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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon

11th December 2005

Fr David Shepherd

Advent 3 (1 Thessalonians 5.16-24)

Think back to your childhood; what pictures come to mind. The chances are that amongst those firmly rooted in your unconscious memory will be some illustrating a bible story. If you see it once more the memory comes flooding back. It is not just true of pictures but of stories and music too. As most of us grew up in the pre-television era those images will be relatively few but powerfully defining.

Today we are bombarded with a multiplicity of images and ideas. I wonder what, if any, images our children or grandchildren will retain in their old age. No longer is there a commonly held belief system based on the Bible. Instead we live in a fragmented society in which Christians can feel confused and threatened.

Actually this situation mirrors the early church. Today’s epistle, St. Paul’s first to the Thessalonians, was written to a church very much in a cultural melting pot, in a ferment of ideas and experiences. Thessalonica was a major port and trading centre, in our terms very multicultural. The new church might well have gone under amidst all the completing claims for truth.

What is interesting about the letter is that it is the oldest piece of Christian writing we have. It was Paul’s reply to Timothy’s description of Christian life in Thessalonica. It was written about 50 AD, less than 20 years after the death & resurrection of Jesus that are so much a feature of it. Today’s section is very much a piece of counter-cultural writing and thus we can learn much from it.

Paul gives us three marks of the church.

St. Paul tells the Thessalonians neither to ‘quench the Spirit’ nor to despise the prophets’. His words are good foil to such a temptation and an encouragement to us. Having urged us to rejoice, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all things he ends with a prayer to the one who ‘is faithful and will do all this.’

We can hear his prayer for ourselves.

‘May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely;
and may your spirit and soul and body
be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’


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Comments about this site or problems? Contact Webmaster (Colin Richards) at Last updated 10/12/05 17:30 Author: David Shepherd