Faith And Hope 10-22-2023 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

There is a story about the torrential rain storms that hit the west. There was a little girl who lived In the valley of one of these mighty rivers that rise up during such storms and one weekend she was going with her parents to visit friends. As she was packing, she placed her dearest possession in her suitcase---a little rag doll. She had made it with her own hands and cared for it with a mother’s love. But her mother told her she could not bring it with her because it was too dirty, threadbare and falling apart. Reluctantly, she left it home.

Over the weekend, a sudden storm hit the valley and the river reached over it banks and flooded all the homes The little girl stood on the hillside looking down into the flooded valley, all she could think of was her little rag doll. When she could return home she rushed into her room, and her worst fear was realized--the flood had washed away her little rag doll.

One day while she was in town, she happened to pass a salvage store where objects found in the muddy debris were sold to raise money for the flood victims To her surprise and overwhelming joy, there was her little rag doll with a price tag on it---25 cent. She had no money of her own, she went back home and helped her mother clean up. She earned a few pennies, she also helped the neighbors and earned a few more pennies. Finally, she had her 25 cents. She rushed to the store and placed her little sacrifice on the counter and claimed her doll. As she walked from the store clutching her treasure in her arms, she was heard to say, "I made you, I lost you, I bought you back and now your are really mine !!"!!!!"

This story reminds us who we are. We are God’s children saved through Christ. He made, he saved us, we are His.

In our Epistle this morning Paul is thankful for the Thessalonians as they have kept their faith in Jesus Christ. He says, "For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you; for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." He knows the message of Christ has come to them and Paul knows how difficult it is for them to remain in Christ, so he prays for them. He says, "We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers." As he prays for these people, he recalls, he remembers how they have worked to remain faithful to Christ.

This morning I want to focus on those phrases as we think about our faith. I want you to be clear though, we are not speaking of salvation, we are speaking about remaining faithful to the salvation message God brought to us through the Spirit as He accomplished it through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Faith, is at the same time, our work and the work of the Holy Spirit.

In the meaning to the Third Article of the Creed, Luther speaks about this duel aspect to faith as he says:[ repeat along with me if you can ]" I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts and sanctified and kept me in true faith." Notice, we have been granted gifts by the Spirit which enlightens us, and keep us in our faith. Gifts need to be used.

Faith is at the same time is the work of the Spirit and up to us to cultivate. But I think far too long Lutheran have used the excuse that God does all the work and I do not have to be involved at all. Which translated means I don’t have to come to church, I don’t need to have communion, I don’t need to read my Bible, I don’t have to go to Bible Study, I don’t talk about my faith with others, I don’t become concerned about another’s faith, and we could go on and on. It seems that so many have given up on so many of the essentials to keep our faith strong and rich.

Paul speaks about a work of faith among the Thessalonians. Their work of faith can be described as laboring to keep their relationship alive with Christ. As we stay in our relationship with Christ, we become new people, a new creation.

Paul says in Romans 8, "it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." We must keep our relationship with God alive and fresh. God will never leave us, but we can leave him.

Peter speaks about us saying of status with God," But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." He says the genuineness of our faith is more precious than gold because without seeing we believe with joy.

Our works of faith are grounded and rooted in the word and the sacraments. It is in these Means Of Grace enabling Christians to remain children of light, as those who walk as the light of the world.

Two butterflies - colorful and majestic monarchs - sat side by side on a tree limb. Beside them was the ruptured cocoon from which they’d just emerged. "Come fly with me," said the one.

"Caterpillars can’t fly," said the other. "But we’re not caterpillars anymore," said the first, flexing his new wings, stretching them their full span till they looked like magnificently crafted stained glass windows. "Those caterpillar days are gone forever."

"Don’t be silly," said the other. "We were born caterpillars and we’ll always be caterpillars. That’s the way it is."

"Well, then, why did the Maker see fit to give us these wings?" said the one. The other butterfly thought for a moment and then replied, "I don’t know. Some sort of cruel joke, I suppose. He did the same thing to the ostrich, you know."

"Nonsense!" said the first. "Look at all the other butterflies. They’re flying. What do you say to that?"

The second butterfly looked out over the meadow and said, "They’re not flying. They’re just being blown about by the wind. That is too dangerous I’ll stick to crawling and climbing, thank you very much. It may be slow, but it’s safe and sure."

"It may be slow and safe and sure but it’s unnatural. Butterflies fly!!! That’s the way the maker made us. That’s our role, our function, our fit: to dance on the wings of the air, to soar, to float, to light on a single blade of grass to inspire awe and wonder; to add a note of grace to this world’s dreary song."

Can you imagine us, you and I as the butterflies of this world, to delight others with our faith, to inspire awe and wonder, to fascinate, to add a note of grace to this world’s dreary song. Can you be that new creation in Christ, that royal priesthood, the chosen people?? Can you remain faithful in Christ ??

We are a people of hope. A people of faith, who can see the endless possibilities in life. We see, not dead ends, but ways through the dark tunnels of life. We see and we experience a hope of overcoming our brokenness not by ourselves, but only through Christ.

Many people I know, even family members, started strong, in church, being baptized, having been confirmed or having their first communion which got them all off on a good start. Maybe some of your children or grandchildren got off to a good start, but now have walked away. Cut themselves off from God, because God never cuts Himself off from us. They have walked away, except when it is convenient for them or they are facing some crisis. Then they scream to God. So my questions would be to them and to each of us, how are YOU going to finish. If I were to preach your funeral would I be able to point to you life as an example of a person of faith? I should not have look deep to find evidence of your faith. How are you going to finish your life? What is going to be your legacy? What are people going to be remembered for?

Paul says of the Thessalonians and I pray of us: "We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."