“Rejoice Always”

“Rejoice Always”

November 15th, 2020
Pastor Mark

Phil. 4:4-7
“Rejoice Always”

Each November here at St. Mark, we concentrate on the issues of Stewardship, the Biblical teachings of Stewardship, and conclude that with a Sunday where we fill out a pledge card and put it in the white box so the council will have a better idea regarding the budget for the next year. If you are a visitor here today, I want you to know that I am not up here every Sunday talking about money.

Now…this stewardship sermon is going to be a little different than the ones I have done here in the past. Usually, I get up here and point out that Jesus talked about money in 16 out of the 38 parables, 1 out of 10 verses in the Gospels. The Bible devotes 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, and more than 2000 verses on money and possessions. I usually say that stewardship, and everything it entails, is a spiritual issue. That the offering is an act of worship. This sounds familiar, right?

But this year, well, this year you are getting a different kind of stewardship sermon because this has been a different kind of year. It has been different for a lot of reasons, hasn’t it? We have seen so many things go wrong this year. Now before I go into the list, remember as we do this what Paul said in our epistle, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Right? We saw brush fires in Australia first, then here in the American west. A volcano blew in the Philippines. We saw a plague of locusts in Africa, a brain eating amoeba in Florida, and murder hornets in the Pacific Northwest. This year a president was impeached, and Prince Harry and Meghan left the royal court in England. An airliner crashed in the Ukraine, and Kobe and Gianna Bryant were killed in a helicopter crash in Los Angeles. We saw police shootings followed by riots and demonstrations. We have seen the economic downturn and turmoil. We have seen so much division and animosity thrown around at each other in our country. (A good time to remember something else Paul said, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.”) Back to the list of bad stuff: All the cool movies we have been waiting for like the new James Bond, Top Gun 2, and Dune have been pushed back a year or more. There were floods in Indonesia, 7 Hurricanes here in the USA (We are up to IOTA?!?), and earthquakes in Turkey and the Caribbean. We saw an ice storm here in OCTOBER. The Tokyo Olympics were postponed (along with the European soccer championships), and I haven’t even gotten to the biggest thing…that the OU football lost 2 times so far. OK, I am sorry, obviously the biggest thing is the whole COVID-19 global pandemic thing. As I preach this today, 242,000 in the US and 1,290,000 died around the world.
And this is just the big national stuff, we don’t have time here today for all of us to list the stuff that happened in our homes, or our families. You know, like how 2020 was even better for me with my 3 eye procedures this year. There was a lot of stuff that has gone wrong this year. We have seen and discussed a lot of things we wished had not happened in 2020. (“Rejoice in the Lord always.”)

Now the news is not all bad. Families got to spend more time together this year, many didn’t have to commute this year because they were working at home, SPACEX got two dudes to the ISS and back safely, drive-in movie theaters made a comeback, lots of people learned how to cook and bake, a squirrel mastered a ninja obstacle course (YOUTUBE thing), lots of doggies and kitties got fostered and adopted, a runner ran a whole marathon on his porch, and Christopher got his learner’s permit.

And here is some other Good News…after we had to go online only for our services in March, we communicated to you the need for everyone to continue supporting the church. And guess what? You did! There are a lot of churches in the USA, and around the world, that have been in a real crisis this year, in terms of them existing. Lots of congregations that have had to look at the possibility of no longer being a congregation. Churches where their finds dried up. There are also some churches in the USA that are still not allowed to worship in their buildings yet. I am in contact, on Facebook, with a guy I went to seminary with a couple of years ago, and his congregation, which is in Orange County, California, is still online only. There are a lot of churches struggling out there. There are a lot of congregations that don’t have the funds on hand to pay their bills.

But thanks be to God, and to you, we are not one of those congregations. You folks, the ones in this room with me, and all of you watching in whatever rooms you are in, you stepped up big time this year and made sure that while there was a lot of stuff we had to deal with here as a church, and while there were a lot of things that I had to do, deal with, sort out as a pastor in a pandemic (there were no Seminary courses on how to be a pastor in a pandemic), sweating out the bills and the mortgage, and payroll getting paid were not on that list. Your thank offerings to God kept coming in! PLUS, we raised $20,000 to upgrade our cameras here. (“Rejoice in the Lord always.”)

So usually, when we have this service, and I am reminding you of our need to tithe and give our thank offerings to God, and we still need to keep doing that, today the emphasis of what I am lead by the Spirit to say to you is Thank You! Thank you to you! Thank you to God! We have been blessed so greatly and wonderfully by our Lord, and we need to take a moment and remember that today. I can’t begin to tell you how God has led us to work together to keep things going here at St. Mark. You know, and I know, what God has done, is doing, and continues to do for us through His grace and mercy. And especially we know that the BEST blessing that we have is that Jesus was sent here to die for us on the cross, and rise again on Easter, to win for us faith, forgiveness, and eternal life.

Therefore, today we celebrate how awesome God is and how much He blesses us. We celebrate what He has done for the 40 years of this congregation here at St. Mark. We are thankful for what God has done for us even in this year 2020. And looking ahead and wondering what 2021 and beyond has in store for us, we would do well to remember and live what Paul said in the Epistle for today. Allow me to remind you:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness[a] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

To that, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I can only add…In the Name of Jesus.