Hello and welcome to today’s Foundations Daily Podcast. Whether you are listening to this as you’re driving to work, pressing pause constantly as you try to listen and get children ready for school or whether you are about to head to bed, we are so glad you are here and making space for God to speak to you. Today’s reading is from 1 Thessalonians 1: 6-10.
We began yesterday with introducing Paul’s letter to his beloved friends in Thessalonica. This is a letter of encouragement and an affirmation of all God is doing in and through them. Over this week through Paul’s writings we are going to be considering what is to ‘be known’, to be known by God, to be known by others and to be known by the world.
‘Being known’ is a strange term in our modern world. I studied Media and Performance at University and we once had to write an essay on the rise of the ‘star’ and celebrity. We studied how the leaps in technology that enabled people to watch actors in glorious technicolour and hear their actual voices changed how audience felt connected to these screen gods and goddesses. We considered the power of the close-up shot to make the audience feel like they ‘knew’ an individual. Through the 60’s the template for a modern ‘star’ was created as Elizabeth Taylor’s private life was splashed across the newspapers. And so it continued. From a world, only a few decades ago, when people only rose to prominence for their character and input into society, we entered a strange new world where stardom and celebrity meant people were known for what they wore, who they dated or how much money they earned. This is even more true right now: I can click on twitter or instagram and instantly see what’s trending, I can know people who are basically known for not really doing very much. Anyone can be a ‘star’ for five minutes once they have a camera, a youtube channel and a bit of determination! In our society people often aspire to being ‘known’, to being famous, as a means to its own ends. It has become less about what you are famous for and more about the simple act of being famous.
Paul says that the church in Thessalonica were known, in fact Paul says ‘the Lord’s message rang out from you —your faith in God has become known everywhere’. Paul is saying they were known, known purely because of their faith. He writes that the Lord’s message ‘rang out’. The phrase ‘rang out’ here is a musical term akin to a trumpet blast. I’m sure many of you who watched the Royal Wedding a few weeks ago will remember the moment as Meghan stood on the steps about to walk down the aisle: there was a loud peal of trumpets. The excited face of the page boy behind her was one of my favourite moments of the day. That’s the effect, Paul says, the Thessalonians’ faith is having on those around them, it’s like a loud trumpet blast. They are known because of the radically different way they are living. Like we saw yesterday, they have chosen not to disappear and live differently elsewhere, but they have chosen to live differently where they are, right in the middle of a city obsessed with idols and false gods. Into this culture their different way of living is like a peal of trumpets to onlookers.
There’s reason for them being known; it’s not about celebrity or fame, they are known not for affirming the culture they are in. No, these men and women are known for having hearts that have been captivated by Jesus.
We live (like many do in Sheffield) in a terraced house with a shared garden. The great joy of not having a private garden is that we get so many opportunities to connect with our neighbours. The children love running in and out of each other’s houses and we often find children that are not ours sat on our sofa or having a teddy bears’ picnic in the garden. The challenge of this is that our lives are on show, our neighbours see exactly how we parent our kids, they see our interactions with one another, they see how we spend our time.
This passage is a challenge to me because it makes me ask the question ‘what am I known for?’. Do my neighbours see anything of the hope I have in Jesus, do they see a different way of living, do they see be bringing up my children differently? Do they hear the trumpet peal when they look at my life? The question I am asking myself is ‘what am I going to be known for today?’
Thank you Jesus that you call us out of the comfort, you ask us to live lives that point to you, that bear witness to the life-transforming hope we have found. Help us to consider our lives well and look for ways we can glorify you more in the places you have put us. Amen.
READING: 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10
You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.