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Pollyannas wanted

November 3, 2008

by Rev. Douglas C. Pierce, Lake Jennie Ev. Covenant Church, Dassel

“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous; and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” Psalm 32:11 (KJV)

This verse is a pivotal Bible verse from one of my favorite books, “Pollyanna,” by Eleanor H. Porter. The novel was made into a movie, released by Walt Disney in 1960, starring Hayley Mills.

It is a story about a young girl who comes into a small town that is facing many difficulties and problems. The town is in turmoil, and even the church is in turmoil.

The pastor of the town describes the situation this way:

“Under the green arch of the trees the Rev. Paul Ford faced the thing squarely. To his mind, the crisis had come. Something must be done – and done at once.

“The entire work of the church was at a standstill. The Sunday services, the week-day prayer meeting, the missionary teas, even the suppers and socials were becoming less and less well attended.

“True, a few conscientious workers were still left. But they pulled at cross purposes, usually; and always they showed themselves to be acutely aware of the critical eyes all about them, and of the tongues that had nothing to do but to talk about what the eyes saw.

“And because of all this, the Rev. Paul Ford understood very well that he (God’s minister), the church, the town, and even Christianity itself was suffering; and must suffer still more unless –?”

The minister is faced with the question of how he should deal with the situation and bring about change. He debates laying before everyone their weaknesses and shortcomings – really “laying into them good” is how it is put in the movie.

But then, he encounters Pollyanna. Pollyanna tells him how, when her father, who had been a minister, felt the same way and was discouraged, he would look to what he called the “rejoicing texts.” These texts, like Psalm 32:11, express the fundamental optimism of the Christian faith.

In the end, Pastor Ford decides to preach to his congregation the rejoicing texts and ends up bringing about a revival in his church and throughout the community.

I think it is time for people of faith to start looking a bit more at the rejoicing texts here in our day and age, as well. It seems as I talk to people, they are ready and eager to see the darkest side of everything. In the recent election, many people would even say who we choose doesn’t matter.

Often, as we face problems in our churches and communities, voices ring out to declare that nothing can be done, or it is all a waste of time. Yet, remember the words of Mark 9:23 (NIV) “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

If there is to be hope and optimism in this world, it must come from people of faith. The term Pollyanna, in our society, has become a negative term implying someone who is foolishly optimistic. But Pollyanna is not a foolish optimist. She is optimistic because she has an unshakeable faith in one greater than herself.

We, as Christians, should have that same faith and optimism, the sure and certain knowledge that God is with us, and through Him all things are indeed possible. If we do not have that, then, what is our message to the world?

So I say again, Pollyanna’s wanted!