Sermon Series: Normal Is Just A Small Town In Kentucky
(Romans 12:1-2 MSG)
Rev. Billy D Strayhorn
Today IS a day to Celebrate. We should leave Worship today and every day with the same sort of smiles and the same bounce in our step. Today IS a day to celebrate. You see, whenever we gather to worship we celebrate life and faith. We celebrate the fact that God is still in charge and we can leave the burden of running the world to the One who created the world.
Whenever we Worship we celebrate God’s presence with us; God’s deep love for us and the gift of God’s Son, Jesus. And because of Jesus, we celebrate forgiveness and new life. And as we celebrate all these gifts and blessings of life, we realize that our journey through all the weird named towns has brought us to the point where we can live the “Abundant Life” by Settling In Celebration.
Everybody knows how to play the game Hide-and-Seek, right? One person is "it" and everybody else hides until everybody is found. Have you ever heard of the game called Sardines? Sardines was the favorite game of one of our youth groups. In Sardines, the person who is it goes and hides, and everybody else goes looking for him or her. Now here’s the twist. When you find the person who is it, you get in wherever they are hiding and hide with them. Pretty soon everybody is hiding together, all stacked in a small space like puppies in a pile or Sardines in a can. Before long, somebody giggles and then somebody laughs and everybody gets found.
Personally, I think that game has always been a parable about God and the Church. I think God is a Sardine player. God is found in the midst of the sound of laughter and celebration. I think God wants all of us in the Sardine pile. God doesn’t want any of us left out and alone. The joy of heaven, the laughter of the faithful and the celebration of the forgiven can and should be heard. And when it is, it invites us to Settle In Celebration.
look at the passage for this morning: Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)
 So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
 Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I. LIFE IN CELEBRATION:
A. Let’s look at what life in Celebration is all about. The Celebration this title is based on is in Florida. Some of you may actually have been there. Founded in 1994, Celebration, Florida was and is a planned community created by The Walt Disney Company which has the flavor of a southern American village from the 1930s. About 2,500 homes are clustered around a small, pedestrian-friendly shopping area. Celebration is connected directly to the Walt Disney World parks and resorts.
It was one of the original communities developed as part of Walt Disney's vision of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT). The idea behind it was that it was to be completely user friendly and on the very edge of the cutting edge of every area of technology.
Though no longer a Disney property, for the most part, Celebration has fulfilled its purpose and is a great town to live in, especially if you work or play at Disney World.
B. Our journey these past few weeks has lead us through Little Hope where we’ve found that beyond Little Hope is Comfort, God’s Comfort. We discovered that when we are living a Whynot life in Oddville with Peculiar People; when we’ve moved from Last Chance to Needmore, then there truly is cause for Celebration.
And I believe that the Abundant Life Jesus spoke of is an invitation to begin Settling In Celebration. And I say that because I believe all of life is a celebration of our relationship with God through Christ. We forget that sometimes.
II. LIFE IS CELEBRATION:
A. We need to remember that Life IS Celebration. Now, you might be asking yourself what have we got to celebrate? Or why should we celebrate?
As you can see, the answer to “WHY?” is really quite simple. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s Image. We were created to be in relationship with God and when that relationship is broken, so are we. God loves us so much; desires to be in relationship with us so much that God sent Jesus to restore that relationship. It cost him the cross but through the cross, Jesus was able to become the bridge between our brokenness and God.
That’s WHY. That’s WHY we celebrate. That’s WHY we Settle In Celebration. In Celebration we are constantly reminded that Christ Jesus, the Risen and Living Son of God, lives in us. We are constantly reminded that our sins have been forgiven. We’re constantly reminded of just how much God loves us. We are constantly reminded God promises to “never leave us or forsake us.”
III. CELEBRATION OF THE SACRAMENT:
A. And all of that is why we come to Celebrate Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, or Holy Communion It is a reminder of Christ's Sacrifice. In the bread and wine we remember with humility, repentance and joy what Christ has done for us.
The Sacrament is a Celebration because we come loaded with the burdens of life and faith. We come overwhelmed by the guilt of our sin; the fatigue from the daily struggles; the sorrow of broken hearts; the disappointment of broken promises: those made to us and those we have made.
We come with all the trash and garage of life on our shoulders, in our hearts and cluttering our minds. And at the altar, we empty ourselves just as Christ emptied Himself for us. We empty ourselves and turn all those burdens over to Christ. And then we walk away refreshed, renewed, revived, refilled, and reinvigorated. And we leave in a spirit of Celebration.
Sometimes it affects us only spiritually, but sometimes it affects us all over and we walk a little lighter, we hold our heads a little higher, we breathe a little easier.
Years ago in one church I served, we had a small deaf community and had an interpreter each Sunday. Rayford and Erma were part of that deaf community. They came faithfully, every Sunday. They were raised in the church and it had been along tie since anyone had interpreted for them.
One Sunday I realized that even though Rayford and Erma had been raised in the church, there were still things that this 80 year old couple didn’t know or hadn’t experienced not because of their limitations but because of the limitations of those around them to communicate and truly share the deep truths of faith with them.
It was also a good lesson on God can touch lives and break in upon our understanding no matter what age. On this particular Sunday, that’s exactly what God did in Rayford’s life. You see, Rayford had never really gotten of the deep significance of Holy Communion. He knew what the bread and wine symbolized, but never really experienced it as being something specifically for him.
Through working with the deaf community, I had learned the sign language for the body of Christ broken for you and the blood of Christ poured out for you.
That Sunday, as Rayford took the bread and wine and I signed for the first time, He was visibly shaken. He started trembling and shaking his head. Personally, I thought I’d done something wrong and said something offensive rather than just share the bread and wine.
But when Rayford left the altar rail, he did so with a huge smile on his face and he could hardly sit still. He was like a little kid on Xmas morning. He kept grinning and signing something to the interpreter.
After the service, Rayford drug both his wife and the interpreter back to the door to tell me that he got it. For the first time, he realized that Christ had died for him. “For me,” he signed. And started jumping up and down and doing a little dance. Over and over again, he signed "For me!" or "The body of Christ broken for me." I hope I’m still that excited about Jesus when I’m 80. I hope God continues to break into my life with those Holy moments.
Rayford Settled In Celebration and was truly able Celebrate what Christ had done for him that day, something that we had all taken for granted.
I read a story from another UM Pastor who tells about the Sunday he and his daughter Abigail, age 3 were at a church one Sunday, not their own - for a special service. It was a long service and Abigail was looking forward to communion (to be able get up and move around). They went forward for communion, and he was served but the tradition of that church was that all Abigail got because she was three was a hands-on-the-head blessing which she wasn’t too crazy about from a pastor she didn't know. On their way away from the communion rail, Abigail sat down on the kneeling pad, chin in hands, glaring.
Dad realized the signs of the beginning of a major scene, so he quickly scoop her up and headed back to their pew. Abigail buried her head in his shoulder and starts to cry. She's tired and it's nearly lunch-time, but Dad can't figure out her reaction. After much coaxing to find out what's wrong, in a very indignant voice she said, "I don't like the one in the green (pastor's vestment) - he just talked to me but he left me hungry!" (1)
God never wants us to leave hungry. God’s desire for God’s Peculiar people is that we “take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” so we can be filled to overflowing with God’s Comfort and Grace.
God’s desire is that we know, on a personal level, the deep abiding love God has for us. That we walk out of here today knowing our sins are forgiven and empowered to live the life of a Disciple.
God’s desire is that we Settle In Celebration.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, August 1991
Other References Consulted