Lamentations 3: 21-26
First Peter 1: 3-9 & 13-16


 Hey church, it is RALLY DAY!!!!! WOOHOO YAY!!!!

Are you energized and ready to jump up and down with me …. To shout with joy acknowledging that the God of the universe loves each of us equally as well as loving each and every one of our neighbors with that same God-focused love? God does not limit God’s love … only humans seem to have the capacity to not love others and to not even love God but that goes against God’s commands and practices.

So, we definitely have a reason to rally and celebrate … GOD LOVES US and is calling us to return that love today. That’s called faith … that’s commitment to faith … that’s being a Jesus follower … an active believer … or we might even say a Christian although that adjective has sort of been hijacked in the times we are living through. But, James writes, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up!!

And, today we rally … we celebrate … we are lifted up in our faith! I hope you are focused on allowing the Lord God to lift you up because you have found your faith in the One who is the Creator and in Jesus Christ … letting God’s Holy Spirit guide your days!

You remember the prophet Micah who told us what the Lord expects of humans … to walk humbly in love with God. That is called faith … when we have faith; when we are believers; when we are connected with God we have something to truly celebrate!

Are you as excited today as you were on that very first day when you realized that you were a believer? When you decided to become an activist for and with Jesus Christ? When you knew that Easter hid more of a life-long message than it does in momentary baskets of candy? Does your faith bring you joy all the time; enough to celebrate?

Did you hear those words from First Peter today about God’s action on our behalf and on behalf of every other human being and right now do you feel so GOOD inside? Peter was reminding those receiving his letter, which has now been reread millions and millions of times, and I am sure that all of you have read First Peter numerous times yourselves, that on Easter morning Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the world’s Messiah, was no longer dead … no longer in the tomb … HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>> now that’s the spirit of RALLY DAY!! WOOHOO!!!

Yes, Peter I am sure would have used a highlighter if they had been invented in those days when he wrote his letter on these words that fit so perfectly on our RALLY DAY …. “Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is GOOD! And by raising Jesus from death, God has given us new life and hope that lives on. God has something stored up in heaven for YOU!!” And you … and those watching online … and thank God for me too!! OH HAPPY DAY … OH HAPPY DAY … when Jesus washed my sins away ….

That makes me want to rally for God … rally for Christ every single day!!! Celebrate my faith …. Share my faith … declare it to the world! You feel it too? You want to join me in celebrating our faith!!! YAY!!! WOOHOO!!! It is RALLY DAY … OH HAPPY HAPPY DAY!!!

I have been considering the concept of RALLY DAY or whatever other churches declare the first Sunday of September as … the coming back to church day, the reorganization of Sunday School Day, Bible Studies starting up again Day … no more vacation from church day but as I thought about ours I knew today should be a day to celebrate our faith … or perhaps find our faith again and take it out of the dusty closets some may have been keeping it in. In a way it still amazes me that the Edwin Hawkins’ Singers had a hit song with “OH HAPPY DAY” … made it to the Billboard Top 40 played on mainstream radio stations some 50 years ago … a celebration of faith … of Jesus … “He taught me ….” He still teaches me …

When you heard Peter’s words about the end of our lives … on the day when we are no longer in these bodies but in God’s presence ready for eternity …. “On that day, you will be glad, even if you have to go through many hard trials.” When you heard those words what were you thinking … what were you feeling? Ready to shout out with joy because you have your faith … as we heard from Lamentations, did you remember that true faith is “something that fills you with hope? The Lord’s kindness never fails! The Lord can always be trusted to show mercy each morning!”

[1]I will enter His gates with Thanksgiving in my heart, I will enter his courts with praise. I will say that this is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice for He has made me glad.” You know the song … I will rejoice …. God has made me glad … something about our faith’s impact on our eventual destiny but more importantly about our faith today, tomorrow, and the next day. RALLY DAY … if we are willing to make our faith our priority every day think about the changes that would bring … if we know where our faith is … REJOICE ALWAYS in the LORD!

When you think about Jesus which Jesus comes to mind first? Is it the teacher Jesus who you work hard to align with because you know that Jesus delivered God’s instructions for you and the world? Of course, you already know how much God loves you and me and the other guy and gal? Does it bring a smile to your face every time you read Matthew chapter 22 and once again know that God’s not an onerous rule setter. God decided that instead of mandating all sorts of complicated requirements for every human to comply with in order to meet God’s standards that God decided our lives fall on two simple commands …Jesus teaching us that the lives of the faithful are to focus in on loving God and loving ALL of our neighbors as we love ourselves?

That’s enough for another WOOHOO YAY!!! Because I know I’d hate to have to follow a long listing of complicated regulations, processes and procedures, and rules with minutia that could be easily twisted … it’s pretty clear to all of us who are people of faith that unlike the world we are to actually love the God of creation and to implement and carry out a love for ALL of our neighbors so that through our words and actions everyone realizes we love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves … a smiling moment of faith. JOY and CELEBRATION!

As a kid I had a collection of comic books that were shortened versions of great novels. They were called CLASSIC COMICS and one of the ones I read until the pages were worn out was Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island.’ You know the story … about a child who ends up going on the adventure of a lifetime. Jim Hawkins the son of an innkeeper gets involved with pirates like one-legged Long John Silver, and Billy Bones who was the keeper of the treasure map. And, it was Stevenson in that novel who coined the phrase X marks the spot related to an X on Billy Bones’ treasure map where the treasure was supposed to be found. And, off they go with Jim serving as the cabin boy …

Buried treasure … hidden away … needing a complicated map and pirate companions to discover the X marking the spot for the hidden treasure.

Today is RALLY DAY here at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in West Deptford … Sunday School is back in session but my daily prayer and concern is focused on faith. On our collective faith … on the faith of our neighbors … on the relationship of Jesus Christ in the world around us. And, there is not a need for a treasure map which is held by a pirate like Billy Bones because there is clarity in God’s teaching that is open to all.

Every child literally in the world today can open up the Bible whenever they want to by looking at their phones. They sure look at Tik Tok a lot so perhaps we can start teaching them that there is a treasure to be found in God’s Word … not marked with an X but with a cross … the cross of Jesus but even more importantly MARKED with the empty tomb that verified that Jesus was not held back by a torturous human inflicted death because Jesus is the Messiah, ready to become any and every person’s Savior.

So, what Jesus comes to mind when you wake up in the morning? Today, when you were getting ready for church … what Jesus lesson? What image? His teaching on the side of the mountain the lessons we refer to as the beatitudes perhaps?

Are you solely fixated on the baby in the manger Jesus who like every other baby was unable to speak but yet He fulfilled God’s prophecy? The 12 year old Jesus in the Temple showcasing His amazing knowledge of God’s teaching?

Perhaps you think about Jesus unrolling the scroll in the small stone synagogue in Nazareth … I know I go there often … Jesus reading carefully the words of Isaiah that describe Himself, ““The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to announce good news to the destitute. He has sent me to proclaim that prisoners will be released, the blind will see, the oppressed will be freed, and to proclaim the time of the Lord’s favor.””

Regardless of the moment of Jesus’ life that you or I think about there is a need for us to consider our Savior with regularity. Peter puts it this way, “Be alert and think straight. Put all your hope in how God will treat you with UNDESERVED grace. Behave like obedient children … always live as God’s holy people should because God is the One who chose you. Your faith will be like gold that has been tested.”

On Rally Day … on every day … you can discover the joy in life … a peace that goes beyond understanding but you first need faith and if you have packed your faith away you need to find it again before the days are gone. You have to make the difficult admission that we heard in Lamentations, “The Lord is all I need; I can depend on the Lord! It is good to wait patiently for the Lord to save us.”

So, celebrate your faith … rally behind Jesus Christ for God! Peter declares, “You have never seen Jesus and you don’t see Him now but you still love Him and have faith in Him and no words can tell how glad and happy you are to be saved. THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE FAITH!” I hope you have that faith and can celebrate with me!! AMEN

[1] “He Has Made Me Glad (I Will Enter His Gates)” written by Leone Von Brethorst published by Maranatha Praise Band

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