Sermon for September 24, 2017 16 after Pentecost “Rejoice I Say, Rejoice”
I expect we have all heard stories where in the face of danger and imminent death, there was faith and even the capacity for joy. Whether urban legend or truth, there is the image of soldiers in war, raising in song Christmas Carols, the fighting stops, and mortal enemies join for a moment, peace, a meal and a shared faith. As Paul’s letter to the Philippians begins we are faced with a prison scene with Paul in the dim light and a borrowed stylus penning a letter to the faithful. He is well aware that death could be with the next knock on the door. Yet he writes that he wishes to die so he can be with his Saviour and he wishes to live so that he can continue the work of bringing to people the beautiful teachings of Jesus.
There is an expression that some are so heaven bent that they are no earthly good. Or we get caught up in the song from the musical Annie’ The Sun will come out tomorrow. And so we miss today, right here on earth. Our God is the God of today. We are called to look for the promised hope and joy right now, today. And it seems the first thing that pops into our mind is that I am so busy, it is going to be a terrible day, I am sick or grieving and so on, yet God has given us this moment, this day so that we can be surrounded by hope and joy and love. Or maybe we just break in song now and sing: This is the day that God has made, let us rejoice and be glad”.
This is not an extraordinary thing God is asking of us. Sherly Sandberg the CEO of Facebook, had the capacity, along with her two young children to have hope and even joy after the sudden death of her husband. Immaculee Ilibagiza was able to have joy and hope even in the midst of the Rwanda genocide. Many survivors of the Holocaust are alive because they had hope. Paul in prison, his life in jeopardy was able to pen words of hope and joy, and even to encourage others in far better places to have hope and joy. A criminal hanging on a cross beside Jesus was able to open to hope and joy. There are news reports coming from Mexico that workers are hand digging through collapsed buildings with hope of finding one more survivor. And you can add to this your collection of stories of hope, Paul in prison, awaiting death writes to his followers to have hope and rejoice.
As our days unfold how often are we slanted to despair or look at life through the lense of woe is me. How do we view our mission at St. Mark’s? I look at our life with hope and rejoicing. Today we celebrate baptism, we celebrate our staff all seven of us, we are blessed with those who have expertise about the building, we have many children and youth and young families and seniors. We are engaged in our community so much so that we are often overbooked for space. We have more abundance and hope than others can possibly imagine. So I say rejoice.
And if that does not seem to satisfy, then look to Jesus who was, is and always will be all about love. Who, whenever we think our lives are pathetic, gazes at us, holds our hand and whispers, shouts or is just silent, until we are able to hear the redeeming words of his love.
Paul was in prison and still had the where-with-all to spread the good news. Here we are free and yet we are strangely silent. This is not the time for silence, this is the time to share the good news of Jesus. It is the time to share that that good news is vibrant and alive here at St. Mark’s. It is the time to rejoice and let me assure you it is really hard to rejoice with your mouth sealed shut.