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Description: What is real happiness? Is it possible to be clean and pure inside? Is it a matter of trying harder? Why do we fall back into worry, anger and envy?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We are privileged in our own lives to have moments of pause when God gives us a chance to review our
lives and to look again at where we’re going. A death is such an occasion — when your dad or your
mom died or a dear son or daughter died. Partings are such situations and new jobs are such
situations. And this is such a situation because this is the last communion service of Campus
Church. I was calculating, it’s about my 200th communion service.
So, for all of us here who have been together for many years, it is a pause time. In that way, it’s
an important time and we need to see it as important. We are a little like Jesus when He said, “I
will not drink with you the wine until I see you in the kingdom.” In a sense there are many of us
here who will not drink wine together in memory of Jesus’ death until we’re in the kingdom.
So, turning away, we shouldn’t have any sadness about that because if this is God’s way, it’s a
glorious way forward. But we need to look seriously at communion this morning and to see again what
God has done for us in Jesus. One of the reasons I beat myself over the head with things like
cleanness and purity in my own heart and freedom from anger, jealousy and envy is not because I
think I should be better than everybody else.
One of the reasons I beat you over the head with the need to have clean hearts and pure hearts is
not because I think you should be better than everybody else but because I know that that is what
Jesus’ death has wrought for us. If we miss that absolute purity and cleanness in our own lives,
we’re missing what Jesus’ death has wrought for us. It’s important for all of us to see that today.
It’s not that I delight in being a masochist and saying, “You rotten, miserable Ernest O’Neill, you
should be pure in your heart and clean in your thoughts and you should never lose your temper
because you ought to be better than everybody else”, it’s not that.
I say to you, to Myrtle, to Crystal, to Irene, to Gentry, to David, to all of us here. I say we are
to be free from any impurity or any uncleanness in our hearts. We are to be free from any anger,
jealousy, pride, or from anything that is filled with irritability or lack of love because that’s
what Jesus has made possible for us.
So let me just mention it once more. There are two ways to live in this life. One is to depend on
the world and the other is to depend on God’s Spirit. Depending on the world is the way all of us
have been brought up, even those of us who have had good moms and dads. We have been taught by our
moms and dads to believe that our security would come from us getting good jobs, earning our money
by the sweat of our brow and making our own way as far as the food, shelter and clothing that we
needed are concerned.
That has led in its turn to a commitment of our wills to getting enough food, shelter and clothing
so that we will have sufficient. That in its turn has led as you know to worry and anxiety when we
lost our job or when we didn’t make enough money, or when we felt the economy was going down. That
in turn leads to worry and to anxiety. And that in its turn leads to wishing we had more, to being
envious of somebody who has more, to being jealous of somebody who seems to have succeeded more than
we have. It leads to avarice and greed. It leads to irritability when somebody seems to take our job
from us or take something from us that is ours.
If you live depending on the world for your security, it’s very difficult to avoid things like
covetousness and greed. It’s very difficult to avoid things like worry because the world is just not
dependable and you are even less dependable. You can live depending on the world for those things or
you can live depending on the world for your own sense of importance.
All of us are the same. I am no different from you; you’re no different from me. We’re one in the
midst of four billion. We’re unique. I agree you’re unique. Your hair curls differently from mine.
Your nose is different from the guy beside you and the girl besides you. But even if you were
exactly the same you are very different inside. You are unique and you know you are unique but
nobody else seems to notice it. They are all so busy with their uniqueness. They have no time for
So, you try to get them to realize how unique you are. If you depend on the world for your sense of
value, self-esteem and self-worth, you end up being frustrated by the fact that the others don’t
notice how brilliant you are. You get irritated with them. You get envious of those who are looked
upon as better than you. So, it’s very hard if you depend on the world for your sense of self-worth.
It’s very hard to avoid the feelings that rise inside you of envy and jealousy and pride in your own
actions and your own self.
It’s the same with happiness. If you depend on the world for your happiness, then you’re always
trying to arrange happy circumstances. You’re trying to arrange things to suit you. It’s very
difficult because everybody else is doing the same and so you’re constantly butting your head up
against your wife or your friends or your colleagues. That’s because they’re all trying to arrange
their set of circumstances to suit them and you’re trying to arrange yours, and from time to time
the circles bump into one another and clash. You find frustration and futility, and that repeatedly
the circumstances aren’t satisfying you.
I would just put it to you very plainly. Do you not think there’s some truth in this, that from when
your dad died or your mom died or your dearest wife or husband died, from that moment you can never
be fully happy in this world, can you? Now, we all like to say, “Oh, that’s not adult and mature, of
course we can.” But really I don’t think you can. After you lose one very dear person in your life,
in a sense you can never arrange the circumstances in this world to make you happy.
So, loved ones if you live depending on the world for your security, significance, and happiness,
you can’t avoid the attitudes and feelings like anger, resentment, futility, jealousy, envy, and all
those things. So you can choose to live that way or you can choose to live depending on God’s
Spirit; trusting him and him only to make sure you have not all the food you want but all the food
that he thinks you need, not all the clothing you want but all the clothing that he feels you need,
not all the homes and the shelter and the beautiful house and the wonderful car and the great boats
that you think you need, but what he feels you need.
You can choose to depend on His Spirit. Now, at times that may end you up on a wretched cross on a
hill outside Jerusalem where you only have a loin cloth and the other guys are sticking spears in
your side. So it means a readiness to let God provide for you the clothing or the lack of clothing,
the pain or the freedom from pain, that he thinks is right for you. In other words, you can depend
on God and his Spirit to give you the security that you need. You can depend on God to give you the
significance that you need which may mean a lot of people walking by you wagging their heads and
saying, “He can’t save Himself even though He says He is the Son of God. He can’t save Himself. He
saved other people, why doesn’t He save Himself?”
In other words, you may end up with a lot of people walking by you pretty well ignoring you or
walking over the top of you. Being willing to depend on God for your sense of value means being
willing to take your place with Jesus on the Cross, wherever he wants you to take that place.
Depending on God’s Spirit for your happiness means leaving his view of your happiness in his hands
and being content with that. If he deems to put you in circumstances that are continuously sad and
depressing and frustrating — then you accept that with joy and delight. It means trusting God for
his estimate of your happiness.
In other words, it means probably in some sense not being a good American, not demanding happiness
— not demanding that happiness that is happy with your happenings, with the things that happened to
you. It’s being content with God’s joy that he gives you whether outside circumstances are happy or
not. Now, you have to live one or the other way. One way brings all kinds of strong feelings of
anger, irritability, envy, jealousy and pride that you cannot hold down. You know that and I know
The other way brings a spirit of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit that is supernatural. You have to
choose which way you live. Now, you will reply to me if you have had the same experiences I have
had, “Pastor, I have tried to live the right way and I cannot.” I don’t blame you. There’s no doubt
that you cannot on your own. When you choose to depend on the world (which most of us have done from
we were born), there are elemental spirits in the world that get hold of your heart.
Like Gulliver (in “Gulliver’s Travels”), he was tied down in that place where all the little people
were, tied down and he couldn’t move. It’s like that when the elemental spirits of the world get
hold of your heart. They pull at your heart. They get your body used not just to drugs; they get
your body used to thrills. They get your whole mind used to praise. They get your whole feelings
used to happy thoughts. There are elemental spirits that get hold of you and make you satisfied with
only what you can get from the world. Then, whenever you try to get clear of that, you’re like
Gulliver. You try to lift up from this earth but you’re tied to it, you’re staked to it and you
cannot get free of it.
So, you try to live the right way but you cannot and the only way you can ever be free is if God
destroys the hold that those elemental spirits have on your own heart. If he destroys your whole
personality that has been used and enslaved to the world and he remakes you completely. That’s what
this is about. That’s what Jesus did for you and me.
He died for you and he allowed you to die inside him to the world. He destroyed your whole
personality that is enslaved to the world. What he is asking you this morning to do is to say, “Lord
I accept that. I die today to the world and to what it can give me of security. Do you want me to be
poor? Do you want me to be rich? Either way, Lord I die to depending on the world for my security.
“Lord, I die to depending on the world for my self-esteem and self-worth. If everybody thinks I am
useless and hopeless, I accept that. Lord, I depend on you alone and what you think of me from this
day forward. Thirdly Lord, I depend on you for my happiness or for whatever happiness you judge I
should have in this life. I die to the world and to demanding that circumstances go right for me to
be happy. Then Lord, I ask you now to send the Holy Spirit into me. Holy Spirit, I will obey you
instantly instead of being constrained by my need for security and for what I can get from the
world. I will be constrained by you, Holy Spirit.
“Instead of being constrained by the world and its praise or its criticism, I will be constrained by
you, Holy Spirit. Instead of being constrained by circumstances and the way they make me feel
better, I will be constrained by you, Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit, I commit myself to you as my
counselor and my master on this earth and I will obey your slightest command.”
As you do that, your life will begin to be filled with peace. Your life will begin to be filled with
order from God and with feelings of love and joy and cleanness and purity and peace that passes all
understanding. That’s it, loved ones. That’s what communion is about and you can enter into that
this day. If you say to me, “Will you ever experience any anger or jealousy or lust or uncleanness?”
You will if you don’t obey the Holy Spirit — only if you haul yourself off that dear Cross. But if
you keep obeying the dear Holy Spirit, the love will be greater than it has ever been in your life
before. That’s what the Gospel is and that’s for all of us this day. Let’s stand as we receive the
You that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins and are in love and charity with your neighbors
and intend to lead a new life following the commandments of God and walking from henceforth in his
holy ways — draw near with faith and take this Holy Sacrament to your comfort and make your humble
confession unto Almighty God. Let us be seated as we pray.
The Communion prayer:
We do not presume to come to this thy table, most merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness
but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under
thy table, but thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore
gracious Lord, so by faith to receive thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, that the bread we break may
be unto us the communion of his body, and the cup of blessing, which we bless, may be the communion
of his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us.
The Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread; and broke it and said, “This is
my body which was given for you, this do, in remembrance of me.” In like manner, he took the cup
after supper saying, “This is the cup of the New Covenant in my blood; this do, as often as you
drink it”, for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death till