Sermon: Jesus calls us to remember our Joy

Sermon: Jesus calls us to remember our Joy

 

 

Jesus calls us to remember our Joy

Paul Skeith – April 11, 2015

at the Iona School for Ministry

 

I remember back one Saturday morning when I was in third grade or so.

I was in a religious education class, maybe getting ready for my first communion.

Our teacher had us making signs out of colored construction paper and chalk.

We were each supposed to make decorated signs that said:

“Joy”

“Love”

“Peace”

Our teacher then told us that we were all going to hold up each of these signs in turn as we sang a song.

A catchy song that we would never forget.

A song about our Joy in Jesus.

A Joy that we will always have and no one can take away from us.

I still remember that song today, and I bet you remember some version of the song also.

1 We have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts,
down in our hearts, down in our hearts!
We have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts,
down in our hearts to stay!

2 We have the love of Jesus down in our hearts,
down in our hearts, down in our hearts!
We have the love of Jesus down in our hearts,
down in our hearts to stay!

3 We have the peace that passes understanding down in our hearts,

down in our hearts, down in our hearts!
We have the peace that passes understanding down in our hearts,
down in our hearts to stay.

 

4 We have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts,
down in our hearts, down in our hearts!
We have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts,
down in our hearts to stay!

Just remembering and singing this song helps me to remember my Joy.

Which is what Jesus calls us to do in John’s Gospel today.

Jesus calls us to remember our Joy.

Very truly, I tell you . . . you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.

When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come.

But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.

So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you….

Jesus calls us to remember our Joy.

But the Joy that Jesus promises us is not happiness that comes from pleasure.

Not even the best, and most blessedly good, forms of pleasure.

Happiness that comes from pleasure vanishes too easily, and Jesus tells us that “no one will take our Joy from” us.

Happiness that comes from pleasure is not, as the song goes, “down in our hearts to stay.”

Imagine, for example, starting out for a vacation in your car.

You have your favorite road trip music loaded and ready to go.

You have your favorite soda, ice cold and sweaty, in the cup holder.

You are driving along, 70 miles an hour, music playing, on a clear early morning.

You are feeling good.

You are feeling happy.

Then, what’s going on?

Cars up ahead.

Stopped.

You sit there.

For twenty minutes.

Road construction.

And then you slowly creep forward.

Start, stop.

Start, stop.

The lane on your left is closed.

And cars are merging into your lane, one car at a time.

Meanwhile, a car passes you on the shoulder to the right.

They put on their blinker and manage to merge into your lane from the right.

About twenty cars in front of you.

Where did your happiness go?

 

Neither is the Joy that Jesus promises us the absence of pain.

Jesus is straight with us.

Jesus tells us that we will have pain in our lives.

Pain is a fact of life.

Jesus does not promise to take our pain away.

And Jesus does not promise to cover up our pain with pleasure.

Startlingly, Jesus promises us that Jesus will use our pain.

Jesus will use our pain and transform it into our Joy.

The pain of childbirth is real.

But the joy of a newborn baby is just as real—even more real.

Jesus calls us to remember our Joy.

Jesus promises us a Joy in our hearts that is not dependent on the cycles of pleasure and pain that make up every human life.

So what is this Joy that Jesus is talking about?

Jesus is talking about the Joy that is given to us as a gift by the Holy Spirit—the counselor, the comforter, the advocate.

Our Joy is our heart’s awareness of God’s never ending, never tiring, passionate love for each and every one of us exactly how we are right now.

Warts and all.

Mistakes and all.

Sins and all.

Our Joy is that there is nothing that we can say or not say, believe or not believe, do or not do, that will cause God to love us even one notch less.

And our Joy is somehow also our deep and passionate longing for God in return.

A longing for the Beloved’s face so strong that, when we remember it fully, we are stabbed by Joy.

Stabbed by Joy in a kind of holy pain or ecstasy.

It’s difficult to distinguish between the two.

This is the Joy that Jesus is talking about.

This Joy is like the sun.

The sun that continues to burn even if white clouds of pleasure and dark clouds of pain are all we can see in the sky.

When we remember, we know that the sun of Joy is still up there behind the clouds.

 

Jesus calls us to remember our Joy.

We need to remember our Joy because when we forget Joy, we are prone to except cheap substitutes.

We may cling to money, power, or prestige to try fill the hole that is left when we forget about Joy.

We may cling to sex, alcohol and drugs, or food to try fill the hole that is left when we forget about Joy.

We may cling to pride, our security, or our indifference to try fill the hole that is left when we forget about Joy.

But we know that none of these things can bring us Joy.

Our problem from this perspective is not lack of willpower, discipline, or self-denial.

Our problem is that our appetites and longing are not strong enough.

They are not strong enough to reach out for the only thing that can satisfy.

The Joy that Jesus promises.

The Joy that is ours when are hearts are aware that we are the Father’s beloved children, without condition or exception.

 

Jesus calls us to remember our Joy.

Before you leave this beautiful Camp Allen, I invite you to ask yourself, what little thing can I build into my routine that we help me remember my joy?

Maybe it’s added fresh flowers to your shopping list.

Maybe it is savoring a cup of tea at a certain time each afternoon.

Maybe it is setting aside time for centering prayer or just sitting in the presence of God first thing each morning.

Anything that will remind you of the Joy of knowing how much God loves you—and even likes you.

And after you have set up a Joy reminder for yourself, I invite look around your home, your school, your work, your church, and your town.

Look around and ask yourself, what concrete action can I take to help other people remember their Joy?

Maybe it is making that special meal on a Tuesday night that your spouse just loves.

Maybe it is volunteering in a food pantry where the Joy you receive by being in relation with other people is worth far more the service you are providing.

Maybe it is livening up the music in your church worship services.

Maybe it is bringing humor and laughter to church committees.

Especially the finance committee.

The checkbook will still get balanced, I promise.

 

Jesus calls us to remember our Joy.

Take the time to create these little Joy reminders.

Do it today.

Joy is not optional.

Joy is not a nice-to-have-when-I-have-time-for-it.

Joy is essential.

Joy is essential to our individual humanity, and Joy is essential to our identity as Jesus’ church.

When we remember our own Joy, we help remind others of their Joy as well.

This is the beating heart of the church’s mission.

This is the beating heart of evangelism.

Our Joy as Christians is what calls people to Jesus.

Our Joy is more compelling than any words we might say.

Our Joy is more convincing than any good works we might do.

When we remember our own Joy, our hearts are set on fire by the Holy Spirit.

And when others see our Joy, in kinship their hearts will kindled by ours as they remember their own Joy.

Joy sparking Joy sparking joy sparking joy.

Joy, blazing up to the Beloved.

And Jesus will see us, and we will see Jesus.

And our hearts will rejoice.

And no one will take our joy from us.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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