Summary: What does it mean to Rejoice in Real Life, when Joy touches down on the rough patches of our lives?
Lately, I’ve talked some about how I don’t really enjoy flying. I will go, and it isn’t a huge deal, but I tend to get nervous. But, there is one think that I LOVE about flying. It’s the sound of the wheels of the plane touching the ground. It’s a powerful moment, marked by that beautiful, ERRCH sound. Try it with me, ERRCH.
Now, I want you to think of that sound as we look at the words from our passage in Philippians. This is a letter that the Holy Spirit worked through Paul to write to the Christians living in Philippi so many years ago. He wrote to the church for a number of reasons. He wanted to thank them for their generosity, he wanted to remind them of the beauty of the Gospel. But I think, most of all, Paul wrote to encourage the Christians there. They were being persecuted, and over-run by false teachers of all kinds, and facing difficult times in general. And I think we all struggle with this, but they were facing a real temptation to leave behind the very basic, and central teaching of the Gospel (The Death of Christ for our sins, and his Resurrection from the Dead) in favor of other ideas that were more popular, or easier for their culture to accept.
It certainly wasn’t an easy time for the church. BUT, what is a little shocking, is how much one Greek word (or derivation of it) comes up over and over again in the book. It is the word, “CHAI-RETA” Try saying it. You know what you just said? “REJOICE!” It’s actually how Greeks greet one another still today. Isn’t that wonderful, instead of just saying,”Hello,” they actually see one another and say, REJOICE! I know you, and I see you, and I am rejoicing because of it.
And that fits with God too. REJOICE, I know God, and REJOICE, God knows me. And that sound of the word Rejoice, is kind of like that sound of the wheels of the plane hitting the ground. It is the sound Joy, living Joy, touching down on real life. Even though, often times, the times, and places, and circumstance of the runways of our lives are pretty rough, and pretty dangerous. It’s not easy to have the Joy we know in our heads, land on our hearts, and get played out in real life.
I want to illustrate this with a little quiz a friend of mine from Seminary (Scott F. Abel – Concordia Pulpit Resources 2010) wrote on this very topic. All answers are True or False. And just for the record, none of these is any kind of trick question. Jesus Christ went to the cross to destroy death and to give you the gift of eternal life. “True,” you say. True or false: Because of what Jesus did for you on the cross, your sins are forgiven, you are covered in the righteousness of Christ, you are declared holy and just before the throne of God. “True,” you say. True or false: On the day of resurrection you will experience never-ending joy and peace as you stand face-to-face with your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “True,” you say.
Awesome, you are batting 1.000! But then there are more questions. If you know all this other stuff, why do you worry so much about the future? Why do you get upset about criticism? Why are you still unhappy with your achievements in life, or you situation? Why do you think about all the stuff you DON’T have, or how much money you have, or whatever?
You were off to such a great start, what happened? Now I don’t say this as one who is judging you, but one who needs to hear these words too. I think sometimes, (us, but not JUST Lutherans) we’re really good at knowing the answers to the quiz, knowing the head stuff, but sometimes, we struggle with the living out of the hope we have in Christ. It’s not easy stuff to know, but it’s even harder to DO!
And this is why the Holy Spirit gave Paul these very words, and why they are so important for us. They are helpful for a couple of reason. They help to redefine what it means to know God and to be known by God. And these words encourage us to get out of the way of God having his love, his grace, the faith he gives us, shining through our lives. But most of all, these verses help us to understand what JOY really is. It’s not about knowing a definition, or an explanation, but it’s all about knowing God, knowing what Christ has done for you, and knowing that God knows you, and loves you.