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The word is... rejoice

April 11, 2017

...well said

Ancient church mothers and fathers often greeted one another with the phrase, “Give me a word.” This greeting led to the sharing of insights and wisdom. Today we continue this tradition with this monthly column.

rejoice

By Rev. Mandy Sayers
Pastor, Covenant UMC, Gaithersburg

Easter is at the heart of what the church has to offer the world. We can’t promise that life with Christ will mean you won’t get cancer or car trouble. After all, the One we follow said “Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

We can’t promise that people will like you, or say nice things about you. Jesus even said, “Blessed are you” when people revile you on account of him and other scary and unappealing things (like blessed are the meek, those who mourn…and that bit about losing your life to save it). What we can give, what we can promise, is Easter.

Our Easter is not just one single day, a kind of Mardi Gras party with a hangover following it. Our Easter is not about chocolate eggs (though I do love a good chocolate egg), or that toxic plastic Easter basket grass.

The Easter we offer is about new life and new life eternal, the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. The Easter we offer has made sin, hell and death mere shadows of their former selves. And if that’s all Easter did, that would be enough to make confirmation class worthwhile.

But Easter is more than that — this Easter that we offer the world. The Easter we offer tugs on our present life, on our morning routines. It whispers new life into old marriages and sends hope into desperate situations. It causes stones in front of tombs everywhere to shudder: the tomb of the 17th IEP meeting for a precious boy, the tomb of the layoff, the tomb of the midlife crises, the tomb of addiction, the tomb of despair.

What’s a well-meaning, lifelong Methodist to do with such an Easter as this? It’s enough to make even the most jaded among us stare wide-eyed and slack-jawed. A stone rolled away. Graveclothes folded. Normal, rational, reasonable people... United Methodists, even... running from the tomb full of joy, like children released into the sunshine of a blue-sky world on the last day of school. Joy rising up in the throat with a song that says, “I have seen the Lord.”

That’s the Easter that God offers the world. It’s not a plastic bunny Easter. It’s a hope and a love so strong that no Good Friday can withstand it. Christ the Lord is risen today!

REJOICE!

By Rev. Daryl Williams
Pastor, St. Paul UMC, Oxon Hill

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say Rejoice! These words from the book of Philippians and sung so well by Israel Haughton are the cornerstone of a Christian life, yet they can be very difficult to live by.

That’s because there are simply times when one does not feel like rejoicing. In times of sorrow, in times of tragedy, in times of uncertainty, sometimes just watching the news, it is hard to rejoice. Yet, Paul and Israel seem very insistent that we should rejoice always.

In thinking about this instruction to rejoice, I finally began to understand Paul’s instruction and why it can be so difficult. So many times in life, we look to have joy on our own terms. We look for joy in our circumstances, in our bank accounts, in our own success and realize that many times those things are here today and gone tomorrow. When we look for joy in temporary things, it can never be permanent or available always.

Paul tells us not to simply rejoice always, but to rejoice in the Lord always. Paul understood that there will be times when our circumstances will not dictate joy as a response, and when our feelings will not dictate joy as a response, but when we put our joy in the Lord, joy is always available.

No matter how good or bad things may be, the Lord is always there. The Lord is there in our highest of highs, and does not abandon us in our lowest of lows. The Lord promised us that he will be there always. It is in this promise that we can find peace, contentment and joy.

As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord this month, take time to rejoice. Rejoice that God loves you. Rejoice that the Lord will always be there for you. Rejoice that Jesus conquered death and the grave. No matter where you are, or what you are going through, always know that the Lord cares for you, and that is a reason to rejoice!

 

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