|Advent 2, Year A – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||December 8, 2019||Advent 2, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|Advent 1, Year A||December 1, 2019||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Pentecost, Year C||November 24, 2019||Last Pentecost, Christ the King||Luke 23:33-43|
|Pentecost 23, Year C||November 17, 2019||Pentecost 23, Year C, Proper 28||Luke 21:5-19|
|Pentecost 22, Year C||November 10, 2019||Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38|
|All Saints, Year C||November 3, 2019||All Saints’ Sunday, Year C 2019||Luke 6:20-31|
|Pentecost 20, Year C||October 27, 2019||Pentecost 2, Proper 25, Year C||2 Timothy 4:6-8|
|Pentecost 19, Year C||October 20, 2019||Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24||Luke 18:1-8|
|Pentecost 18, Year C||October 13, 2019||Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Psalm 111, Luke 17:11-19|
|Pentecost 17, Year C – Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||October 6, 2019||Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||2 Timothy 1:1-14,Luke 17:5-10|
|Season of Creation 5, Year C||September 29, 2019||Season of Creation 5, Year B||Proverbs 8:22-31, Ephesians 1:3-10, Luke 24:13-35|
|Season of Creation 4, Year C||September 22, 2019||Season of Creation, Year C, Week 4||Luke 16:19-31, Amos 8:4-8|
|Season of Creation 3, Year C||September 15, 2019||Season of Creation, Week 3, Year C||Deuteronomy 11:10-17, Luke 15:1-10|
|Season of Creation 2, Year C||September 8, 2019||Season of Creation, Week 2, Year C||Genesis 1:26-2:3, I Timothy 6:6-19, Luke 12:22-31|
|Season of Creation 1, Year C||September 1, 2019||Season of Creation 1, Year C||Genesis 1:1-25, Revelation 22:1-5, John 1:1-5, 14|
Easter 7, Year C
Sermon Date:June 2, 2019
Scripture: Psalm 97, Acts 16:16-34, John 17:20-26
Liturgy Calendar: The Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C
Praise to God transforms our lives.
Praise is powerful, praise is strengthening, praise is healing, and praise is hopeful. Listen to these verses from today’s psalm, Psalm 97.
“The Lord is King; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad…rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks to his holy Name.” (Verses 1 and 12)
Today, we rejoice and give thanks as we have been doing throughout the season of Easter, rejoicing and giving thanks because we believe that God really is King, and that through the grace of God through Jesus Christ, we have been made right with God—even when evil seems to have the upper hand.
In this past Friday’s Thy Kingdom Come daily video, Jasmine Yeboah, Youth President of the Methodist Conference in Britain, reflects on the power of praise. She tells the children in her children’s choir that sometimes life throws us stones and dirt, and we can use these stones to make platforms to get stand on and to be who God has called us to be.
The idea is to be able to praise God and to say thank you even when evil seems to be in control.
Today’s story in Acts is a great illustration of the power of praise, especially in the presence of evil.
Paul and Silas are in Macedonia, and they are telling everyone there about what God has done through Jesus. Paul throws an evil spirit out of a slave girl who makes money for her owners through her prophecies.
And because the owners of the girl no longer have a source of income from this girl, they are angry and drag Paul and Silas to the magistrates. The crowd joins in the furor, and the magistrates decree that Paul and Silas be stripped of their clothing and severely beaten, and then thrown into jail, in the innermost cell, and their feet are placed in the stocks as an extra precaution against their escape.
Paul and Silas take this opportunity to pray and to sing hymns to God. As they praise God, they are filled with strength, and with hope–because as Jasmine says on her video, “we don’t lose hope when we praise.”
The other prisoners are listening to Paul and Silas give praise to God, and when an earthquake liberates them all, they stay put—I imagine because they are so full of wonder at what they are hearing that they don’t even think about escaping.
The jailer is ready to kill himself because he is sure that the prisoners have escaped, but Paul stops him. The jailer, so overwhelmed by this turn of events, brings Paul and Silas outside and asks them what he must do to be saved. “Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus,” they said, and they “spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” We know that the jailer is transformed by this news, because of what he does next.
The jailer takes Paul and Silas and washes their wounds, his entire family is baptized without delay, and then the jailer sets food before them.
And then the jailer and his entire household rejoice that the jailer has been transformed and has become a believer in God.
A great story, full of hope, praise, and rejoicing!
But we all know that Paul was finally put to death in Rome, as was Peter, and that despite all that they had done, evil still seemed to have the upper hand.
We know from our own experiences that life is a jumble of good and bad all mixed together, and that sometimes the stones and dirt of life come rolling down like an avalanche on us and we can barely breathe, much less praise God.
Evil seems to be in control no matter how much we praise God.
And even if our own lives are going well, all we have to do is to watch the news from around the world to know that in spite of what seems to be our individual good fortune, others are suffering from evil, not only from personal demons, but also the evil that is caused by other individuals as well as governments and economies.
But to praise God for all God has done for us through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus gives us strength even when we feel powerless.
To praise God brings us healing even when sickness and death seem to have the upper hand.
To praise God gives us hope even when despair threatens to overwhelm us.
Before Jesus went through the evil events surrounding his death, Jesus prayed for the disciples. The prayer includes this astounding proclamation.
Jesus prays, “God, you have given me glory. And now, I’ve given these, my disciples, that same glory, so that we may all be one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved these disciples even as you have loved me.”
This love, God’s love, is the love that fills us through the grace of Jesus and binds us together as one body, so that no matter what happens in our lives, we will still want to praise God together.
The love we offer to one another as God has loved us is an act of praise. And when love and praise for God shape our lives, then others find themselves wanting what we’ve got.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
When Milt Carey, a member of this church was dying, many of you went to visit him, and I have heard a number of you say at various times that in those visits, Milt ministered to you, that you left feeling good and feeling blessed because of Milt’s witness to you, that you received more from the visit than you brought to him. That’s what a life of praise looks like, a person who can extend God’s strength, healing, hope and love even in the worst of situations.
At the end of the gospel according to Luke, after Jesus ascends to heaven, the disciples return to Jerusalem with great joy and they are continually in the temple praising God as they wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
To praise God is to live in hope.
So as we wait on this earth for God’s kingdom to come in all its glory, let’s rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, because his death and resurrection have set us free from all evil for all time. Jesus has transformed us into the righteous people of God.
And let’s give thanks to his holy name, because we know that Jesus is coming soon to bring God’s kingdom to earth for all time.
And while we wait for his coming in glory, let’s light up the world with our praise and thanks to God—because through our praise to God as one body, we help to make God’s transforming, healing and strengthening love visible in this world. Amen.