April 6, 2014 1st 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 labour 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 people 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 where 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.
The First Letter from Pastor Susan to the Eliot Church of Newton, United Church of Christ.
I, Pastor Susan, send greetings to the Eliot Church, my Christian brothers and sisters, assembled by our Father / Mather God, and our brother and teacher Jesus Christ. God’s amazing grace and peace be with you.
Every time I think of you I thank God for your presence in my life. You are in my prayers each day, as I call to mind your works of faith, your labors of love, and your hopes for the future, as you follow in the footsteps of our brother Jesus.
Before I arrived you listened to God’s calling to open your doors and hearts to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community - people who were used to having doors shut in their faces. You are on the front lines in the struggle for inclusiveness and equality for all God’s children.
In these past months since we’ve begun ministering together, I’ve watched your faith grow and blossom as you’ve reached out to support each other, both in times of sorrow, as we mourned the passing of our dear brother Larry this year, and in times of great joy, as we celebrate today the 100th birthday of our dear sister Miriam.
You’re here for each other, providing meals to sick and grieving members, rides to doctor’s appointments and church events, visitations and a listening ear, giving strength to each other as you spread the joy of God to those around you by your words and actions. God loves you for what you do.
Your good works of love reach far beyond our community of faith. I am witnessing your generosity to those less fortunate as our food drive bins in the hall fill up with much needed staples for the food bank across the street, as gifts for Cradles to Crayons are collected in this colorful box that our confirmand Nathan has asked you to fill to help children in need. Be sure to talk to him about it.
I’ve participated with you in Common Cathedral on the Boston Common, serving a Thanksgiving Community Dinner at our Alston Brighton Church, and the Martin Luther King Day of Service, sprucing up the Russell School in Dorchester. I hear some of you will be helping clean up the Charles River after Easter - a great Earth Day activity. Sign up with Betsy.
Our confirmation class has set an example for all of us. We will be traveling to NYC Easter afternoon on a mission trip to work with people who are homeless, serving in soup kitchens and shelters. You can support them in this endeavor by buying some of the bean soup they have assembled, or stock shares that will be for sale during our birthday celebration.
Danny, another of our teens, is traveling to Zambia this summer to see how our money and resources here at Eliot are serving women and children there. He too needs your financial support and will be telling you about his upcoming trip in the chapel after worship.
Words of your good works have traveled. We are known in our community as a social justice church, and others look up to you. We are here to set an example for others to follow.
I lift up to you today the ministry of one special woman who has served among you longer than any others, our sister in faith Miriam. As a child she walked with her parents to Eliot, before cars were plentiful. Through her humble, quiet spirit, she has worked behind the scenes for many years: knitting prayer shawls, teaching Sunday school, cooking and cleaning in the kitchen, making quilts and other crafts for the church faire, attending Bible study and worship, always sitting up here in the front row. For 100 years she has grown in faith and service, setting an example for the rest of us to follow.
I once left the church for a number of years. It didn’t take long to learn that those other idols we fill our lives with don’t serve us for long. It is here, in the life of a church community, that we come to embrace and serve a God who lives among us - guiding and loving us to wholeness. It is here that we belong.
Friends, keep up your prayers for the Eliot Church. Greet everyone who walks through our doors with a holy embrace. And make sure this letter gets read by all our brothers and sisters.
May the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together - spirit, mind and body - so you can continue the work of Jesus Christ. And may God’s amazing grace be with us on our journey together.
(Present Miriam with her cards and sing Happy Birthday)