1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Psalm 95(96):1,3-5,11-13; Luke 4:16-30
Today is also the optional memorial of St Cuthbert
Thessalonica (at the time of Paul's letters to the christians there) was a thriving and cosmopolitan sea port, a key point in Roman mercantile life. It had a synagogue, and Paul himself had been there to preach (see Acts 17:1-2). He would have been remembered - very much so as after three weeks of preaching there were riots because he was so sucesful the local synagogue leaders feared for a take-over. Paul may have appealed mainly to non jews - i.e. he attracted a number of Gentiles to become believers and christians.
Now, some years later he writes to the community that he left behind, and his two letters to them are the earliest written work by the Christians that we have (various references to external verified dates place Thessalonians 1 as early as 60 AD, i.e. only perhaps 30 years after Christ's death and resurrection.
The christians were clearly expecting an early, imminent second coming of Christ, signalling the end of days, and the beginning of eternal life in Gods presence. We are still however awaiting this! Paul takes some care to let the Thessalonians (and us) know that God's time is not mans, and the end of days will come when we are not expecting. We therefore must be ready at all times. We must also be encouraged that those who have died while awaiting Christ, are also going to be caught up in the triumph of his salvific procession.