Are You Able to Rejoice?

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Luke 15:1-10

I couldn’t have been more than nine years old when I can remember the first really important thing that I had lost in my life. I was out in the backyard playing or something, and was asked to keep an eye out for my sister that was probably about three at the time. Needless to say I got wrapped up in what I was doing and was not paying attention. Really, that has not changed much today as I do a fine job of ignoring those things around me when I am focused in on something, just ask my wife. The fact is that I got so wrapped up in what I was doing that my sister managed to venture off. I honestly do not remember what happened in that “in between time.” I am not sure who realized that my sister was not out there with me, whether it was myself or my parents. I do recall a bit of anger as it came to my parents. There may have possibly been some loud voices involved.

I am sure that if I could to sit down and talk to every single one of you, you would have your own stories of things that you have lost throughout the years. We lose material things. We lose contact with people that we have had friendships with throughout our lives. Relationships are broken and we lose people that were close to us.  We can lose our health in many various ways. We lose loved ones in death in this earthly life until Jesus comes again. In the midst of losses that we encounter throughout our lives, do we look for times to rejoice as well?

In our gospel lesson this morning Jesus is continuing to teach his disciples in the midst of the grumbling from the Pharisees and the scribes. There concern is that Jesus is also teaching the tax collectors and sinners. Jesus uses this time to share with them the lost parables. Chapter 15 not only includes the two parables that we hear this morning in the lost sheep and the lost coin, it also contains the parable of the prodigal and his brother. In the midst of these parables there is the common denominator that something has been lost and is now found. The shepherd is not concerned with the other 99 sheep that are near him, he is concerned for the one that is lost. Once he finds the lost sheep, his response is to place the sheep on his shoulders, a sign of closeness that shows the  love the shepherd has for his flock. The woman is not concerned about the 9 coins that are accounted for, she is busy looking for the one that is lost. In the story of the prodigal, if you recall, the father is not worried about his son that is still present and doing his work on the farm, his concern is for the son that has not returned. He sits and waits and runs to him when he sees him coming.

All of these parables bring about a cause for celebration. A chance to rejoice with everyone present and throw a wonderful party celebrating that the lost has now been found. Have you ever thought that to Jesus, the lost in this does not come to us in the parables, but in the tax collectors and sinners. They have chosen to follow Jesus and listen to his words, they were lost and now are found. What about the Pharisees and the scribes? Perhaps they are the ones that have been found through hearing Jesus’ parables. God rejoices whenever anyone comes to be in relationship with God.  This is a cause for celebration and one that should be ongoing.

Perhaps, we can even find the lost in the midst of our Good Old Days Celebrations this weekend. God is at work in our relationships and celebrations as we come together and we rejoice at seeing people that may only get the chance to come back to town this one time of year. The excitement that surrounds the entire weekend is the same type of excitement that we should exude in the church on a daily basis. We have all lost things and are at times lost ourselves. It is in Jesus Christ that we experience a saving grace that looks beyond our faults and sins and welcomes us into eternal life. How can we be lost knowing that Jesus is beside us?

In our common beliefs, we are able to worship together and have these awesome services together throughout the year remembering that we are not alone. In this we rejoice in our ministries together.

I am sure you are still wondering what ever happened to my sister. After searching the backyard with to no avail, we expanded the search to the larger neighborhood. We found her about 10 minutes later near the driveway three houses down from ours. Now, we lived in the city, so the houses were closer together. At that moment there was a time of rejoicing as we found what was lost. I don’t think I was ever punished for that incident, but there certainly was a good conversation about taking responsibility seriously. And there was forgiveness and the chance to celebrate.

May you seek forgiveness that comes through Christ as we share communion, and may we rejoice knowing that Christ is here with us.

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Let us Rejoice and Laugh!

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John 20:19-31, Holy Humor Sunday

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Easter is a time of surprises and unsurmountable joy! The women that visited the tomb first were clearly surprised that they had found it empty. Then their hearts were lightened with joy as they realized that the promises Jesus had made before his death had come true, he was raised on the third as he had said he would be. We have the choice to be full of piety and take everything seriously, or we can truly celebrate with joy. To quote William Shakespeare, “Whether its nobler in the mind to control the impulse and maintain decorum, or to give in and enjoy this day is totally up to you!”

Holy Humor Sunday is an opportunity to continue in our joyous Easter Celebration and proclaim the Risen Christ! The history of Holy Humor Sunday goes all the way back to the fifteenth century when priests would share funny stories and jokes with their parishioners the second Sunday after Easter. The celebration gained momentum again in the late 1980’s when the Fellowship of Merry Christians and The Joyful Noiseletter began sharing it.

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. Never forget that the devil fell by force of gravity. He who has the faith has the fun.” It is because of our faith in Christ and the resurrection that we are able to laugh and have a fun time. The resurrection brings hope and a promise to our lives and in that hope we rejoice with one another praising God in various ways; singing, dancing, and laughing to name just a few of them. Sometimes we forget that when we are in church while we are trying to focus on getting everything just right. In our joy there aren’t much better ways than to share laughs with one another.

Did you hear about the church member that was baking cookies last Saturday for Easter? A gentleman came to her door looking for some work and she had been meaning to paint her back porch. She told the gentleman that there was 2 gallons green of paint to paint the porch out back. He was excited to have a job and make a little money. He came back after awhile and told her the job was completed, however, he told her “That is not a porsche, that is a mercedes.”

Laughter truly does give us new life and restores us when we are feeling down and even when we are in need of healing. As much celebration and joy that went into last Sunday, we are still confronted with the realities around us. We still have violence and senseless deaths around the world that we fail to understand. At times it seems as though it would be easier to be like the disciples and lock ourselves up in our houses in fear. It is the surprise of Jesus coming to be in their presence that they slowly start to understand and our eventually restored with new life.

They disciples were living in fear of what may happen to them if they were to share with others that they are followers of Jesus. There is a proper time for mourning, yet as Jesus appears to them there is also a time for rejoicing! What do you think that rejoicing looked like behind those closed doors? Was there singing? Was there dancing? Was there laughter? I like to believe that there was probably a little bit of all of them.

Jesus brings the peace of the Lord to them when they need it most, in their mourning and desolation wondering where they were going to go from there. Jesus’ peace means so much more though. The peace that Jesus shares with them is meant to bring peace to their past and all of the things that have transpired in their lives and ultimately on cross. It is also a peace that comes to them in their current dwelling of questioning. The peace Jesus shares also speaks to their future as they will go out proclaiming the good news that they have now received, rejoicing in the risen Lord.

In that peace Jesus brings hope to a broken world and knowing now that he lives, we live in that peace too. This gives hope to us for a future with Christ present by our side in all we do. “Peace be with you,” makes a difference for all of us and it marks our life with a purpose, meaning, and a new direction as we look towards the risen Christ.

Psalm 150 this morning encourages us to Praise the Lord! We are to praise God in the sanctuary, which we do every Sunday. We praise God for all of creation and the resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ. We praise God by playing our instruments with joy and celebration and lifting our voices up to the Lord. We praise God by dancing. We praise God by laughter and having fun. It is all of creation that praises the Lord and we join in with all of creation in doing so.

This Easter season we celebrate God’s creation by surrounding ourselves with it and being intentional in witnessing God’s promise in our lives. Let us Praise the Lord!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

 

 

Advent Devotions December 13

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Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The third Sunday of Advent has often been celebrated as Gaudete Sunday through much of the Western Churches major denominations. This includes Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. Gaudete, which is Latin, means to “Rejoice.”The third Sunday of Advent gives us a chance to rejoice in God in the midst of the rest of the Advent season which is a little more penitential.

Many churches have a pink candle in their Advent Wreath for this day. To set this day apart to rejoice in the Christmas to come brings us into an expectation of the light coming into the world. While we still have more than a week before Christmas arrives, it is nice to take a moment to rejoice and not worry.

Let us pray.

Joyous God, we give thanks for the times of joy in our lives. We ask for your presence to direct and guide us throughout the rest of this Advent season. AMEN.

Advent Devotions December 8

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Psalm 126

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

Are we looking back or are we looking forward? These words of the psalmist can definitely be looking back and rejoicing the time that Zion was restored, and the people of God were brought back to their ancestors homeland. These verses could also be seen as a hope for the future to come, especially during this season of Advent.

To rejoice is to be filled with laughter and the feeling of complete joy. To rejoice lifts burdens that have weighed us down. To rejoice wipes away all of the tears that have come to us during times that we are lost and desolate. To rejoice is healing.

Let us pray. God, we give thanks for this Advent season and rejoice in the little things of life that we bring us joy and healing. May we continue to abide in the hope and promise that is yet to come. AMEN.