I Thessalonians 1 (The Message) 5-6You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble. 7-10Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore—you’re the message! People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom.
Recently, during a conversation of my beloved Aunt Irene, I mentioned that at my age in life, I wondered if I would make the tooth paste I buy come out even. Although, some find this macabre, my delightful Aunt Irene replied, “I don’t buy green bananas!”
That phrase kept echoing in my mind, as I thought about how brief our life on this earth is and how our perspective on life changes as we grow older. No longer do we have the ‘immortal’ mindset, but we see beyond this life, ever more clearly the joy that awaits us as believers of Jesus Christ.
Aunt Irene reached the grand age of 6 when I was born. She told me often how exhilarated she was that she could be an Aunt. Aunt Irene spent a lifetime living on the farm with her parents and her husband, Uncle Bud. She and Uncle Bud raised a six children, each one gifted and with an abiding faith in Jesus. Uncle Bud died in 1985. Since then, Aunt Irene has lived alone and her faith in Jesus has continued to grow. A worn Bible sits on her kitchen table for daily reading, as she looks out the window and contemplates. Prayer visits with her Heavenly Father are her constant joy. She is sought after for her wisdom, her faith and her outlook on life and especially her expectant joy of the hereafter.
Now Aunt Irene’s servant heart finds ways to love others through long hours of creating quilts, taking food, and ‘just being there’ for others in need. She continues to be active in Bible Study and Prayer groups. Each day is devoted in prayer to one of her six children, praying specifically for their needs. One of her sons sent the picture on the right, a favorite of his, before his parents were blessed with children.
As I read I Thessalonians this morning, it pointed to this dear lady…for indeed, she is the message, for she lives Jesus Christ. She has the joy of the Lord as her strength, no matter what life brings. Her children and children’s children are blessed and strengthened because of her relationship and prayer life in Jesus. And so am I.
She lives expectantly for Jesus. When she says she doesn’t buy green bananas, I know she is listening with her heart for her Lord in anticipation.
I Thessalonians 4:1-3 – One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life.
The words, a living, spirited dance, speak of energy. Not of the body, but of the heart and our Christian living. How easy it is to begin a new project, and how difficult to see its completion. And yet we are called to finish the race that is set before us.
As I remember ‘those who have gone before’, I see this constant energy of hope and joy that can only come through Jesus Christ.
Often the ‘last words’ of our loved ones live on in the hearts of the living. The last precious night that Dad, Herman Siemens, spent at home was sleepless, for the final pillow talk. Even though Dad faced death, he told Mother to look to the East when the Lord came, for he would be there. Grandpa Suderman had visions of the setting of the 23rd Psalm in Heaven a week before he died.
Great Grandpa (Jacob) Suderman, unable to speak prior to his death due to cancer of the throat. There was no way to feed him, so he literally starved to death. When speech failed, he used a slate to communicate with his family. He became weaker every day. The family was finally called and amazed to hear him sing, “In dem Himmel is Ruh. In dem Himmel is Ruh” (In heaven there’s rest). When his voice faltered, the family finished the song for him. Jacob went home singing, to leave a heritage of faith behind. This song became the Family Song, sung at every reunion and gathering of the family.
I Thessalonians 4:15-18 And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.