Separated by Distance, not by Heart
[T]hey came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Acts 17:1-2, 5, 10
Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians comes after he was “torn away…in person, not in heart.” (2:17) For the next few weeks, Encourage will reflect on 1 Thessalonians and Paul’s prayers and hopes for the community of believers there. First, however, we begin with the event in Acts 17 that led to his being torn away and the subsequent response.
Paul began his ministry in Thessalonica in the synagogue “as was his custom.” (Acts 17:2) We do not know what Paul’s plans were in terms of how long he would remain and who would continue his work after he departed. What we do know is that the separation came quickly and with no preparation. After the Jews formed a mob and brought Jason before the city officials, the Thessalonian brothers sent Paul and Silas away during the cover of night with no time to make plans for how to continue the ministry there.
Last March, our congregations were torn apart “in person, not in heart.” With little opportunity to prepare and no idea of how long the separation would be, pastors with guidance from church leaders, adapted to the situation and brought the Word of God to people in many and various ways. Since March of last year, the Word was delivered to people in writing through mail and email, through video live and recorded, through audio over the phone and internet, and in-person through drive-in services and outside of nursing home windows. The ministry of Paul to the Thessalonians continued even though he had been separated from them. He would send Timothy in his place to encourage them in the faith. His first letter is written because he was still being prevented from coming to them in-person. This time of separation has been hard and difficult for communities of believers. However, it also reminded us that God establishes and builds His Church through His Word and that Word was still proclaimed.
My prayer is that our congregations will share with Paul the same desire to see one another “face-to-face.” (2:17; 3:10) May God preserve His Church through every assault and attack of the world, the devil and our sinful flesh so that we might be built up and strengthened until our Lord returns.
Prayer – “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” Amen. (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan