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Sermon for June 1, 2014

Be of Good Cheer
June 1, 2014

It’s been twenty-four years since my own High School Graduation. Twenty-four years ago, I saw an unlimited future ahead of me. I wasn’t completely sure of what was ahead of me but that really didn’t matter. I had graduated. There were all sorts of opportunities ahead of me . . . too many, in fact, to imagine at the time.

Soon enough, our High School graduates will be off on their own adventure. And every adventure has anxiety. It wouldn’t be an adventure if you weren’t summoned to explore the world outside of your comfort zone. An adventure with no risk isn’t an adventure. It’s called a vacation. So this morning, on the eve of great adventures, I wanted to share some survival tips – some proverbial advice -- some things I’m learning along the way. This is not just for the grads. Here are a few life lessons for all of us to ponder.

My first piece of advice is to get a life. Anna Quinlen, novelist and former NY Times writer, dishes out the some solid advice in her book A Short Guide to a Happy Life. Anna writes:
“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are. So I suppose a piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower? . . . Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes . . . Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger. Turn off your cell phone . . . Keep still. Be present. Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time I look at my diploma, I remember that I am still a student, still learning every day how to be human. Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas making fuchsia star bursts in spring; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is glorious, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around.”

Here are a few more things I’m learning in the adventure called life:
·         I’m learning that we are responsible for what we do, unless we are celebrities.
·         I’m learning that the people you care most about in life are taken from you too soon and all the less important ones just never go away.
·         I’m learning that the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an older person.
·         I’m learning that God does not propose to judge us until we die. So why should you?
·         I’m learning that time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
·         I’m learning that that just one person saying to me, “You’ve made my day!” makes my day.
·         I’m learning that that being kind is more important than being right.
·         I’m learning that I can always pray for someone when I don’t have the strength to help him or her in some other way.
·         I’m learning that that no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act foolish with.
·         I’m learning that sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.
·         I’m learning that under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.
·         I’m learning that when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.
·         I’m learning those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.
·         I’m learning to quit griping about church. If it was perfect, we couldn’t belong.
·         I’m learning that brain cells come and brains cells go, but fat cells live forever.
·         I’m learning that you can’t have everything. Where would you put it?
·         I’m learning that 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
·         I’m learning that one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire.
·         I’m learning that all generalizations are inaccurate, including this one.
·         I’m learning that life is tough, but I’m tougher.
·         I’m learning that opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.
·         I’m learning never to ruin an apology with an excuse.
·         I’m learning never to miss a good chance to shut up. As they say, a closed mouth gathers no foot.
·         I’m learning that when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.
·         I’m learning that I should keep my words both soft and tender, because tomorrow I may have to eat them.
·         I’m learning that that I can’t choose how I feel, but I can choose what I do about it.
·          I’m learning that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the growth occurs while climbing it. In other words, happiness is a journey, not a destination.
·         I’m learning to be nice to my kids. They’ll choose my nursing home.
·         I’m learning to borrow money from a pessimist. They don’t expect it back.
·         I’m learning that duct tape is like the force, it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together.
·         I’m learning that the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.
·         I’m learning that money will buy a fine dog, but only kindness will make her wag her tail.
·         I’m learning that blessed are those who hunger and thirst, for they are sticking to their diets.
·         I’m learning that if you can remain calm, you just don’t have all the facts.
·         I’m learning that a clean desk is a sign of a cluttered desk drawer.
·         I’m learning never to do card tricks for the group you play poker with.
·         I’m learning that if you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.
·          I’m learning that your worst humiliation will only be someone else’s momentary entertainment.
·         I’m learning that the noblest revenge is to forgive.
·         I’m learning that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something completely different.
·         I’m learning that God accepts you the way you are, but loves you too much to leave you that way.

Three is one more life lesson I’m learning. It comes from John 16:33. Let me set up this verse for you. Jesus is eating dinner with his disciples and having a serious conversation about what will happen when they arrive in Jerusalem. It’s downright scary. He predicts his followers will abandon him. They will be persecuted. They will be kicked out of the synagogue. They will scatter in fear, leaving Jesus to suffer alone.

Jesus describes perilous times. He knows life is hard to bear. It is painful, harsh, fierce and savage. 

Then, in John 16:33, Jesus says one little Greek word to heal the wounds of fear and discouragement caused by all that is about us. Each of the four gospel writers quote Jesus as using this word on multiple occasions -- we find it eight times we find it in the Greek New Testament. I believe he still whispers it to us even in the present day. We have to use a phrase to translate this word into English. Some translate the phrase, “take heart,” or “have courage.” The King James Version translated it this way: “Be of good cheer.”

Do you ever wonder why people seem to take life so seriously? Americans are carrying more stress than ever, and we’re not carrying it very well. Some of the most common responses to stress are to work harder, sleep less, worry more, and deny ourselves the opportunities for recreation that would provide a measure of relief. The flip side of that is to mask our depression with a restless pursuit of perfectionism, entertainment and distraction.

I have met many people who believe it is their responsibility to be serious, when in fact what they are truly being called to be is careful or caring; to have joy-filled courage in the face of risk; to be of good cheer.

To our graduates: your church is proud of you! We love you and we want all the best for you. We give thanks for what God has already done in your life, and for all that God has planned for your future.  We, want you to know that you have a home here always. But we also understand that it’s time to say, “Go, for we expect good things from you.” After you have experienced all the world has to offer, we know there will come a day when we will sit at your feet, listen to your advice, and learn about the ways of God.


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