...again I will say, Rejoice
| Philippians 4:1-9
||Sun, October 10, 1999
Rev. Ed Searcy
|“Therefore, my brothers and sisters,
whom I love and long for, my joy and crown,
stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
I urge Eudoia and I urge Syntyche
to be of the same mind in the Lord.
Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women,
for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel,
together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers,
whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I will say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone.
The Lord is near.
Do not worry about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true,
whatever is honourable, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing the things you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me,
and the God of peace will be with you.”
This Thanksgiving Sunday our thoughts are thousands of miles away.
Remember Dan and Sandra Kierkagaard? They and their children were
faithful members here at University Hill until a little over two years ago
when Dan was ordained. Remember? They were ‘settled’ by the Church in
three rural churches in the Maritimes.... Tabisintac in New Brunswick. And
right in the middle of that Pastoral Charge is the community called Burnt
Church. Yes, the same Burnt Church that has been on the national news
each night this week. The same Burnt Church where racial violence ...
violence between native and non-native fishers has overtaken the
community. Lobster traps cut. Trucks rammed. A house set on fire. A
native spiritual centre torched. The wharf now a native warrior
encampment. Yes, Dan and Sandra and their family are in the middle of it
all. On Thursday Dan organized a prayer service that included the
religious leaders of both the native and non-native communities. On
Friday when I was speaking to him on the phone, Sandra interrupted to tell
Dan that non-native children had thrown eggs at native children in the
parking lot at school. Gathered here to give God thanks and praise for all
that we have and are it is hard not to think about Dan and Sandra and their
children ... and the people of Burnt Church.
Paul says: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice ... do not
worry about anything”. And we don’t want to worry ... we want to
rejoice. But its not that easy. We are worried about Dan and Sandra ...
worried about the people of Burnt Church ... and much more. Perhaps it
would be easier to rejoice if we could just leave all of our worldly worries
behind when we came here, into this Chapel to give thanks to God. Paul
seems to be saying: “Don’t worry ... be happy”. If only it was as simple as
But remember its not as simple as that. Paul writes to us from a prison cell.
He’s not writing on Thanksgiving Sunday ... not going home to a banquet
table ... no turkey and all the fixings for him. No. Paul is eating in the
prison cafeteria tonight ... and going to bed behind bars. Yet he writes
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”. And worry? What’s
the point he says. Instead, offer up your worry along with your gratitude
in prayer to God. Then, says Paul, “the peace of God which surpasses all
understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.
When I called Dan Kierkegaard on the phone on Friday to tell him that all
of them are in our prayers he spoke of the poison that threatens to infect the
minds of the people of his church and neighbourhood. Fear is rampant.
People are easily seduced into imagining the worst about others. Dan
travels into the villages and onto the reserves. He sees the infection of
hatred and revenge spreading. So this week he has been taking the words
of Paul from Philippians chapter four wherever he goes: “whatever is true,
whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is
pleasing, whatever is commendable ... think about these things ... Let your
gentleness be known to everyone”. Now those of you who know Dan,
know that he is a big, imposing man who is the gentlest soul that one can
ever meet. There is a compassionate strength about his presence that has
stood him well this week. One can easily imagine him standing on that
wharf at Burnt Church ... standing his ground between the native and
nonnative fishers ... modelling for the Christians of Burnt Church what it
means to be protected by the peace of God from the infection of hatred and
This is the reason that we can rejoice today ... and every day. We can
rejoice because we, like Dan and Sandra, are in the Lord. We are a people
who have reason to believe that God is at work in the world to save us
from ourselves ... to reconcile peoples and families and lost souls with one
another and with their Creator. We have met this amazingly gracious God
in Jesus. He is the reason for our rejoicing. Christ Jesus is the reason for
our gentleness. In him we have found reason to focus on that which is true
and just and pure and pleasing to God. Without Christ we, too, might
easily be infected by the worst ... by fear, spite and greed. With him we
trust in the goodness and the purposes of God ... always. With Christ Jesus
we rejoice - always.
So today we gather around our Table of Thanksgiving with the people of
Burnt Church. With them we give thanks ... thanks not that everything is
right with the world ... or with our nation ... or with us. No. Here we give
thanks that, even in the very midst of our so obviously broken communities
and lives, the risen Christ is even now at work reconciling and making new.
Watch ... watch as we gather to eat the same bread and drink from the
same cup. Watch and you will see this reconciling power at work ...
bringing us together across racial and ethnic barriers ... making one family
of this diverse company ... people who cannot agree about politics or
theology but who, at this Thanksgiving Table call each other sister and
brother. Rejoice in the Lord ... again I will say, Rejoice!