November is a good month to pause and reflect. As the weather (finally!?) gets cooler, as the days get shorter and the nights longer, as we prepare our gardens for frost and shake out our sweaters after months of storage, the signs of this season invite us to take a breath. In these last few weeks before Advent (and perhaps more to the point, before the carol singalongs and school programs and office parties and gift shopping and cookie baking and and and…)—in these last few weeks before December, before we are ready for all that, we turn attention to remembering and giving thanks.
The first Sunday in November is often observed as All Saints’ Day. In worship, many churches recognize church folks and family members who have died since this time last year. Those beloved ones may be gone, but when we speak their names or even picture their faces, they are not forgotten. We call them “saints”—people whose faithfulness shone not only after their death but in their lives. We remember them and give thanks for them.
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle describes what it looks like when people live and serve faithfully. The models are Paul himself and his companions in ministry. These faithful servants had suffered and been mistreated but they still have courage (v. 2). They are not deceitful and their motives are pure (v. 3). They seek to please God, not people (v. 4), and they never flatter anyone or act greedy (v. 5). They are gentle as a baby’s caretaker (v. 7). They labor so they don’t need to ask the church for money while they serve (v. 9), and their conduct is blameless (v. 10). They teach and encourage like a loving parent invested in their child’s growth (v. 11), and they are always and deeply thankful (v. 13).
We might think only our modern culture uplifts greed, power-grabbing, self-serving, and dog-eat-dogging. But Paul points out to Thessalonians how these faithful servants are different from the culture around them, so perhaps the Thessalonians were surprised by the actions and attitudes of Paul and his companions. This month in Connections we will continue to reflect on the saints whose lives still affect us, teach us, and model God’s way for us, even when they are no longer with us on this earth. May we recognize them. May we remember them. May we give thanks for them. And may we join them in faithful work.
- Does Paul’s description sound like anyone you know?
- When you think about the people you look up to, not only in the church but in your family, in your work, in leadership roles in your community and in our nation, how do they compare to the description Paul gives?
- Reflect on the meaning of faithful work. What attitudes and actions are part of labor both in and outside of the church?
- If you can think of people who live up to parts of Paul’s description, take time to reflect on specifically what you admire about and what you learn from those people. Pray with thanksgiving for the “saints” who still show you how to live faithfully, whether they are still living or not. On this All Saints’ Day, praise God for the centuries of faithful models you have and ask God to give you courage to follow their examples.
Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in St Louis, Missouri. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.wordpress.com.
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