1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13

Image by Gennaro Leonardi from Pixabay

Collect

God our saviour,
look on this wounded world
in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace
won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:17- 3:13 (NLT)

17 Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. 18 We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. 19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our pride and joy.

Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know that we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come—and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless.

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord.

How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. 10 Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith.

11 May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. 12 And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. 13 May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.

Homily by Rev’d Kate Massey

So, it is Father’s Day today. For some people this is a day of celebration. For others it is more difficult – maybe it is the first year without Dad around. Maybe Dad wasn’t the Dad they needed him to be. Maybe there are men who would have loved to be Dads, but life hasn’t worked out that way. Maybe there are Dads whose child is in heaven. Whether today is a day of joy or of something more ambivalent, we are praying for you.

For me, today is three weeks, five days and about – I estimate – five hours until I see my Dad for the first time in ten months, one week and one and half days. Not that I am counting. I have missed him and the rest of my family so much. We might live over 300 miles apart, but we are a close family and well used to bumbling up and down the M6 to see each other. The pandemic has meant we have been unable to visit and it has been really tough.

I wonder who you have missed during this last year. It has been a year that makes it easy to relate to Paul and Silas’ emotion in our reading today: they wanted so much to visit their friends, Paul and Silas were longing to see them and made every effort to visit, but they were prevented from doing so. You can hear the distress this has caused them. Many of us know that distress only too well. Finally, Paul and Silas get so frustrated at being unable to support the church in Thessaloniki, they do the only thing they can – they send Timothy, their young co-worker to send their love and bring back an account of their wellbeing.

We believe that Paul was unmarried and childless, yet he was a father figure to those fledgling churches. He cared about them, kept abreast of their concerns and struggles, wanted to help them – and most of all longed to know that they were safe, which for Paul meant holding tightly to their faith in Jesus.

Good Dads really have a thing about keeping their children safe, don’t they. My Dad is the sort that goes out and scrapes my car well in winter – making sure that the headlamps are clear as well – tops up the screenwash and makes sure my car tires are in good nick. He just wants his little (44 year old ) girl to be protected. Some of the most heart-rending pictures for me of various conflict zones and refugee camps which have appeared in our news recently are of Dads trying desperately to protect their children from things that are beyond their control. Their desperate attempts anyway and their grief when they fail is so difficult to see. So we pray for all Dads trying to keep their families safe with the odds stacked against them right now…

When I first came to St Paul’s I caused some consternation in the community. I mean, what do we call you? We had Fr Hootten and then Fr Mick, but you… Traditionally priests have been called Father in their communities. I think that there can be some unhelpful aspects to this practice – the congregation aren’t my children, but gifted co-workers in the Kingdom of God – but if there is a useful parallel with parenting, perhaps it is about my concern for your spiritual wellbeing. It is my responsibility to care about your spiritual lives and try to ensure that you are nourished and encouraged in your journey of faith. While we have been in lockdown, it has been so frustrating that my ability to support you has been so limited. And yet, with Paul, I rejoice with every account of people persevering in their faith and living out God’s love in whatever ways are open to them. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord!

But in the end, our reading points us, as Scripture always should, to our Father in heaven. It is to God Paul and Silas give thanks for the safety and faith of their friends in Thessaloniki. It is to God they pray for their ongoing growth in love, faith and righteousness. God is the Father who cares for his children, provides for them and watches over them. God holds us in perfect safety because whatever life throws at us nothing can separate us from God’s love. God is the Father who could not come to us, yet sent his Son, to guarantee eternal safety through his defeat of death and promise of life eternal. So whatever today means for you, whatever this reading raises for you, may you know yourself held in the love of God our Father. Amen

Intercessions

Mother Father God, creator and sustainer, we thank you for nurturing us like a mother. We praise you that your care and protection surround us like a father. On this Fathers Day, we remember all the people who have nurtured us, especially the important men in our lives, those who have seen, not just with their eyes, but with their heart. Hear our prayer for fathers around the world.
Mother Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember fathers, whose families are torn apart by jealousy, fighting and misunderstandings.
We remember fathers who are older, but who still bear the responsibility of raising children and grandchildren. And we remember fathers who mean well, but make mistakes.
Mother Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember men who, because of various circumstances, are unable to become fathers. We remember fathers who have adopted children and fathers who given up their rights as fathers.
Mother Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember fathers who rejoice in the achievements of their children. Who joyfully watch a new generation take hold. We remember fathers who are single parents, who through personal sacrifice and perseverance provide a loving home for their children.
Mother Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember fathers who helplessly watch their children suffer and die from malnutrition because of famine, drought, flood or war. We pray for the fathers where recent disasters have occurred and those taking their children in hope onto the high seas. We remember fathers whose children are sick or disabled and who will try anything to cure or help them.
Mother Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for fathers and their children around the world caught in the terrors of violence and living in fear — in Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan. We weep with the fathers of those who inflict violence on others..
Mother Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Nurturing God, thank you for those who have nurtured us. Open our eyes to the plight of so many fathers and mothers around the world for whom life is difficult. Help us share your love and mercy with them.
Mother Father God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

In the silence of this moment, hear the prayers of our hearts. [pause]
God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Merciful God, Mother and Father of us all, honour our prayers, spoken and unspoken, humbly lifted to you in faith. Amen.

(adapted from Worship Words https://worshipwords.co.uk/prayer-of-intercession-for-fathers-day/)

Closing Worship

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