AT Café Church at Crediton Methodist Church on Sunday, April 7, we began our series “You’ve got mail”, in which we will be looking at the Apostle Paul’s letters to Christians in the early churches.

The preacher was Dr Sue Jones with Diane O’Neil and the theme was “Keeping it Fresh”.

We looked at Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians which was his first letter to any of the early churches. It was written from Corinth in about AD50 ie about 20 years after the death of Christ.

The early church expected the end of days at any moment and probably this explains the urgency and zeal. The other big issue in this letter is that it includes encouragement and reassurance to a church that is very isolated and does not fit into the world of the Thessalonians. 

Paul’s stay in Thessalonica was brief but eventful. He was hounded out of the city as a trouble-maker.

He stayed there just long enough to found the church there which included people from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds as well as some prominent and well-known Macedonian women. 

Paul left Thessalonica in haste. Maybe this shaky beginning explains why he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to try and establish some stability.

The letter was prompted by Timothy returning to Corinth and reporting how things were going. Paul’s letter is a pastoral letter sent in love to the new church.

Diane O’Neil (a local preacher in training) asked how, after reading Paul’s encouraging words, can we keep the message alive, new and challenging  today. 

It is old and familiar to us but is also fresh, new and exciting.

She had visited the Globe Theatre recently to see two Shakespeare plays which, though the words were old and dated, the performances were fresh, alive and challenging.

So, is Christ’s message as fresh and exciting as it was to the Thessalonians? Yes, we might have our traditions and our favourite songs, but the message is as new and exciting as it was 2,000 years ago.

There are so many ways in which the message speaks to us in a fresh and exciting way.  We are fortunate to be part of the church which shares a vibrant living message.

We  looked at two modern-day letters. Cathy spoke of a difficult period in 2011 when she was told she might lose her job.

At the church she then attended they were asked to write a letter to themselves which was posted to them six months later.

She had written “God is in control – we must trust Him”. Although she lost her job, she found another job and felt God was in control.

Sue had received a letter from someone, with whom she was at university, thanking her for being a significant part of his Christian journey.  She had not realised she had been and he explained in the letter how she had encouraged him.

Sue issued a challenge to the congregation to write a letter to be opened in six months time to see how things move on in our own lives of faith.

When we read Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians it is like a letter from the church of the past to the church of the future.  We notice links and differences.

We sense the gratitude Paul feels for their witness.  We yearn for the freshness and excitement and the challenge of the new making our faith fresh.

So, with these thoughts in mind, what do we think of the church today?

We are a church of the risen Christ which is all about new life. We are still moving forward. We are grateful for the witness of others.

We are still building on what we have and needing to refresh and make new what we have. We can only do this together.

This has always been true which is why Paul wrote to those churches to make it clear it was not about him making churches, it was the churches sharing the good news together that can make the difference.

Sue shared prayers for God’s world in which we are witnesses and we are His Church.

Bronwyn Nott