In his second letter to the Philippians Paul is using his own conduct as an example to the young congregation.
He notes that he works hard and pays for himself even though he is entitled to expect some material or financial support. He is determined not to be a drain on the congregation.
Everything Paul says and does and indeed writes is done to build up the Christian community.
Here in 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13 Paul is concerned with “idleness”, being carried by the other members of the group. Paul has an image of the Christian group as an organic unity. Don’t forget it is he that coined the phrase “the body of Christ” to describe the group. We are made up of different parts and strengths and abilities but we will only be a dynamic body when all the different parts pull their weight so to speak.
And idleness can be not just of the body but also of mind and Spirit.
This brings to mind a humorous description of many churches as being like a football match.
20,000 people badly in need of some exercise watching 22 people badly in need of a rest running around.
Now while that is quite funny, you can’t stretch the analogy too far it makes the point that in the church typically the more people who are actively involved makes any group, not just churches far more dynamic.
On “All Saints Sunday” I talked about every one of us being a witness for the faith. Every one of us, in our relationships and our work and play has the opportunity to be an open and unashamed voice for this church – our community of faith right here in Gainford/Winston.
And initially that is all that is required. Each of us has a reason or reasons to be here this morning, and that reason or reasons is the one that we can all talk about to others with complete confidence. It might be an intuition, or a feeling of community, a sense of duty perhaps. It might be intricate and well thought through and involve notions like communion with God and devotion to certain gospel truths. It may be about love, forgiveness, a sense of a shared journey with all its struggles to a destination we call “God”
Whatever they are, they are our reasons. They might not collude exactly with what the church says is the official reasons you are here (whatever they are) but they are your truth.
A great man called Harry Williams who was a monk at Mirfield, where I trained said “Truth, only has the power of truth when it becomes true for you”.
If someone were to ask you why you come to church, or if we more bravely initiated the conversation and tried to tell someone the reasons we attend church on Sunday unsolicited it is really no good trying to find out what you are “supposed” to say. Say what it actually means to you. What church means to you will change over time. It is after all a journey of faith. What God and Jesus and Spirit mean to you will ebb and flow and change over time. You should never be ashamed of your own truth. That is what is true for you and therefore the only thing that has the power to affect and change you.
In this community I try to affect change in perception by sermons, weekly emails, and the way I conduct myself. I try to do so with the utmost integrity and honesty. I try to persuade people to a specific view of God and the faith. All we can do is sow seeds. That is all any of us can do.
You never know if a seed is going to take root and prosper or not – I do believe Jesus told a parable about that somewhere!! But the point is, if the seed is not sown in the first place there is obviously no chance at all that anything will ever grow and flourish.
I wouldn’t worry too much if any attempt to talk about faith is a bit faltering. Harder than that is not to get too upset and flustered if what you say is rubbished or ridiculed. That just shows a complete lack of respect for you and your perception of truth. We do need a bit of courage and backbone to withstand brickbats as well. In my experience, that soon subsides to be replaced with a grudging respect for your position anyway.
However many people are in church today that is how many evangelists we have in this church. That is the number of witnesses, that is the same number of pilgrims we have all trying in our own way to follow the way of God as revealed in the life of Jesus.
Together we are strong and can withstand anything.