Celebrate and Make a Joyful Noise

Celebrate and Make a Joyful Noise

July 3, 2022——–4th Sunday after Pentecost—–Elaine York

Psalm 66: 1-9; Galatians 6: 1-16; Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20

Good Morning!  I am glad to be back with you here at Spanish Springs Presbyterian Church.  I have several really good friends here so, it is always fun to come to worship with you. In the Fall, I will be joining your Presbyterian Women’s Bible Study as we have had to end one of our circles at St. John’s.  I look forward to being with many of you in the Bible Study led by Elaine Noble.

Independence Day the Fourth of July or July 4th is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States, on July 4, 1776. The Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer subject (and subordinate) to the monarch of Britain, King George III, and were now united, free.

  • Celebrations: Fireworks, family reunions, concerts, barbecues, picnics, parades, baseball games

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July!  So many memories of past years’ celebrations!  Most of my memories center around food and fireworks!  BBQ’s, potato salad, chips and watermelon, including watermelon seed spitting contests.  Now in Ohio, fireworks are plentiful.  There is very little danger of starting fires because of all the rain that falls there.  Also my family always shot them into the river in front of our cabin.

Fireworks are sold everywhere and my father and brother were huge consumers of them.  We always had huge buckets of cherry bombs, and all kinds of pretty high-flying, colorfu, noisy display ones.  As a child, I had snakes and sparklers.  I believe that that was a true example of making a joyful noise in celebrating the birth of our country that we love. I hope and pray that each of you will enjoy thinking back to your own memories of past Fourth of July Celebrations tomorrow and have a wonderful, safe holiday.

And now for your joke for the Fourth of July:

We now turn to our lectionary scriptures for today. First, we heard Psalm 66:1-9  A Response to the First Reading On this Sunday, the church uses verses from Psalm 66 to respond to and echo Isaiah’s call to rejoice as we summon the whole earth to “be joyful” and “sing the glory of God’s name” (66:1, 2).  Some say that this psalm was written by David others do not know who wrote it. Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth: As in the previous and the next psalm, Psalm 66 has not only Israel in view but all the earth. The psalmist understood that God was not only God over Israel, but the whole world. It was good and appropriate for him to call everyone to joyfully praise God.

According to Stan Mast from the Center of Excellence in Preaching: Even the staunchest believer sometimes wonders about the efficacy of prayer. Does it really work? Does God listen to our prayers and answer in identifiable ways? Not only our personal experience of apparently unanswered prayers, but also some of the more difficult Christian doctrines (the sovereignty of God manifested in predestination and election) make us ask those questions. Even when we are sure God has answered in miraculous ways, a skeptic could claim that we are interpreting events in wishful ways. Does God really answer our prayers?

The anonymous writer of Psalm 66 gives a resoundingly affirmative answer to that question. And he wanted everyone to know about it. “Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth… God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!”

Those verses are not part of the lectionary reading for today, but they should be. Cutting them out will give us a sense of the meaning of our reading from verses 1-9. Indeed, I would argue that the entire Psalm was written because of a specific answer to prayer. That answer led not only to the Psalmist fulfilling his own vows (13-15) and declaring to the worshiping congregation what God did for him (verses 16-20), but also to calling the whole world to praise God for what God has done for Israel (verses 1-12). The Psalmist’s personal experience of answered prayer was not just a “Jesus and me” moment. It was motivation to call the whole church, the whole world to praise God for his “awesome deeds.”

 “Calls” is too mild a word. In fact, the opening verses bristle with imperatives commanding the whole earth to “shout, sing, make his praise glorious, sing,” because of his awesome deeds. The whole earth instantly responds by bowing and singing. Indeed, verse 3 uses the politically incorrect word “cringe.” A number of scholars point out that such language is offensive in our global village that is working so hard at making peace between the great religions. It sounds like a threat to say, “So great is your power that your enemies cringe.” But the word “cringe” simply means “pay homage.” This is not a call for the pagan nations to cower in fear before the power of God, but to bow down in humility and praise his name.

Our next scripture for today is from Galatians 6:1-6, 7-16

According to Robert Leore, a Congregational Minister

  • Paul gives 6 characteristics of successful churches. We should not keep our burdens to ourselves. We are part of a caring community of faith, and we’re to help when people are hurting, we respond.

People dislike accountability. They prefer to go their own way without answering to others. Among Christians, this attitude breeds self-reliant “Lone Ranger” believers and independent churches. Yet life works better when there is a “chain-of-command”, when we have others looking out for us, correcting us when we stray from the path. We should give our friends a hunting license to correct us! (David Midwood). I’ve known some micro-managers in the military, and I’ve known supervisors who neglected to oversee those under their authority. Leadership is a matter of empowering people to be successful. In these 6 verses, Paul gives six characteristics of successful churches.

  1.  Carefrontation

In Verse 1, What do we do when fellow-Christians stumble and fall into sin or error? We take the initiative to restore them. Paul stresses the relational character of discipleship, which is up-close and personal. The Greek word for “restore” was used to describe the setting of a broken bone, and means “to return to its former condition.” Fallen believers are not damaged goods to be discarded. In our denomination we place clergy under probation and into accountability groups for the purpose of restoring them to ministry. This work is done “gently” (a fruit of the Spirit). We care enough to confront, with a sympathetic spirit. The goal is to reconcile those who’ve been overtaken in sin, not to punish them. Everyone is struggling with something; some are better at hiding it than others. We’re responsible for one another, and we need one another.

  •  Compassion

Verse 2 It is not enough to be concerned; we may need to take action. True compassion offers both sympathy and a plan to alleviate the distress. This is a hands-on ministry of presence in which we “mourn with those who mourn”. We rally around to assist those in distress. We let some of their burden shift onto our shoulders. We talk, but having all the “right words to say” is not as important as being present.

  •  Constraint

Here Paul is warning us of spiritual pride. An inflated ego leads to a sense of spiritual superiority. Humility leads us to put aside a sense of entitlement. Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali boarded an airplane, sat down, and prior to takeoff, a stewardess reminded him to buckle his seatbelt. Ali objected. “Superman doesn’t need a seatbelt!” She reminded him: “Superman doesn’t need an airplane.” We are never more in danger than when we think we’ve arrived and we forget that every day we must say: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

  • Confidence

This seems like a contradiction. We’re told in verse 3 to not think too highly of ourselves, then in verse 4 Paul tells us to take “pride” in what we achieve! Paul is encouraging us to be confident of who we are in Christ. If we’re functioning by His strength, we ought to be pleased with what He is doing in us. In I Corinthians 15:10, Paul says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” We don’t take credit, yet we should be confident. As Paul says in 2:20, “the life I live, I live by faith in the Son of God.” He has done it all–for today and forever! In II Corinthians, Paul talks about “boasting” in the Lord. What is holy boasting? It’s praising God for what He has accomplished…maybe it was through us, but He did it! We need absolute confidence in God and no confidence in ourselves. Paul also cautions about comparing ourselves with others. Their journey isn’t ours, and we may become envious and resentful if we’re not careful. We’re to appraise our own work, not that of others…and to do our own work, not to copy that of others.

  • Conscientious

Here is another seeming contradiction. Paul tells us in verse one to bear the burdens of others, but here he seems to say everyone should bear their own burdens. What Paul is saying is that, while we need to help one another in the struggles of life, we are each responsible for our own conduct. We’re to do the best we can with what we’ve been given. We will answer to God individually. This is about mutual accountability and personal responsibility.

  • Instruction

The word Paul uses for “instruction” is where we get our word “catechism.” Part of making disciples is training people to know the teachings of the Bible and the basics of the Christian life. People can’t afford to be Biblically illiterate. It is our task to help others grow in their faith, to be mentors.

The last scripture for today is Luke 10:1-10 and 16-20.  In these verses the Lord is appointing seventy followers and sent them in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.    The latter verses are instructions that describe the debriefing that took place following the return of the seventy. In this debriefing, Christ instructs the seventy to have correct priorities as Christians and in so doing takes a stand against Christian pride and arrogance.

In Conclusion: We should not keep our burdens to ourselves. We are part of a caring community of faith, and we’re to help when people are hurting, what they call in the Army “buddy care.” There will be times when we are givers and receivers of assistance. Let’s be willing to be both. Let’s link together to foster unity as God’s people, as agents of reconciliation.  May we be like the seventy followers of Jesus.

Prayer:

Faithful Lord, I rely on You and on fellow-travelers in life’s journey. I am a pilgrim, plodding along in a broken world. I join with others for mutual encouragement along the way. Help me to abide in Your love. Strengthen me by Your Spirit in my inner self for every purpose of my Christian life. May I support others in resisting temptation and proclaiming the truth of Your word; then will our walk be one of endless praise…Amen.

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