Slow reading: May God integrate y’all

In Acts 17:1-10, we learn that Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica and, in three days, convicted ‘some of the Jews’, as well as ‘a large number of God-fearing Gentiles and not a few prominent women’ to the way of Jesus Christ. However, others – both Jew and Gentile – saw the message as a threat, so they stirred up mobs, riots and legal accusations against them. Paul and Silas were hustled out of the city, leaving the brand new yet already persecuted church to fend for itself. The following is a word of encouragement written by Paul to the church—and to us now, especially those of us surprised by the new COVID restrictions. As you read, be aware that every occurrence of the word ‘you’ is plural here. In everything, Paul is addressing the Thessalonians not as individuals, but as a group. How does this affect your understanding of salvation-healing-wholeness?

1. PREPARE: Make yourself comfortable. Uncross your legs; relax your body; uncomplicate your heart. Ask God to help you surrender to whatever it is that God wants to do in you or say to or through you. Breathe slowly and deeply in, then out.

2. READ: Read the following passage aloud at least three times through, slowly. Listen carefully. Notice anything which captures your attention.

  • About the time everybody’s walking around complacently, congratulating each other—“We’ve sure got it made! Now we can take it easy!”—suddenly everything will fall apart. It’s going to come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs to a pregnant woman. But friends, you’re not in the dark, so how could you be taken off guard by any of this? You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. People sleep at night and get drunk at night. But not us! Since we’re creatures of Day, let’s act like it. Walk out into the daylight sober, dressed up in faith, love, and the hope of salvation [healing, wholeness, integration].
    God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation [healing, wholeness, integration] by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it [then verses about how, exactly, to do this] …

    Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants y’all who belong to Christ Jesus to live. Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

    May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put y’all together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep y’all fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called y’all is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it! (1 Thessalonians 5:2-11, 16-24, MSG).

3. REFLECT: Allow the passage, a phrase or a single word or image speak to you. What catches your attention? What emotions are you feeling? What questions are bubbling up? Reflect in silence.

4. RELATE: How is healing understood here? What’s the relationship between individuals and the wider community? How does the text support, challenge or contradict your own expectations or experiences of healing / wholeness? What does integration of body, soul and spirit look like for you and your community?

5. RESPOND: Arising out of your reflection and any discussion, pray. Tell God about anything which has emerged. If you feel called to action, ask God to show you/us the next step.

6. REST: Rest now in the Word, who loves you. As you leave this space, if any word, phrase or image persists, carry it with you and let it guide you. Or, if nothing in particular arises, remember this:

  • The One who called you is completely dependable.

This week, my hope is that despite any frustration and disappointment caused by the new restrictions, you will continue to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in all circumstances. And if you’re struggling to do this, try praying Psalm 138 each morning, and writing in a gratitude journal each night. Because we know that when we turn towards joy, prayer and thanksgiving, we quickly remember just how good God is even in the midst of setback and suffering – and that this will sustain us through difficult times.

Peace,
Alison

Emailed to Sanctuary 26 May 2021 © Sanctuary, 2021. Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash.

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