“Again I Say I will Rejoice” Philippians 4: 4-13

frigAn Amish man observed a fellow moving into his community.  Among the items being unloaded from a truck were a large refrigerator with ice maker, a state-of-the-art sound system, a smart TV, and hot tub.  The following day the Amish man went by the neighbor’s house brandishing homemade muffins.  After greeting him, the Amish man said, “And if anything should go wrong with your appliances, don’t hesitate to call.  “That’s very generous of you,” the new neighbor replied, thinking he must be a clever repairman.  No problem, said the Amish man, I’ll just show you how to live without them. 

Persons content persons with what they have, tend to be more thankful.  I would dare to say almost all of us have more than enough to make us content.  I go to the grocery store and sort through six different kinds of lettuce before spotting the plain iceberg lettuce on the bottom shelf.  I once had a brown and black pair of shoes, along with a pair of tennis shoes.  I now have 16 pairs of shoes, I seasonally interchange.  Thrift is no longer virtue and consumption isn’t a vice.  It causes me to pause and wonder when will I have what I need to be content.  Advertising

It is a modern phenomena to pursue happiness by collecting stuff.  It began after the Industrial Revolution.  Over the last 250 years the consumer has been born as manufacturers continue to produce the better tools, so we can produce better products that promise us a better life.  The cycle the consumer culture spins around is-the more we produce, the more we need to consume, so we can produce more; giving birth to the advertising age.  According to the Book of Advertising, “The art of advertising isn’t about “comparison of quality, service, or price.  Advertising teaches the consumer of wants they don’t recognize and where their wants can be supplied”. 

The modern economy has perfected it appeals to our ego; and like no other time in history.  It invites us to believe the purchase of a product will provide us an experience that will so satisfy us we can know perfect contentment.  Yet, the retail economy also a use a slight of hand, when as it regularly improves a product during seasonal intervals, which keeps us from knowing perfect contentment.  Our consuming ways makes it difficult for a person to be thankful for what they have and express it with authenticity.

Paul in PrisonThings are different than when Paul wrote this letter.  He couldn’t imagine our desire for things that causes us to seek happiness by purchasing things.  His contentment was based on a joy that sprung up from the inside out; knowing what happens outside of him is filtered by what is happening inside of him.  This letter is dripping with unrelenting thanksgiving: for the Philippians’ relationship with God, each other and him; their progress in the faith’ and their faithfulness in tough times. 

Specifically, Paul is offering thanks for an unexpected gift.  In his thank you note, he reminds us no one should be fooled into thinking external gifts are the source of contentment.  While saying thank for their gift and concern he l declares I can be content in plenty or want.  Paul didn’t wallow in self-pity during times of want or swagger in self-pride during times of plenty. 

Paul embraces each moment and person as a gift; refusing to do gymnastics; trying to change circumstances he didn’t like in order to be happy.  He doesn’t waste energy trying to change things he couldn’t change; looking for contentment in all the wrong places.  Paul embraces his circumstances as a gift, which fostered in him an attitude of gratitude regardless if he had what he wanted, needed or thought he deserved.Life gift

We will make thanksgiving more difficult this year if our well being is based on what people do for us or what happens to us.  People or circumstances can’t make us happy or unhappy, except for the power we give them.  We give what people power when we approach our day with reluctance of being around a certain person at work or school.  We give circumstances power when we ask is it Friday yet.  We rob people and circumstances of their power over us when we treat all moments and persons as a gift.  It takes spiritual eyes to see these as gifts for whom we are grateful.  From this perspective comes a heart that is content in plenty and want.

In some baseball clubhouses you will see a sign on the water cooler that says, Please do not hit me.  I’m a nice water cooler.  Legendary Yankees manager Casey Stengel said to Mickey Mantle after he beat on the water cooler: Mickey, it ain’t the water cooler that’s getting you out! 

Baseball Water CoolerWe hinder our expressions of thanks if we’re waiting for something to happen someday in order to be content.  It is stinking thinking to believe there is a natural happiness that happens because what we expect to happen happens.  Contentment doesn’t happen naturally, it happens synthetically; synthesizing circumstances and persons into our lives as gifts, which allows us to say I can be content in plenty or want. 

Paul speaks of being content in plenty and wants when he claims; I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Keep the verse in context to understand what Paul meant.  He is saying I can do all things through Christ who strengthened him whether I am hungry or well-fed.  The power of Christ did not deliver him from want to plenty; it aided him to be strengthened so he might be content regardless of his circumstances. 

Athletes foolishly rely on P.F. Flyers Sneakers theology: “Jesus will make me run faster and jump higher”; thinking it gives them an advantage on the court or field.  So, an athlete thanks Jesus for helping him hit a game winning homerun; contributing his success to the good Lord; sometimes failing to mention the steroids.  This implies God was not with the pitcher who threw the home run ball when an athlete gives God all the credit.  Philippians 4-13

God doesn’t promise we will have an advantage over the world through the special super powers of Christ that flow through our metabolic system.  We all know there are things we can’t do.  We will never run 100-yard dash in 10 seconds or jam a basketball in a 10 foot goal.  We can’t grow taller, make our kids to make the right decisions, or make everybody happy.  The “all things” we can do through Christ who strengthens doesn’t mean Christ will raise or deliver us above our difficult circumstances.  Christ will strengthen in every circumstance whether we have what we want or not.  

We follow a Savior who claimed all circumstance as a gift.  He walked through the depths; welcoming each moment as a gift, assured of a power that could change anything.  Persons and circumstances become gifts when we act on our belief that God is in the process of transforming all things, no matter how difficult things may seem at this moment.  Christ hung on the cross; believing great love changes human hearts.   

SquantoWhen the Pilgrims touched Plymouth Rock in 1620 and made it to shore, they found a deserted village they appropriated it; naming it Plymouth Colony.  The village had been named Patuxet and was the home of people who were a branch of the Wampanoags. The majority of his people died from smallpox in 1618.  The village was a ghost town.

The Pilgrims were helped out by Squanto, a Wampanoag himself and a former inhabitant of Patuxet.  Squanto learned English after being sold into slavery and making four trips back and forth between the two continents.  After a heroic nine year odyssey, he made it back home to find his people wiped out.  So, he taught the Pilgrims survival and agricultural techniques, setting in motion fifty years of peaceful relations between the Wamponoags and Pilgrims.  Squanto’s life was marked by tragic circumstances, yet he wasn’t crushed; using his circumstances helping others share the land. Navajo Rug

In an authentic Navajo rug, there is always one imperfection woven into the pattern.  According to tradition, this is where the Spirit moves in and out of the rug!  The Native mind is comfortable with the idea that perfection isn’t the elimination of imperfection; it’s the ability to recognize, forgive, and include imperfection; just as God does with us.  When we see God make us perfect through our imperfect lives, we discover the beautiful and hidden gift of God underneath the circumstances and persons in our lives.  The “pearl of great price,” is to see all of life as a gift that our gracious God uses for good.  This is what Paul means when he says, “Again, I say rejoice.

Published in: on November 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I missed an excellent sermon!

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