Readings – Deuteronomy 34:1-2; Psalm 90:1-6,13-17; I Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
Scholars write that St. Paul’s letters to the congregation at Thessalonica may be the earliest of his letters, being written at 50 CE when St. Paul was in Corinth. He may have written earlier letters, but these are the first letters we still have. Thessalonica in northern Greece was a thoroughly Roman, multicultural town, founded in 315 BCE. It would become the second largest and the wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire.
We know St. Paul visited the city’s chief synagogue at least three sabbaths and sowed the seeds for Thessalonica’s congregation. Of all of St. Paul’s letters to congregations, I find this one the most tender. He wrote:
…we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
In a time of “great opposition”, a time of great conflict, St. Paul shared the image of a nursing mother holding her infant close and sharing herself intimately.
Friends, we live in a time of great opposition, of great conflict, Israel-Gaza, Ukraine-Russia, North Korea, China, and we have enormous political turmoil here at home. I think St. Paul shows us a way forward. Like a nursing mother we are to bring others close, and we are to share ourselves intimately. This is dangerous work, like Christ stretching forth his arms of love.
We have been here before in the 1960’s. Hal David and Burt Bacharach released a song in 1965. It was first sung by Jackie DeShannon, and later by Dionne Warwick.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of What the world needs now is love, sweet love No, not just for some, but for everyone.
We don’t need another mountain There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb There are oceans and rivers enough to cross Enough to last until the end of time.
We don’t need another meadow There are corn fields and wheat fields enough to grow There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to share Oh, listen Lord, if you want to know.
The chorus contains the hard thing – “No, not just [love] for some, but for everyone”.
Sitting in a stack beside the main desk at the Selinsgrove library are free signs for distribution. We had one here for a while and then someone else needed it more. Monday I am going to get another, a replacement, and perhaps you would want to pick one up, too. It simply states, “BE KIND”. I think kindness is the action that enables us to love everyone, not just some. In fact, the King James Version of the Bible renders the Hebrew word “hesed” as “loving kindness”. It is found over 250 times in the Old Testament. At its core “hesed” communicates loyalty, faithfulness in a relationship. “Hesed” expresses God’s relationship with the People of God. Another way of expressing “hesed” is God’s extending “amazing grace”. Therefore, we, as the People of God, are empowered by the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, to extend “hesed” to others. Even in tranquil times this calls for energy on our part, to extend “amazing grace” to others. In tumultuous times it calls for “amazing grace” just like Jesus extended to all.
Sometimes we are easily distracted, like the Sadducees and the Pharisees, by trying to determine who is the smartest, the most clever, who is the Steve Jobs or the Elon Musk at the moment, rather than who is the kind person, and what is the kind thing to do.
The Psalmist (90:14,17) wrote:
[O Lord God] Satisfy us by your loving kindness in the morning… May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us; prosper the work of our hands; prosper our handiwork.
Back to the signs at the library – BE KIND. Most importantly they need to be placed by our front doors so that they serve as reminders to us as we come and go. They may also remind those who pass by that loving kindness is part of who we are, and perhaps it will encourage others to act with loving kindness as they go about their daily living.
As we receive the loving kindness of God in this community of faith, as we extend it to those who gather here to worship and fellowship, may we be strengthened to carry it out into our home, into our neighborhood, into our community.
Be courageous! Be vulnerable! Pull others close. Share yourself. Share your loving kindness. This is Gospel living. This is living in the Promised Land here and now.
God is with us.
God is with us, always.