Delight In Faithful Living

Thank you for making the transition over to Preaching in Pumps!  All of my sermons will be archived here from now on.  Enjoy this sermon from last Sunday.

(I took this photo before the “WOO-HOO’s” started)

Psalm 1

Delight In Faithful Living

When was the last time you laughed?

I am not talking about letting out a quiet chuckle when you see an amusing status or photo pop up in your Facebook newsfeed. I am talking about real laughter; “from the gut, rolling on the floor, tears streaming down your face, hard to catch your breath” kind of laughter. When was the last time you laughed? When was the last time you felt pure joy, overwhelming happiness or absolute delight?

A few weeks ago, Bruce and Woody and I went kayaking on the Taunton River. It was a Sunday afternoon; I had preached that morning and – like most Sundays after church – was still unwinding from that morning’s service and did not have a ton of energy. We spent a few hours on the river; they fished while I floated along, zoned out and took some pictures.

As we neared the bottom of the river where we were going to take the kayaks out, we started paddling through some decent-sized waves caused by a combination of boat traffic and the underwater current. Bruce and Woody carefully positioned themselves so that their kayaks would gently float up and down without too much disturbance. I, on the other hand, found out that if you pointed the nose of your kayak into the wave it would cause the entire front half of the boat to fly up and down, creating a huge splash all around the perimeter of the boat. And I quickly realized that my newly-discovered way of getting through the waves was much more fun than the cautious and gentle approach that Bruce and Woody were taking. I do not know what came over me, but I then proceeded to spend the next hour paddling my kayak in and out of the biggest waves I could find, completely soaking myself in the process and screaming, “A-WOO-HOOOOOOOO!” every time the boat hit the water.

Bruce and Woody watched from a distance, wondering what in the world happened to the tired and subdued post-worship Rev. Sarah that they had launched their kayaks with a few hours before.

To this day, I have still not lived the “woo-hoo” afternoon down.

There is a well-known saying that originated with journalist and author Hunter Thompson, but has been rephrased several times throughout the years. The saying goes:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, “WOO-HOO! What a ride!”

As Bruce and Woody pulled my kayak out of the river and had to dump about 10 gallons of water out of it, I could not help but think about this saying. Hey – if you cannot find delight in a post-worship, Sunday afternoon paddle down the Taunton River, then what is the point of ministry – and life, for that matter! – to begin with?

This morning’s Psalm says, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked … but who’s delight is in the law of the LORD.” When I first read this, I was immediately drawn to the word “delight”. What does it mean, I wondered, to delight in the law of the LORD?

You have to be careful with this scripture. Those who delight in the law of the LORD, it says, are like trees planted by streams of water and yield fruit; they prosper. Does this mean that if we follow the law of the LORD we are guaranteed a life of wealth? If we are diligent about keeping our prayer and worship time, will we be rolling in cash, dripping in diamonds and have a driveway full of very high end luxury cars? Preaching about devotion and prosperity is a tricky thing. There are people in this world – and in this community – who struggle in real ways. Are they not “good enough” Christians because they are struggling in their lives? Do they not delight enough in the LORD because they are not prospering?

Here is the problem with certain interpretations of this passage: Bad things happen in the world. We cannot control them and we cannot stop them. Good, compassionate and hardworking Christians struggle in real ways. They pray and worship and volunteer and yet still have a difficult time paying their bills. Money does not fall from the sky as soon as we pray for it. Some people work extremely hard all of their lives and yet still are unable to prosper (as the Psalm says) the way they would like to.

But here’s the thing: Prosperity has nothing to do with money or wealth or stuff. It has to do with our lives, our faith and the people who are taking this journey with us. Delight in life does not come from stuff; it comes from the people around us, from our friends, from our families, from the activities that we take part in that nourish our souls and give our lives meaning. Delight in life comes from knowing we do not have to face life alone, that there is something greater going on that we do not necessary understand and that our faith will constantly be forcing us to learn and to grow. We should feel the same delight and joy in our lives and in our faith every day that I felt in my kayak on the Taunton River this summer.

Richard Simpson, who is the Rector at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Holden, Massachusetts, pointed this out in a commentary on this Psalm.

This is not to suggest that there are guarantees in life or to rule out any sense of life’s precariousness. Bad things can and do happen to God’s people. … But this poem encapsulates the wisdom that parents and grandparents of every generation want to teach their children and their children’s children. It is wisdom around which we can orient our lives – even when we know that there will also be seasons of disorientation through which we will struggle. The way we live our lives does matter, and a life lived in relationship with a good and loving God is a life that bears fruit. {Feasting On The Word, Year B, Volume 4, Page 85}

Christianity is not about religion anymore; it is about faith. Faithful living means that the way we live our lives matters; the way we experience our faith matters; and the way we find meaning in the things around us matters. We, as individual Christians, living faithfully, matter. We no longer have to compartmentalize our lives and our faith – they go together. And we should delight in that; we should delight in knowing that God is with us wherever we go, that our faith carries us through the good times and the bad times and that the people around us love us wherever we are on our journey through life.

This week I invite you to think about your life and about your faith. Tear down the barrier between the two; live faithfully. Your lives will not always be easy; you will face challenges. But no matter what challenges you may face, always delight in faithful living. I promise that you will prosper in ways far greater than money can ever buy.

I have to say – I think it is worth screaming, “woo-hoo” over.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

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