“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.


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.”


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.”


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.


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.”


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.”


Published in: on September 30, 2017 at 11:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“A Joyful Gospel Partnership” (Philippians 1)

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 24, 2017

“A Joyful Gospel Partnership” (Philippians 1)

Today we start a four-week series of readings and sermons–and Bible classes, as well–on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. The official Epistle readings from the lectionary have big chunks of each of the four chapters over these four weeks, but since we’re diving in whole-hog, as it were, I decided I’d read the whole chapter each week, as you just heard.

So today we begin with Philippians chapter 1. In trying to come up with a theme for this message–and really, for the whole book–I thought back to a sermon I heard long ago at my home church in Chicago. We had just installed a new pastor, and his first sermon to us was based on this passage from Philippians 1, verses 3-5: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” And so the pastor’s sermon that day, almost forty years ago–and I still remember the sermon title–the message back then is the same as it is for us here today, that the church is “A Joyful Gospel Partnership.”


Published in: on September 23, 2017 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“He Humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:5-11)

Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion
March 20, 2016

“He Humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:5-11)

Have you ever been humbled? Yes, humbled, brought low. Maybe you were humbled when you got beat really badly in a game of Scrabble. Maybe you won that game of Scrabble, and you got the big head, so God had to humble you in some other way. Or think about the March Madness that’s going on right now. Sometimes there is an occasional upset, but usually, when a #16 seed has to face a #1 seed in the opening round, it can be pretty humbling. To be humbled is not a pleasant experience.

Often when we are humbled, it’s because we have something to be humble about. Our weaknesses are exposed. Our limitations become evident. Our shortcomings are in view, and we don’t like it. So what is really surprising is when someone is humbled who doesn’t have any weaknesses or shortcomings to be brought low by. And even more amazing is when such a person voluntarily humbles himself. That’s what we see on this Palm Sunday, this Sunday of the Passion as it is called, in the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it is said, “He Humbled Himself.”


Published in: on March 20, 2016 at 2:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Our Citizenship Is in Heaven” (Philippians 3:17 – 4:1)

Second Sunday in Lent
February 21, 2016

“Our Citizenship Is in Heaven” (Philippians 3:17 – 4:1)

Citizenship is a big deal in our country right now, especially since this is an election year. There is talk about how to keep non-citizens out, how to keep them from entering our country. There is talk about which candidate or candidates may or may not be “natural born citizens” and thus eligible to run, and about what that term “natural born citizen” actually means. Our attention is drawn to our rights as citizens, guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. And we think of our duties as citizens, to be well-informed when we consider candidates and cast our votes. So citizenship is at the forefront of the thinking of many people this year.

Well, today I’m here to tell you that you should be thinking about your citizenship, and rightly so. Our duty as citizens, our civic involvement, is important. But there’s a citizenship you have that is even more important, and by a factor of about a bazillion. And that is the citizenship St. Paul talks about today when he says, “Our Citizenship Is in Heaven.”


Published in: on February 20, 2016 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“St. Paul’s Rubbish Sale” (Philippians 3:4b-13)

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 5, 2014

“St. Paul’s Rubbish Sale” (Philippians 3:4b-13)

Yesterday our Ladies’ Guild here at St. Matthew’s held a rummage sale. You know how a rummage sale works. People donate their old, obsolete items that they don’t want or need anymore, and then those items are resold, usually at a much lower price than the original purchase price. And when I say much lower, I mean much lower! I saw a television set downstairs that someone may have paid a couple hundred bucks for originally, but now it was being sold for a mere $5.00. And that was at the start of the sale. Who knows what it went for, if it was still there toward the end? The point is, it didn’t have much value for anyone anymore. But that’s the nature of things at a rummage sale. Old items that people once valued very highly no longer have much worth.

Well, that was how it went at St. Matthew’s rummage sale. But today I want to talk to you about “St. Paul’s Rubbish Sale.” Yes, you heard me right: St. Paul’s rubbish sale–rubbish, not rummage. That’s the word St. Paul uses in our text for today from Philippians chapter 3. Rubbish. That’s how Paul regards the things he used to put so high a value on. He now regards them as rubbish. Today we’ll explore how and why. And we’ll see if you’ve got any rubbish you’d like to get rid of, too. Because when you get rid of the rubbish, the nice thing is, there’s something waiting for you that is of so much more value, infinitely so, a true treasure. And amazingly, this treasure is all yours, free of charge.


Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 7:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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