If you have read the lectionary texts this week, you have seen these words “encourage one another.” That’s a three-word sermon! In some ways, it’s all we need to say. Trying to do this well will take a lifetime. It’s a perfect goal: encourage one another.
In our family, we have offered this lesson to our children. The tv shows they watch, in an effort to be funny, offer a lot of put-downs. It seems we are all ready to tease and belittle more than build up. While teasing is easy, there is a hollow or even sometimes mean-spirited laughter that accompanies it. While this seems like something we should have learned in elementary school, it seems like the world needs a refresher!
Encouragement, on the other hand, is pretty easy to do and offers love, kindness, and care in just a few words. Again, basic stuff, but words we don’t share often enough!! Encouragement instills confidence and inspires our neighbors to “pay it forward” and to encourage as you have been encouraged! I truly believe encouragement is a way to offer love and care. Think about it: when someone encourages you as a preacher or in your job or in trying something new, your spirits soar. You are motivated and inspired to try, to keep going, to use your gifts. This person seems something meaningful and promising in you – and you are encouraged! As people of faith, as people who are in the world but not of the world, we are called to be encouragers!
I read the lectionary text from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 in the NRSV. It is familiar, a reminder that we know neither the day nor the hour. In addition, it reminds us who and Whose we are – people of light, rather than darkness, children of the day, keeping awake, clothed in faith, hope and love. We need to live as the people we are created to be. We need to build one another up (and allow ourselves to be built up)! I offer this passage to you from The Message as well:
1-3 I don’t think, friends, that I need to deal with the question of when all this is going to happen. You know as well as I that the day of the Master’s coming can’t be posted on our calendars. He won’t call ahead and make an appointment any more than a burglar would. About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other—“We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!”—suddenly everything will fall apart. It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman.
4-8 But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation.
9-11 God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.
I like how The Message passage ends: “I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.” This is an encouraging word! Often, we hear scriptural “commands” as something to feel guilty about, something we better get to doing right away if we want to please God. As pastors, we can always find something we are not doing well enough, and that’s why things have “gone South” at church.
I decided to offer this word today, not because you are not encouraging your parishioners, but so that you would be encouraged, so that you would receive encouragement! Times are difficult and yet you are persevering! Pandemic church (worship, study, communication, outreach) is tough and yet you are leading and partnering and listening and making a way, with God’s help!
Thank you is not adequate enough for all that you have taken on during the last 6 months. Keep on doing what you are doing and know that I am here to listen or resource as needed! May God bless you, may you be encouraged, and may you keep the faith!
If you would like to view past editions of Time with Tara, follow this link: https://harbordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/