Martha’s dad died this week, Monday morning to be exact. I was relaxing, reading the newspaper and drinking my second cup of coffee when the phone rang. It was her sister calling to tell us her dad died. John Ensign was 91 years old and outlived his doctors’ expectations. He died at home, where he wanted to be. John and I talked almost daily right up till last week. He remained alert and actively conversational to his last days. He lived long and well. He loved his family and his family loved him. From my perspective as a pastor, his was a good death. Once his health began to fail, he did not suffer. He believed in Jesus and carried a strong hope of heaven.
But with all that being said, I’m still sad. I loved my father-in-law and he loved me. I’m sad because my children and grandchildren did not get the chance to say their goodbye’s as they wanted to. I’m sad because his death means Martha needs to stay in Richmond, VA with her brother to clean the house and settle affairs. Death, no matter how good, is always complicated, sad and messy.So I was kind of resistant when I read the first words of our text for Sunday from Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” How do I rejoice when I don’t feel like rejoicing? My situation of grieving pushed me deeper into this familiar and favorite text like never before. What is the connection between rejoicing and patience? How does prayer address those things that cause us anxiety? I invite you into a very meaty text for Sunday. Read it several times, each one more slowly.