Pippi and St. Paul
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School
The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!
If those words sound familiar, it’s probably because we often sing a hymn here in chapel that begins that way. In fact there are hardly any other words to the song except Rejoice, and again I say, Rejoice.
It reminds me of a song that was EVERYWHERE this past spring and summer. You may have heard it. The words go like this:
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
…You get the idea. It’s a song about happiness.
Today I want us to think about the difference between happiness and JOY, the feeling that makes us REJOICE. Happiness, it seems to me, is what you feel when your birthday is coming, or when you do well on a test, or when it’s pizza day in the dining hall. JOY goes deeper,. JOY is something that no one can take away from you, even when hard things happen.
JOY is what St. Paul was feeling when he wrote “Rejoice always!” Those are funny words for someone to say when he is in prison. You see, Paul was a follower of Jesus at a time when that was a dangerous thing to be. Once, Paul had been an enemy of Jesus and his followers, but after Jesus died and rose again, he convinced Paul in a powerful way that he was really alive and that God really loved all people.
Paul was changed forever. He began telling the story of Jesus and God’s love to anyone who would listen. He traveled to many places telling this story and starting churches so others could tell the story, too. Whenever he moved to a new place, he would write letters to the people he left behind to encourage them and give them hope. That’s what Paul is doing in the letter we heard today. He tells the people in a city called Philippi, called the Philippians, not to worry about anything, and to focus on what is good and true and worthy of praise.
When I read this Letter to the Philippians this week, I found myself thinking about a girl called Pippi, and not just because Pippi sounds a little like Philippians. There’s something about this girl that seems to embody JOY.
You may know this girl. She has two carrot-colored pigtails that stick straight out and a nose full of freckles. At the end of her long striped stockings she wears shoes twice as long as her feet. And she takes her pet everywhere she goes – only instead of a dog or a cat, she has a monkey named Mr. Nilsson. Oh yes, and a horse who lives on the porch of the house where she lives alone, with no one to tell her what to do. Pippi Longstocking was one of my favorite books when I was your age – she was as popular as The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is now.
I’m thinking of Pippi today because no matter what happens to her, she does not worry but focuses on what is good and true and worthy of praise. When she tried to make pancakes and ended up with egg on her head, she said, “I always did hear that egg yolk was good for the hair.”
When two policemen came to take her to a children’s home, she laughed and said she was home, and spent the day playing tag with them, and they were always “It.” When an angry bull disrupted Pippi’s picnic, she simply broke off its horns – have I mentioned that Pippi was very strong? – and rode the bull in circles till they were dancing.
Unlike St. Paul, Pippi never mentions Jesus or tells the story of God’s love. But for me, she doesn’t have to. She lives JOY. And I believe that the only place JOY like Pippi’s can come from is from God, the creator of joy.
And so what Paul said to the people he loved, I say to you today:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
Do not worry about anything, but pray about everything.
Pay attention to what is true, and honorable, and worthy of praise.
Keep on doing the things you have learned and received and heard.
And the God of peace – the God of JOY – will be with you. Amen.