An Advent reflection for Thursday, December 7th by Sheli Sloterbeek
Lectionary reading for 12/07/2023: Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13; Hosea 6:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
Selected passage for reflection:1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
1 Thessalonians 1:2-10 First Nations Version & The Message
First Nations Version
2 We never stop giving thanks for you, speaking your names as we send our voice to the Great Spirit. 3 We remember how your trust became a labor of love and how hope kept you hand in hand with our Honored Chief, Creator Sets Free (Jesus) the Chosen One, as you walked under the shadow of the Great Spirit, who is our Father from above.
4 "My sacred family members who are loved by Creator, we know he has chosen you to be his own. 5 For when we told you the good story, it was not with words only but with the power and assurance that comes from the Holy Spirit. For you know that we lived and walked among you in a good way. 6 So you followed in our foot- steps and those of our Honored Chief, welcoming the good story in a time of much hardship and trouble with the joy of the Holy Spirit. 7 In this way, you became an example for all the members of the sacred family in Land of Tall People (Macedonia) and in Land of Sorrow (Achaia)..
8 The message from our Honored Chief has sounded out from you, not only in Land of Tall People (Macedonia) and Land of Sorrow (Achaia), but everywhere we go the word has gone out about your trust in Creator, and we have nothing to add to what has been said. 9 "They keep talking about the kind of welcome you gave us. They tell how you walked away from spirit-images to serve the living and true Great Spirit 10 and how you now wait for his Son Creator Sets Free (Jesus) the one he raised up from the dead, to return from the spirit-world above. He is the one who rescues us from the coming storm of Creator's anger.
2-5 Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.
5-6 You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.
7-10 Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore—you’re the message! People come up and tell us how you received us with open arms, how you deserted the dead idols of your old life so you could embrace and serve God, the true God. They marvel at how expectantly you await the arrival of his Son, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescued us from certain doom.
"Here is one way to look at yourself through spiritual eyes: you are a message. When you wonder what existence is all about, when you ask about your purpose in life, or when you feel small in comparison to the troubles of the world: remember that you are a message sent by the Spirit into creation. What you say, what you do, how you think and feel: your whole life is a long and sustained message for others to encounter, experience and receive. You are a living message: sent to touch more lives than you can imagine."
--Steven Charleston, Episcopal Bishop and Native American elder of the Choctaw nation
As a spiritual director, I hold space for others as they explore their lives. A topic that comes up often is What is my purpose? Or what is my calling? What if I don't get it right? and sometimes even the question Why do I even exist?
The questions seem large and looming. And for those who feel the pressure of "getting it right" the questions can be paralyzing. Rainer Maria Rilke encourages us to "“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.”
Bishop Charleston reframes the narrative of purpose as message. But not as one specific message, as a message of the whole self - words, actions, thoughts, feelings. Opening ourselves to the permeation of Christ through our whole self - a transformation. The permeated Message overflowing to and received from each person and situation encountered along the way.
This isn't a life goal or a mission statement, but acknowledging the creativity and transformation of Spirit within you. The Message, transforming you as you journey forward. It's not a to-do or a force of will, but an overflow of what is formed within.
What message overflows from your transformed life? What "messages" have you encountered in others?
Have you wondered about or questioned your purpose? How does thinking about your life as a completely unique message for the world resonate with you?
God, as we consider your great Message of Jesus during this Advent season, may we be aware of the transformation You bring in our own lives. May we acknowledge the uniqueness of how we are individually being formed as Your message to the world. May we be instruments of Your peace and light.
About the Author
Sheli Sloterbeek is a trained spiritual director, yoga teacher, writer, speaker and retreat leader. She is passionate about living wholly – spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. She lives in northeast Pennsylvania with her husband, John, daughter and two dogs who keep life entertaining. You can find her online at www.aslowjourney.com or reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.