Jesus is the King!
But if he is truly the king when will he exercise his kingly rule? Why do we see so much death and suffering if he is the exalted one over death and over all political powers? Why does evil still persist in the world if he has indeed conquered sin and disarmed the spiritual powers and authorities? These were the questions that troubled a bewildered group of new Christians in the first century city of Thessalonica - and perhaps these are the same questions that trouble us today. How can we be fighting a vicious war in Europe in these supposedly enlightened times if Jesus is the prince of peace? Why do so many people struggle with financial hardship or poverty if God is our provider? First century Thessalonica, on the site of what is now Thesseloniki, the second largest metropolitan centre in modern Greece, was a prosperous and bustling centre of commerce lying on a number of major routes for international travel. It had once been the prosperous centre of the independent Kingdom of Macedonia, proud of its great past, particularly under its most famous king, Alexander (the Great). Now it was part of the Roman Empire but enjoyed the patronage of the Romans with strong connections to Rome itself. A bewildering variety of religious beliefs were to be found in the city and religious ritual, of one form or another, formed a key part of civic and commercial life. In this heady mixture the radical, counter-cultural thrust of Christian belief posed a significant challenge both to those who adopted the faith and to those who clung to the old beliefs. Converts to Christianity found themselves at odds with the prevailing culture of the city and were often ostracised and even persecuted. The temptation to compromise would have been very strong. Yet we see from Paul’s letters to this fledgling church that many stood firm in their faith. Yet this was not without great struggle and with the doubts and questions with which we began. Paul wrote his letters in order to strengthen and encourage them and to correct any false teaching or misconceptions to which they had been exposed. Over the next few weeks in our Sunday morning teaching we will be looking at Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians as we explore how we might find answers to these questions as they affect us today and ask “how then should we live” as we wait for the return of the Risen King.