Reading (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17)
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
I wonder what you were like at school, were you well-behaved or naughty, studious or lazy, or a mixture of many different qualities? On the whole I was a well-behaved, studious pupil who rarely got into trouble, always did their homework on time and I hope was a pleasure to have in the classroom. I did however get into trouble when I was about 16 years old, when I unintentionally made a teacher cry. What, you might be wondering, was I doing that so upset quite a senior member of staff? I had an argument with her over which translation of the bible I should read from at a school service. She wanted me to read from the King James translation because of the beautiful poetry in the words. I wanted to read from a more modern translation, something that I thought my fellow students might understand and relate to better. I can’t actually remember which translation I read from in the end.
I was reminded of this incident on Sunday morning at the service at Old. The closing hymn was ‘Crown Him with many crowns’, a hymn that many of us will have sung many times, so much so that we probably don’t need to look at the words. However the words in Mission Praise were not what I had expected them to be, two of the verses were fine, but the other two were words that I did not know. Where I wondered had the last verse gone containing the phrases ‘The potentate of time’ and ‘Ineffably sublime!’, they had been removed and a different choice of words, ones that were easier to understand and to relate to had replaced them.
As I considered my reaction I thought of my teacher, the one who did not want me to read from a more modern translation and wondered if I had over time become more like her, wanting the beauty of the words rather than thinking what would be easier for the congregation, and more importantly those seeking to come to faith, to understand. In my own personal time of singing praise to God I can use whichever version of songs I wish, be they traditional or modern. The same is true for the translation of the bible that I use, provided I am using a version that helps me in my journey of faith. But when we are together as a family of God we need to consider the understanding of everyone, not just ourselves.
In our reading we see Paul writing to the church at Thessalonica urging them to stand firm and hold on to the traditions that they were taught. These will not have been traditions of songs or bible translations but of the truth of the gospel that Paul shared with them; that Jesus died for them, rose again and that by faith in him they can have eternal life. Let us too hold on to the truth we were taught, to the faith that we profess and let me remember to be more like my 16 year old self who wanted to ensure that things are easy to understand and relate to those who are listening rather than just what I might prefer.
Father, we are sorry when we think more about ourselves than about others. Help us always to be ready to make it easier for others to understand and get to know you better.