Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost–“God’s Blessings” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.

The task of a traveling speaker is to go to various places and deliver a very moving and thought-provoking speech. Otherwise, the traveling speaker will find himself not being asked to go and speak anymore. To prove your worth as a speaker, you’ve been on the road for the last five years and your speaking engagements have been booked for another four years after that. After speaking non-stop for nearly 10 years, the message must be pretty good; otherwise you wouldn’t be speaking anymore.

This is exactly what the apostle Paul did. His first missionary journey began in 47 and he continued writing to, visiting, and preaching to the various churches until the year 68 when Paul was executed. From the moment of his conversion, Paul’s message was the same everywhere he went: the message was Christ crucified. In looking at his letter to the Thessalonians, he gave thanks to the Church for their faithfulness, for their “work of faith and labor of lave and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Here’s one reason to rejoice in the news from this text: God has chosen you. Note what is going on: God is the One who is doing the choosing. Jesus clarifies to His disciples in John 15, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

God has chosen you. That’s huge. Most of American Christianity today says it’s the other way around: you choose God. You dedicate your life to Him or accept Him as your Lord and Savior. You make the commitment—and because you do the choosing, you’re a Christian.

However, that’s not the way that it is. Look at what Paul says: “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you….” There is a certain order to the sentence. God is the one doing the choosing and we are the chosen. This is good news for you, for God has chosen you to be the recipient of His blessings and His mercy. If God is the one who is doing the choosing and He chooses you, then you can be sure that you are the chosen.

Ask yourself this question: If we were the ones who did the choosing, would we be able to choose God? Or better yet, would we want to choose God? Why would we want to choose God when we can do it ourselves, right? Don’t we know better than God? Fortunately for us, we’re not the ones doing the choosing because we would choose wrong.

So how did God choose you? Was it because you’re so nice? Was it because you’re such a good person? Maybe it’s because you’ve done earn enough to earn the right to be chosen. God did not choose you because you’re nice or because you’re a good person and definitely not because you’ve earned it. God chose you because of the Gospel. He saves you by His Son Jesus and His sacrificial death on your part. He saves you by His wonderful means of grace: His Word and His Sacraments. Through His Word, you hear that your sins are forgiven because Jesus has taken your sins upon Himself and given to you His righteousness. Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, you have God’s very name placed upon you, forgiveness given to you through the water and the Word. Through the Lord’s Supper, you feast upon the very body and blood of Jesus, a meal which is beyond anything that we have ever had, because unlike other meals, this meal gives to you the forgiveness of your sins.

Paul reminded the Thessalonians of the love that has been shown to them. It is not just any simple love, but true love that comes from God the Father. This love is different from the usual meaning of the word. It means loving the unlovable, loving your enemies, loving people that you can’t even like. That is the love that was shown to us; ἀγάπη love, unconditional love which comes from God. We who are unlovable, we who are enemies of God, have been shown true love by the Father. We have been chosen to be His own, just as it is recorded for us in 1 Peter: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Paul’s purpose in his letter to the Thessalonians is to remind them of the love which they have in God. As you and I read this letter of Paul, we too are reminded of the love which has been lavished upon us; not because we desire it, because we don’t; not because we deserve it, because we don’t: rather, it is love lavished upon us solely because of the love that God has for His chosen people.

Paul had great joy for the church at Thessalonica. His joy was because of who they had placed their faith in: Jesus Christ, our Lord. His joy was because of the Gospel which had been preached to them and which they continue to preach to others. His joy was for the hope they had: hope that would bring about eternal life. He commends them for the fact that they have not wavered in their Christian hope. They have been steadfast, unchanging, unmoved by any outside circumstances, and there were many.

What about you and me? Are we steadfast, unchanging, unmoving in our faith, or do we fold at the first sign of trouble? If we are steadfast, unchanging, and unmoving in our faith, what is the basis of our faith? If it were based upon our own actions, we would indeed receive a failing grade from God. Praise be to God that it is not based on our actions, but on the actions of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds his readers that they were chosen by God. They had received the Gospel “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” All these fine qualities that he found among them were the result, not of their being such good people, but of God being their God, of Christ being their Savior. All of these qualities are yours as well because God has chosen you and has made you His beloved children. You are saved because God has chosen you for Jesus’ sake, and He has chosen you by means of His Word, with the Holy Spirit and with power. It is certain, because He has done it and continues to do so. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.