From the Pastor February 2024

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”

I Thessalonians 5:11 NRSV

It all started with a throat lozenge. The year was 1847 and Oliver Chase, a
Boston pharmacist, developed a machine to make the production of throat
lozenges more efficient. At the time, such production was tedious and time
consuming with ingredients being pounded with a mortar and pestle, formed into
a paste, and rolled like dough to be cut into individual pieces. The mixture of
medicine and sugar was said to be soothing to a sore throat. Eventually Chase
decided to move beyond lozenges and used his invention to produce candy. He
soon formed Chase and Company which went on to become New England
Confectionary Company or NECCO. In 1866, Oliver’s brother, Daniel, developed a method for printing on the round sugar wafers using a felt roller and vegetable coloring (usually red). By the turn of the century, the candy discs took on fun shapes such as baseballs, horseshoes, watches, and the ever popular…heart. Although other, smaller companies devised similar products to that of NECCO, NECCO’s conversation hearts were for many years the most popular and best-selling non-chocolate candy of the
Valentine’s season.

I share this bit of Valentine’s candy history not only as a reminder we are in the month of February, but also for what those little hearts have communicated down through the years. Sure, some of them have phrases such as “Be Mine” or “XOXO” but, others have read “Awesome” or “You Rock.” The latter may be a more recent development, but they are a reminder one need not have a romantic interest in order to encourage or be encouraged. We all have need of encouragement and the Apostle Paul was very much about encouraging the congregations to whom he wrote. Whether he established those
churches or was familiar with them at a distance, Paul often opened and/or closed his correspondence with words aimed at keeping those Christians faithful and moving forward. Such an example is found in the verse at the top of this article which comes from the latter part of the letter known as “I Thessalonians.”

To read the letter’s five chapters is to discover encouragement after encouragement for those in Thessalonica to stay the course and live lives pleasing before God. Some in that congregation had become excessively concerned about the times in which they were living and even went as far as questioning how the Lord’s coming might impact those who had already died as compared with those who were still alive. To this, Paul offered the reassurance that they and their loved ones would be taken care of and that no one would miss out when the time came. It is on the heels of this discussion that readers
find 5:11. With “therefore” beginning this verse, it is evident that the apostle was hoping the community would do what the rest of the verse prescribed. It is as though Paul was saying, “In light of the previous discussion, be encouragers.” Paul had just reminded the Thessalonians of the darkness of the times and the suddenness of the Lord’s coming, but he also wished to challenge the readers/hearers to remain awake, live responsibly, and to uphold each other in spite of what they may have been seeing, hearing, and experiencing.

This is a word which is greatly needed today. There is more than enough in our world to reduce people’s courage. Think of the last time someone said to you, “That was a nice job, but…” Or consider that time you compared someone’s performance to another’s in a way that was condescending. We have all probably said something like, “He/she doesn’t do __ the way _______does or did.” What about the instances when we have questioned someone with, “Can’t you get anything right?” Try as we may to
deny these responses in our lives, we are all guilty of robbing courage from others. Why is this the case? The fallenness of humanity. It, unfortunately, becomes more natural to criticize than to build up when, according to Scripture, it should be the other way around. Encouragement comes in many shapes, sizes, and doesn’t demand a lot from us. It may be a smile, prayer, note, or even a piece of candy. Who knows? You and I must decide. In the words of Dave Willis, “Be an encourager. The world has enough
critics already.”

Together in Christ,
The Reverend Kelley Smart