Saturday, December 15, 2012

C, Advent 3 – Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice Always?” Confirmation Sermon

Download WORD doc here

Here's a little song I wrote might like to sing it note for note, "Don't worry be happy!" Well perhaps I didn't write it but you may know this song or have heard it some time.
The words don't worry be happy might be a catchy lyric to sing, especially when feeling in a good mood, but what about when the chips are down, in the midst of worry, doubt, and danger? Being told to be happy sounds more like a command that condemns rather than encouragement when one is far from being happy! Who wants to sing any little light-hearted song when there's no reason for happiness?
In this day and age, one only has to listen to some angry metal music, or blues music to know it's impossible to be happy all the time. In fact, those who radiate happiness all the time seem false and once away from others, one wonders what they're really like behind the jolly veneer. Shiny happy people cannot be shiny happy people all the time. In fact, happiness often covers the reality of hopelessness and loneliness in our lives.
So when Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." (Philippians 4:4 ESV) Is Paul deluded? Is he calling us to live in delusion? How on earth can I rejoice always, are we meant to pretend? It's hard to rejoice when the family is fighting, friendships are fracturing, farming is futile in the fickle weather we're having these days, and so on!
Today is Confirmation day; this day has its line share of focus on you young folk. In fact you may feel the day is about you, and that's okay, but you need to know these feelings are fleeting. The high of today will lead into the valleys of tomorrow; and continue right through the ups and downs of everyday life.
Today doesn't mark the end of Confirmation, nor does it really mark the beginning of something although you will be receiving Holy Communion for the first time. Today rather, is a continuation of what has already begun, and looks forward in hope to what is to come! Today in Confirmation you will affirm what God is doing, has done, and continues to do in your lives. This all began when God made you his child in baptism.
When you were baptised it was not only into Jesus' death, but also his resurrection! When Pauls says to you, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!" He's saying rejoice in Lord's death always furthermore rejoice in his resurrection. Or, rejoice in your death always furthermore rejoice in your resurrection!
But rejoicing in one's death seems rather harsh. Especially when you are young and entering what many would say is the prime of your lives. Things are changing, schools are changing, where you live will change, your bodies are changing from children to young adults, both physically and mentally. So rejoicing in death goes against the grain of our thinking.
To be specific we need to realise being happy and rejoicing are two completely different things. You and I can be happy all by ourselves within one's self, but joy always happens in community looking out of one's self to something greater. True joy looks to things eternal, and leads one to view things from an eternal perspective.
Therefore, happiness never hangs around for long, because one looks into themselves for happiness. Even events around us, or from a gift we receive, all this soon fades and eventually fails because the happiness is centred on me, my emotions and feelings. Putting faith in things which cause happiness in the end will lead to hopelessness.
But joy and rejoicing are much different, in joy or with rejoicing one sees things for what they really are rather than falsely looking for happiness in things that can be equally as bad as what might seem good. We hear what Jesus did for joy...
...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1–3 ESV)
Now Jesus was not happy when he went to the cross, scripture tells us of his suffering and death. Yet he went there for "the joy" set before him and was raised to the right hand of the throne of God. In himself he suffered a horrendous death but he suffered it for joy. Jesus struggled against sin to the point of death and did so in joy because now even if you are called to the ultimate sacrifice in this life, it is not an eternal death but just an earthly one.
In just a moment you will affirm your baptismal faith. This is the faith that trusts God into eternity, and in joy the Holy Spirit had given it to you. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17 ESV)
So rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice. So let the joy of Christ live in you in good times, furthermore let the joy of Christ live in you in bad times. I am not saying to put on a happy face, far from it, but carry the promise of Jesus' death and resurrection in you, letting your patience, moderation, and endurance be known to everyone. This is the steadfastness and love of God himself that allows you to stand firm, even when you are weak, worried, and cannot be happy.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious 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. (Philippians 4:4–7 ESV)
When you are tempted to worry or have doubts, rejoice because Jesus is at hand. When you feel anxious in yourself, leave trusting yourself and ask God to help, look to him, even beg him, he wants to be your God in every situation and trial of life. In your lives believe that…
"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation." With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: "Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. (Isaiah 12:2–4 ESV)
Here's another little song I didn't write,
"Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice,
Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!
Rejoice, rejoice, and again I say rejoice,
Rejoice, rejoice, and again I say rejoice!"
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, always. Amen.