Many people memorize Philipians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Easy to understand – rejoice! But it can be difficult to practice. This week we look at the second of the five marks of a Methodist – A Methodist Rejoices in God. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking this week about how often we rejoice. To rejoice means, “to feel or show that you are very happy about something.” (Miriam Webster) When was the last time you were very happy and showed it? When people examine your life do they see someone who is very happy and shows it?
To be honest – if this is the mark of being a Methodist, I, a Methodist Pastor, do not always show this mark. There are MANY times my first reaction is not to rejoice. My default mode is not happy. When I get a flat tire, I don’t shout, “Oh happy day!” When someone I know faces loss, I don’t immediately rejoice. When someone I love is sick, I am afraid. But the reality is: these are first reactions. We must choose whether or not we remain in those initial reactions and emotions. We all have bad days. We all have things that happen that will not immediately elicit within us joy – BUT as a Methodist we know that’s not the end of the story.
Nowhere is this more evident for me than in a Celebration of Life service. Nearly every time I meet with a family they apologize for not knowing how to plan a service, but they also nearly always want it to be a true celebration of the life that was lived before us. Of course there’s no need to apologize in that circumstance. We want to celebrate in those moments because we know that we do not mourn as those without hope. We face difficult circumstances but in the midst of those circumstances we are reminded that there is HOPE and THAT causes us to rejoice – to celebrate. I have been to or participated in many, many celebrations of life and you would not think that that would be a place where there would be laughter, but always, amid the tears there are stories that provoke from us laughter and rejoicing in the time we had to spend with the one we loved and who God is in the situation.
We can choose to rejoice even in the most difficult of circumstances because “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ.” (Romans 8:37) If we return to this – to the HOPE we have in Christ, we really can find cause to feel and show happiness. A Methodist rejoices in God – it’s a choice based not on our circumstances but on who God is and what God has done for us. We have the strength to rejoice in God because the joy of the Lord (the joy we find in the Lord and what He has done for us) is our strength.