3 December 2018

Send A letter To Me?

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonika, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
Acts 17:11 ( NIV )

Recently, talking to my wife, we were thinking about how few actual letters we receive today. Because most of our bills come on-line these days, our post is mainly letters from charities, offers to sell us something we usually don’t want, or something else that goes straight into the bin. The exception is Christmas and our birthdays, when we receive a few cards in the post, which is nice. The old fashioned art of letter writing seems to have virtually faded away.

Of course we both use e-mail to communicate and I suppose that has mainly replaced the old ‘snail mail’ letter. But I can’t help wondering what churches early in the first century must have felt like when they received a letter. I don’t think they had a regular postal service as we do today, so it must have been a really special event.

You can imagine that when the church gathered for a service, there would have been a sense of excited anticipation when the leader announced that this week we have a letter from Paul, or one of the other first century writers. You can imagine the concentration on the message and discussion taking place afterwards. No doubt there were more of these letters than survive in our Bible today.

We have a unique perspective, because the letters that have survived to become part of the New Testament in our Bibles today are not a rare and isolated event, as they were for the original recipients, but a collection we can read and re-read as often as we like. But do we read them with the same interest, anticipation and excitement that we can imagine the first readers felt? Probably not, but it is fascinating to come back to one of the letters that we have not read for a while, one we think we know well, and yet discover more depth and meaning in it.

So if you are fed up with the latest lot of junk mail coming through the letter-box and would like to read a proper letter, remember that you can. Just open your Bible, imagine it is a personal letter for you, and read one of the New Testament letters. Think about the writer, the context, what was the background to and cause of the letter? What did it say to its audience then and what is it saying to us today? A good Bible commentary can also help our understanding. So next time you feel like saying, ‘send a letter to me’, remember you already have a priceless collection of them, just waiting to be read.

Loving, gracious Father, help us not to take what we have in your word for granted, but give us the ability to see it through fresh eyes—to be excited and inspired by it, to see greater depth in it and to appreciate the faith and suffering of those who wrote it. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by Keith Hartrick

About the Author:
Keith Hartrick is an Elder in Grace Communion Church – Leeds, and serves on the Church Council there.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion – Leeds
Garden Village Welfare Association Community Centre
Pendas Way
LS15 8LE

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2PM

Local Congregational Contact:
Malcolm Arnold
Phone: 01484-312347
Email: malcolm701@googlemail.com

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