Sermon from August 8: Rejoice (Murphy’s Take)

Rejoice! (Murphy’s Take)
Pentecost XI; August 8, 2021
Philippians 4:2-23
This Sunday’s message was delivered by the puppet, Murphy the Dog.

Pastor Bob said that he has been dealing with some grumpiness lately and he asked me to share my thoughts with you about the Scripture. After all, if anybody in the world can find a reason to rejoice, it is a dog! You know how we are about humans: we adore you! If I am lying in front of a door, and my human accidentally kicks me, I am just grateful that he touched me! So Pastor Bob said that he could not think of anyone better to talk about Philippians chapter four than one of his favorite dogs.

Well actually, I think I am his favorite dog, but do not tell Reggie and Shiloh that I said that.

The thing that sticks with me about these words of Paul is his command to rejoice in the Lord always. There is a whole lot more, but all the rest of it seems to come from that. Be gentle, do not worry, think about good stuff: all that comes from rejoicing in the Lord, I think. You know, when we got out for a walk, there are so many wonderful smells. I get to smell fresh cut grass, and I smell rabbit doots, and I smell the places other dogs have been. When I smell these things and they make me happy, I think that I am smelling the presence of God.

Or when I see a human and I want to say, “Hi!” I pull Pastor Bob by my leash over to the other human, because I just love to visit with humans. They scratch my head and they rub my back and Darla Holycross gives me ear noogies! I am so happy to be with humans; it is like being with the image of God.

You know how hard it was to be cooped up for so long. I know that some of the people watching us on YouTube are doing that because you are still cooped up. And maybe you are tired of doing everything virtually; Pastor Bob complained a lot about how much time he was spending staring at a screen. But I reminded him that at least he had the screen: he could still see people’s faces and hear their voices and get work done. He still got to preach every Sunday, something he truly loves! He told me that whenever he was preaching to the camera, with nobody else in the room except Dr. Krampe and the other leaders, he would imagine your faces behind that camera. He would see you in his imagination. So I told him to stop complaining, to rejoice in the gifts the Lord had given him through technology, and could I please have a cookie?

I know that not all humans love dogs, but those humans who love dogs (and cats too!) have plenty to laugh about. We do that on purpose; we love to hear our humans laugh. Well, we dogs love to hear you laugh about anything; cats do not like it if you laugh at them. Cats are so stuffy! They do not realize how funny they are. Anyway, my human had a dog named Omega, whom he loved. They were pretty much inseparable; he took her everywhere and she would follow him anywhere. When she died, he said it was as if a piece of his soul died. It hurt very, very much. But then he and his female human talked about it and thought about it. Yes, it hurt very much when she died. But they thought about all the happy years they had together. And they realized that the pain of loss did not outweigh the joy of love, so they decided they could do dogs again.

And boy, am I glad they did!

I guess what I am trying to say to you is that life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent what attitude you take about it. Paul, for example, was in prison when he wrote this letter. And instead of griping about being in prison, he found reasons to rejoice. For one thing, it gave him a chance to tell the guards about Jesus. They did not know about Jesus, not until Paul was their prisoner. He told them! For another thing, it gave him time to think. He thought about what the coming of Christ meant, and he wrote some beautiful words about it in chapter two. And since he was in trouble it gave the Philippians a chance to help him, and he knew that it was good for them to have a chance to show him they loved him.

That is another good thing about having a dog: someone depends on you. I depend on my human for food, for walks, for scratches, and for someone to comfort me when I’m scared. Yes, sometimes I get scared, and then he holds me until I stop shaking. It is good for him to know that I need him. And Paul thought it was good for the Philippians to have a chance to help him. And they did help him.

So when Paul wrote that they should think about things that are true and pure and commendable, he knew from experience what he was writing about. Because he did that: he thought about things that are true and pure and commendable. He could tell people to rejoice in the Lord because he rejoiced in the Lord.

I have watched humans for a long time. I have learned that when they are happy, they make better decisions than when they are grumpy. When they rejoice, they are nicer to be around than when they gripe. When they try to think about the good things, they do more good things than when they focus just on the bad things. Sometimes when bad things happen and when things are hard, it really helps to share it. Humans can tell their friends about it. So can a talking dog. Other dogs, though, just come to you needing to be rubbed. Or an ear noogie! We all have times of sadness, and that is okay.

But I think Paul is telling us that when things are hard, it helps us cope if we find a reason to rejoice. And we always have a reason to rejoice in the Lord. The Lord gives us life and breath and great things to smell and reminds our humans to buy us kibble. Our humans help us just as the Philippians helped Paul; we dogs rejoice, just as Paul rejoiced.

My human likes to pray, “Lord, make me the man my dog thinks I am.” He is better than he thinks he is and I hope he learns not to be so grumpy. He has every reason to rejoice. After all, he has me!

Murphy the Dog (via Robert A. Keefer)
Presbyterian Church of the Master
Omaha, Nebraska