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Maybe twice isn’t enough...

by Rev. Matthew Johnson on March 25, 2020

I don’t know if I really feel like rejoicing right now. I’ve been running on adrenaline for a few weeks, rethinking how we can keep being communities of faith in the midst of a global pandemic, but now I’m coming back down to earth with a thud — like Wile E. Coyote in those old cartoons. With everything that is going on — the anxiety, the loss, the sadness — I don’t want to listen to Paul’s call. 

Reading this passage from Philippians again today, I had to step away from it for a moment. I have to take a deep breath and remember that Paul, who gives the command to “rejoice" to his friends in Philippi, was likely suffering. He was under house arrest. He was awaiting word from someone in an office far from him, and appealing to every power on earth and heaven with the hope he would be released. It seems quite grim, yet, to the people whom he loves, he says “Rejoice.” 

It is more than a suggestion to "be positive,” or "think happy thoughts.” It is a call to keep celebrating in spite of everything that is happening. Don’t worry. Instead, rejoice to turn the tide of pain.

The struggles of the world should not preclude us from being joyful. In fact, operating from a core of joy — even if it is tiny — is necessary if we are to have any hope that the world can change. If we are unable to begin with joy, we fall prey to fatalism and despondency. This is why the Philippians are told twice to rejoice; it is that important to the future of faith and community.

Maybe twice isn’t enough for us today. Maybe, for hope to thrive, we need to hear it thrice. Maybe it needs to be looped. Maybe it needs to be our alarm, our ringtone, and text notification sound. Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, rejoice! Maybe we need to say it again and again — as many times as it takes — until we can actually do it. 

Say it again and again until it becomes your reality. 


Pastor Matthew Johnson