Virtual Services

2nd Sunday Before Advent – 15th November 2020

Welcome

Good morning, and welcome to All Saints Totley today.

This is the first of our online first services after our weeks back in church and livestream remembrance last week. Hopefully, it won’t be too long until we will have services both online and in the church building again, but in the meantime we will be here in some form every Sunday and hope you can join us. Further details will continue to go out via our weekly messages from the Wardens both here on the website, and via the notices email list.

Hopefully any younger people watching along today will have seen on this page, or parents and carers will, the visual service bingo sheets for this week (download here). If you want to play along there are 9 objects or things or images that appear in the videos in today’s service – keep your eyes peeled to spot them! 

We’ve had a short lectionary run through Thessalonians over the past few weeks at All Saints, and today will be our last one as we look at what Paul has to say to the believers in Thessalonica about living in the their present circumstance. So as we prepare ourselves this morning – let’s begin with a prayer, before our time of worship.

Reminder: If you want to play along with the visual service bingo – please download your sheets before watching the videos!

Worship

God – we gather in your presence.
Father – we long for more of you.
Jesus – we place you at the centre.
Holy Spirit – come and fill our time together.
Help us to be fully present here,
to your word, to one another,
and to the world you love.
Amen.


https://engageworship.org. Used with permission

We’re going to worship in song this morning with, firstly a song from Jars of Clay, focussed on Christian behaviour in the world. Then from Darlene Zschech and a request to God for moulding and shaping and changing after the divine pattern.

God of the break and shatter
Hearts in every form still matter
In our weakness help us see
That alone we’ll never be
Lifting any burdens off our shoulders
 
If our days could be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall, the current and the fall
 
God of the warn and tattered
All of Your people matter
Give us more than words to speak
‘Cause we are hearts and arms that reach
And love climbs up and down the human ladder
 
Give us days to be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall, the current and the fall
The fall
 
We will never walk alone again
No, we will never walk alone again
No, we will never walk alone again
 
Give us days to be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall
 
Give us days to be filled with small rebellions
Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all
If we stand between the fear and firm foundation
Push against the current and the fall, the current and the fall
The fall
 
Jars of Clay – Small Rebellions

Word

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers,you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 

But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians
5:1-11

The point of our passage this morning, from Paul’s point of view, is to encourage those in the Church in Thessalonica to living more Christ-like – what Paul writes is a reminder not to get caught up in the worries and concerns of the world, not that they aren’t important, real and pressing, but to try to refocus beyond that to what having faith means, and should therefore look like.

In the previous chapter Paul has been addressing the concerns of the church about what has happened to those that have died, before the promised return of Jesus or the Parousia. Of course this is important at this point because of the pressure the church is under from opposition and the of timing – we’re getting to 50 years after Jesus death.More and more believers who have ‘eternal life’ would be dying. People would naturally begin to ask the question about what that means for faith and theology and just when is Jesus coming back if we’re suffering now and this is all a sign? This was all new to them, and Paul teaches them about it, explaining the eschatological, or future times, teaching of Jesus he has already passed on.

Paul comforts the church in the face of loss – explaining that those believers who have died will be with those still alive at the return of Jesus – and therefore there is no cause for concern, and they can be encouraged. In our present passage the attention then turns to those that are alive, and what future events mean for them.

 

1 Thess. 5:1-11

What Paul does in this shift to our current passage is to remind the believers of what they already know about the future, and therefore re-iterate the way they should be behaving in the present. He does this by invoking OT ideas about the ‘Day of the Lord’ and then jumping through metaphors with day and night, sleeping and waking and being sober or drunken – together drawing a contrast designed to reassure and encourage.

Paul seems to start with the negative in his follow-on teaching after speaking of believers who have died – concerns perhaps brought to him via Timothy. He reminds them that the events of the end times and all things eschatological are not known – the ‘times and seasons’ is a deliberate phrase used to encapsulate all the ideas about timing and events in the hands of the divine. Almost like a parent Paul is saying in verses 1-3, you should know this – but I’m going to remind you. The ‘Day of the Lord’ is coming. A day that in the OT is both associated with expectation of God restoring Israel (eg: Isa 2:2-4), but also of fear and judgement (Amos turns from one to the other- 5:18). Paul picks up on the latter and imagery from Jesus that later ends up in Luke’s gospel version – the thief in the night – and comes up with the result: Christ’s coming and judgement will be sudden.

 

Then a sudden pivot in v4, another Paul but/not construct. Paul turns from unbelievers to the church in Thessalonica. Instead of the illusion of peace and safety that people find in the world, Paul begins to emphasise the very real peace and safety that believers have before God. Again, this Is encouragement by Paul that the believers should live a Christian life despite their present situation and hardship. It isn’t the threat of Christ’s return that fuels this, but the reassurance and hope it represents.

 

Paul has carefully crafted a night and day theme here to this point, to build that reassurance – the Thessalonians are children of the day, and have the right to live in ‘The Day of the Lord’, contrasted against the thief in the night, and those that are in darkness. The point then is, In light, pardon the pun, of the certainty of the ‘Day of the Lord’. How should the church live? Living as believers in Christ says Paul in v6, means being awake, not asleep, sober and not drunk. This daytime nightime contrast is one designed to contrast the church against its pagan background – God’s people should be living sensibly, upright and in stark opposition to the world and behaviours that stem from a fallen creation and rejection of divine authority.

Practically in v8 this involves armour, echoing Ephesians 6, and drawn from Isaiah 59:17 where Yahweh clothes himself in armour to pursue justice. Of course armour is demonstrative and defensive. And so: The faith and love of the believer is to emblazoned on their chest, and the contentedness that comes from an absolutely certain future, which is what hope means in this context, is to gird the head and mind.

Another ‘for’ from Paul in v9 takes us to Paul’s summation – do this because we have salvation, through Christ, by his death so that we might be mysteriously and mystically united with him no matter what. Therefore, given all of this, v11 – encourage, exhort, build up one another.

 

So for us today – what can we say? Obviously the concerns and fears of the Thessalonians aren’t the same as ours today. They feared for those that had died and what it meant, and they faced local persecution. However we all have our own concerns, cares and worries – and to them Paul offers the same focus: the surety of faith and hope in God. That isn’t a magic bullet. It doesn’t make our concerns and cares about COVID, or finances, or family or depression or physical illness go away. It doesn’t mean we won’t get challenged in our faith. However the invitation Is to refocus on God, to begin to embody the truths we know, to live and breathe in the contentedness of a certain future and grasp for that rather than on the immediate and immanent.

 

Our contemporary context here at All Saints, taking the wider world view, is one of affluence and abundance. Paul was calling the Thessalonian church to live differently to their pagan context. For us, how do we live as an alternative to the present world and it’s values. How can we eschew the ideas of value that press on us from the western world and realise the inherent glory and honour in creation, in humanity, in being. How can we show faith and love emblazoned on our chests, hope guiding our thoughts, for the world to see?

 

Last week we had World Kindness day. My company has 1 day a month where all meetings are cancelled, and events are put on with external speakers, training, quiet and focus times. This was on World Kindness day and so followed that theme. Neil Mullarkey, a keynote speaker and author on creativity, collaboration and communication spoke and did an improvisation session. In this session he highlighted two important themes in improvisation that translate to life: One, that in every session it is important to ensure the other person enjoys the improv. Two that improv. only work when you seek to build each other up, and set each other up with openings to succeed. In our reading today, Paul’s closing instruction was to build each other up. In what ways in our Christian community can we build each other up? What opportunities do we have to intentionally uplift and strengthen one-another. How can we encourage and edify? How would that translate to our energy, our work, and our witness out in the community?

 

I’ll leave you with this thought about being intentional on these things. I follow Hannah Malcolm on Twitter – social media – who is an Anglican Ordinand and writer on theology and climate grief. She posed this question last week:

What works of love do we have planned for tomorrow friends?

 

 

What works of love do we have planned for tomorrow friends?

 

Witness

Prayers

Almighty Father, Creator of the universe, I approach You with a grateful heart. I bless Your Holy Name and submit the honour and praise that is due unto You.

Beautiful Lord, I was created in your image, fearfully and wonderfully made to be the light in this dark world.

Father please guide me in the path of righteousness according to Your will and glory. You are the Omnipotent Potter and I am the clay.

Shape me, mould me, use me and fill me each and everyday to become more like Christ.

Community

The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.

The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.

“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”

The Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

 

Reminder

If you have any feedback on this service or any other ideas, suggestions or contributions, for future services please do send these to comments@allsaintstotley.church