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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, October 23, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10

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 persons 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 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. (NRSV)

It was always a mystery to me as a boy how my mother learned of my doings about the neighborhood. I’d make a ruckus getting Slurpees at 7-11 with my friends, and by the time I got home, Slurpee still unfishished, she was waiting to hold me to account. Or, at my friend’s house, I would pepper my driveway basketball trash talk with profanity, and within hours I was grounded.

How did she do it?!

Of course, it wasn’t mom doing the doing. It was Mr. Adler, my friend’s dad, and Jonesy, my mom’s friend who worked the day shift at the 7-11, reporting my public behavior back to her in what seemed to me at the time like nosey prying but that now, as a parent, rather appeals to me now as a kind of community accountability.

It needn’t be all bad, this accountability. For the church in Thessaloniki it’s rather good. “People report about us,” Paul tells the Christians in that congregation, “what kind of welcome we had among you.” It’s a classic “I-heard-what-you-did” confrontation, but it’s all to the good.

Two things seem important about this. First, validation of faithfulness is really important. We are so aware of our discipleship deficiencies. To call one another out for the faithfulness we do attain means the difference between discouragement and hope.

Second, our discipleship happens in public, where people are watching though nobody seems to be, and where faithfulness is measured by impact. Since coming to Fourth Church in February in 2016, I have repeatedly been surprised to discover how widely known our congregation is in Chicago, and not just for its location and its architecture. People know the impact you have on people's’ lives. The word is out about Fourth Church, just as it was about that church in Thessaloniki.

Good work.

Perfect us as disciples, O God, so that the witness we give would be one of compassion and justice and reconciliation. May those who see our work and hear of our ministry say, “Look how they love one another! Look how they love all of God’s children!” Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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