Throughout scripture we sense a focus on communities rather than individuals. Yet, in my own experience and cultural pattern, the category of individual rather than community receives emphasis. This assumption of individualism is influenced by modernity’s being informed by the Enlightenment, including the emergence of democratic governments and capitalist economies. I benefit greatly from these valuable influences. However, concepts and categories related to individualism are not particularly prominent in scripture.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, the apostle Paul addresses the community of faith. Though suffering persecution and distress, this community receives comfort and encouragement from one another in their Christian faith and practice, as well from others connected to them in faith but at a distance. As members of communities of faith we are baptized into a local congregation as well as a vast network of communities of faith, and, most importantly, the body of Christ. What an amazing gift to share our Christian beliefs and practices in a community not bound by time and place!
Though we prepare and wait for the second coming of Jesus Christ, from scripture we know how the narrative unfolds. Not only does God offer us steadfast love and mercy in relationship, but the joyful fellowship we experience in communities of faith gives a foretaste of the heavenly banquet prepared for all those in relationship with God.
In prayer, give thanks to God for relationship with the triune God and with communities of faith.
As we prepare our hearts for Advent, the celebration of Jesus’ first coming, we remember in Jeremiah that the birth of Jesus has a deep background, a background rooted in God’s promise to David. Psalm 25, traditionally credited to David, speaks of God’s faithfulness to those who follow the paths of the Lord. David asks God to teach him to follow God’s paths even more closely. The New Testament readings actually point us toward Jesus’ second coming. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to excel in holiness and love while they wait. In Luke, Jesus discusses the coming of the kingdom in a passage that some find confusing. We note that he focuses not on the exact time frame of the arrival of the kingdom but on our need to be alert.
• Read Jeremiah 33:14-16. What has been your experience with a promise-making and promise-keeping God?
• Read Psalm 25:1-10. How do you perceive God’s instruction in your life?
• Read 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13. How has God’s presence buoyed you up in times of persecution or distress?
• Read Luke 21:25-36. What is your Advent posture this year? If “believing is seeing” were true in your life, what would you see?
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