“Rejoice in the Lord Always–Even in 2020!” (Philippians 4:4-13)

“Rejoice in the Lord Always–Even in 2020!” (Philippians 4:4-13)

As you’ve probably noticed, many people have been saying that this year, 2020, is the worst year they can remember. Maybe you’ve said so yourself. I mean, think of it. The year 2020 has seen one disaster after another: The Coronavirus pandemic got everyone’s attention back in March. Then came the shutdown all across the country. The economy went south in a hurry. The whole thing stunk: People lost their lives. People lost their jobs. People lost their businesses. That was March and April. And then: “Who had murder hornets for May?” And starting at the end of May, riots broke out in many cities, burning and looting and mayhem. One thing on top of another. People were wondering what else would go wrong. What else? Hurricanes in the east. Wildfires in the west. We’re still dealing with Covid. Lots of places are still shut down. There are still more riots. And now we’re just a few weeks away from the election, and everybody’s uptight about that. It’s been reported that, whereas one year ago, 8% of Americans had symptoms of depression, now that number is up to 28%. All in all, then, 2020 has not been the most joyful year.

But now here today, St. Paul comes along and tells us: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Always? Are you kidding, Paul? Don’t you realize, Paul, this is 2020? How can anybody rejoice during this year, of all years? Easy for you to say. You lived all those years ago, all those centuries ago. You didn’t have to put up with all that we’ve had to put up with here in 2020.

Oh really? Well, actually, Paul and the folks back then did have to put up with quite a lot. They suffered a lot. Christians back in the first century encountered persecution from all sides. The Jews didn’t like them. And the Greeks and Romans didn’t, either. The persecution came in various forms: Physical violence; Christians were beaten or killed. They were economically marginalized. They were socially ostracized. So it wasn’t easy for them. Yet Paul tells the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always.” And the message is still the same for us today: “Rejoice in the Lord Always–Even in 2020!”

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Published in: on October 10, 2020 at 4:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“From Rubbish to Righteousness to Resurrection” (Philippians 3:4b-14)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 4, 2020

“From Rubbish to Righteousness to Resurrection” (Philippians 3:4b-14)

I’m sure many of you have heard of a “rags-to-riches story.” A rags-to-riches story is one in which the hero starts out poor and penniless, but then, through hard work and perseverance, overcomes all odds and hardships to become a great success. That’s a rags-to-riches story, and we all love to hear one.

Well, today in our reading from Philippians 3, we hear a different kind of story. It’s the story Paul tells about his own life. Only in this case, Paul himself is not the hero. And it’s not a matter of rags to riches. Rather, it’s a story of going from rubbish to righteousness. And then Paul takes it even to a third step: “From Rubbish to Righteousness to Resurrection.” So listen now, brothers and sisters, as Paul tells us his story, because–guess what–it’s your story too!

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Published in: on October 3, 2020 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Work Out Your Own Salvation?” (Philippians 2:1-18)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 27, 2020

“Work Out Your Own Salvation?” (Philippians 2:1-18)

Last Sunday we began a series of four straight weeks with readings from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. Last week our theme from chapter 1 was “For Your Progress and Joy in the Faith.” Paul said that he was writing to the Philippians to help them make progress and find joy in the Christian faith. This week, we move into chapter 2, where Paul continues along those same lines. And we’ll begin our message today by looking at the part of our text where Paul tells the Philippians: “Work out your own salvation.”

“Work Out Your Own Salvation?” Huh? Did I hear that right? What’s going on, Paul, have you lost your mind? How can you say, “Work out your own salvation”? I mean, after all, you’re the same Paul who told us in Romans, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” And in Galatians you told us, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse.” Likewise in Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works.” But now here in Philippians, Paul, you’re telling us, “Work out your own salvation”? This does not compute.

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Published in: on September 26, 2020 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“For Your Progress and Joy in the Faith” (Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 20, 2020

“For Your Progress and Joy in the Faith” (Philippians 1:12-14, 19-30)

Today we begin four weeks in a row of readings from Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.  Four chapters over four weeks, starting with much of chapter 1 today.  The epistle as a whole is not very long–you can read it in less than 15 minutes–so you might want to consider reading Philippians a number of times over the coming weeks.  You won’t regret it.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians:  What do we know about Philippi and Paul’s relationship with the congregation there?  A little background is in order.  Philippi was a city in Macedonia, the northern part of Greece.  Paul had gone there on his second missionary journey, when he crossed over from Asia Minor into Europe.  And Philippi was one of the first places he went.  You can read about it in Acts 16, where there are accounts of the conversion of Lydia, Paul and Silas in jail, and the conversion of the Philippian jailer.  That was the start.  And from that beginning, the church at Philippi had grown and had a good relationship with the apostle Paul.

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Published in: on September 19, 2020 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Does This Spark Joy?” (Philippians 3:4b-14)

Fifth Sunday in Lent
April 7, 2019

“Does This Spark Joy?” (Philippians 3:4b-14)

Have you ever heard of a woman named Marie Kondo? She’s a young Japanese woman who is an expert on organizing the stuff in your house. Marie Kondo is the queen of decluttering. She has written a best-selling book called, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” And this year she has her own television show called, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”

This is a popular trend right now, this tidying up. And Marie Kondo has a certain method for doing it. She says to pick up this or that item you’re debating whether or not to get rid of–hold it up in front of you and ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?” If it doesn’t, then get rid of it.

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Published in: on April 6, 2019 at 5:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Citizenship Even Bigger than Texas” (Hebrews 11:13-16; John 14:1-6; Philippians 3:20-21)

Funeral Service
Saturday, October 13, 2018

“A Citizenship Even Bigger than Texas” (Hebrews 11:13-16; John 14:1-6; Philippians 3:20-21)

His name was “Emerick,” but everybody called him “Tex.” That was our brother Emerick “Tex” Labus. He went by “Tex” for as long as I’ve known him, and that’s been over ten years. Even though he lived here in Missouri for I don’t know how long, people still called him Tex. I guess you can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the boy.

I’ve observed over the years that people from Texas are very proud of being from Texas. And they’ll let you know it. Maybe you’ve noticed that too. They’ll talk about how Texas once was its own country, before it joined the United States. They’ll tell you about how Texas is #1 in this or #1 in that. About how everything is bigger in Texas.

And, well, maybe Texas does have a lot to be proud of, I don’t know. But we do know that for our brother Emerick, he was happy to be called “Tex.” He was always a Texan, even while he lived here in Missouri.

But today I want to tell you about another identity Tex had. Another citizenship. Another homeland. One far greater and better than even being from Texas. And now after Missouri, this will be his next stop. His eternal homeland. Because Tex had “A Citizenship Even Bigger than Texas.”

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Published in: on October 13, 2018 at 8:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Three Words for Thanksgiving: Think, Thank, Talk” (Philippians 4:6-20)

Day of National Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 23, 2017

“Three Words for Thanksgiving: Think, Thank, Talk” (Philippians 4:6-20)

Today I have three words for you. These are three things you can do to celebrate this Day of Thanksgiving. They are three words that are easy for you to remember for the rest of this day. And here they are: “Three Words for Thanksgiving: Think, Thank, Talk.”

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Published in: on November 22, 2017 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Rejoice in the Lord Always” (Philippians 4)

“Rejoice in the Lord Always” (Philippians 4)

“Rejoice in the Lord Always”: So says Paul in our Epistle reading today. Really? “Rejoice”? “Always”? Are you kidding me? “Rejoice always”? That’s easy for you to say, Paul. You don’t know what I’m going through. If you did, you wouldn’t be telling me to rejoice always.

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Published in: on October 14, 2017 at 4:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Joy of Knowing Christ” (Philippians 3)

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 8, 2017

“The Joy of Knowing Christ” (Philippians 3)

I noticed in the news about a week ago–maybe you saw it too–that Monty Hall died. He was the longtime host of the television game show, Let’s Make a Deal. You remember how the show worked? Monty would pick out a member of the studio audience and offer that person, say, $200 for the tennis shoes she was wearing. Then Monty would suggest a deal. Do you want to keep the $200 you have in your hand, or do you want to trade it in for what’s behind the curtain, where Carol Merrill is standing? Of course, the catch was, the contestant did not know what was behind the curtain. It could be a zonk booby prize, like a bucket of sand. Or it could be some fabulous expensive prize, like a dream vacation to Cancun. That’s how the game worked. Do you think what you have in your hand is worth more than what’s behind the curtain? Or not? Which would you rather have? What you’re holding on to, or what you could have instead?

Well, we kind of get a version of that in our Epistle reading today, in Philippians chapter 3. There St. Paul is saying that what he had in his hand before, while it may have seemed rather valuable to him at the time–now he can see that, in comparison to what he has now, what he had in the past is not even worth comparing. Because now Paul has received as a gift what is of infinitely surpassing worth–and something you can be absolutely sure of, as well–and that is, “The Joy of Knowing Christ.”

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Published in: on October 7, 2017 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ” (Philippians 2)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 1, 2017

“The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ” (Philippians 2)

Today is the second in our four-week series on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. We’re going chapter by chapter through the four chapters of this letter. Last week we introduced the series by noting that Philippians is often called “The Epistle of Joy,” because of the recurring theme of joy running through the letter. We saw it last week in Philippians 1. There Paul describes his relationship with the Philippians in what we called a “Joyful Gospel Partnership.” Through the message that Paul had preached to them, the gospel of Jesus Christ, God had formed the Philippians into a church, a family of believers gathered around the gospel. And thereby God had established a partnership, a “koinonia,” a fellowship, between Paul and the Philippians, in the faith and in the church’s mission. This was a joyful gospel partnership, because the gospel of salvation in Christ brings such good news to gladden the heart, a joy that goes deeper than happiness, because that joy is there, whether our circumstances happen to be happy or sad. Paul, at the time he writes this letter–his circumstances were not that great. He was in prison, probably in Rome, and yet he had great joy, and he wants the Philippians to share in that joy. For the gospel unites pastor and people in a partnership, a partnership of prayer, a partnership even in prison, and a partnership of progress and joy in the faith.

So that was last week. Now we come to chapter 2. More joy in this chapter also! Look at what Paul says in verse 2: “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” And a little after that, in verses 5 and following, he explains what that one mind is: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who” etc. So today I’m calling the theme of chapter 2: “The Joy of Being of the Same Mind, the Mind of Christ.”

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Published in: on September 30, 2017 at 11:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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