of us. God blesses each of us so that we might be a blessing to others. And not only that but God loves each of us so that we might love each other. His is an unconditional, unending, generous love but also a love to be shared with others. Why? Perhaps to compensate for our weaknesses and shortcomings in sharing love with ourselves and those around us. Perhaps to strengthen us and encourage us to behave as a beloved family of God. I don’t know why God so graciously shares his love with us. But I do know that He wants us to share it with each other and I try to obey what He commands me to do.
So it is important to share in this world. It produces a variety of fruits and we become collectively stronger through sharing. Not to mention it is commanded by our God! Paul and Silas understood this all too well as we heard in our readings for today. They, too, were commanded to share with those around them: share the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. For some, that good news transformed their lives and they became faithful disciples of Christ. For others, the good news was viewed as a threat and they became very agitated, causing an uproar in the city of Thessalonica. For those who graciously received the good news, it enriched their lives and empowered them to share it with many throughout the region. Paul’s letter to his congregation at Thessalonica suggests he was quite pleased with how they had received the good news and shared it with others. Yes, the good news is what ultimately produced the fruit but it would have been ineffective unless it was shared by Paul and Silas and other faithful apostles.
The good news is the love of God. The good news is that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God so loved the world! That, my friends, is the Easter message! God loves you and me and all those around us! Now then, not everyone knows this about God. That’s why we need to share it! And not just by telling people about Jesus and what he did for us and continues to do for us. No, by actually sharing his love with ourselves and those we interact with. The good news is moot unless it is shared. We need to share his love. We need to embody his love just like Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie embodied his love.
Jesus not only told about the Father’s love. He actually embodied it and shares it with us. And, as I mentioned earlier, he commanded us to share it with the world. In Scripture, we hear Jesus tell his disciples and ultimately us, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) Proclaim it and live it! Share in the love that is given through the good news! In the book of Acts, again we Jesus say to his disciples right before his ascension, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” (1:8) We have received the Spirit as we will celebrate in a few weeks at Pentecost. The Spirit empowers us to share the good news and for that we ought to be grateful. The love of the Easter witness isn’t simply for you and me. No, his love is for the whole world! We need to share it. We need to give thanks for it and then get out there and share it. And as we go, let us be empowered by Jesus’ very words, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.