Sermons on Joy
We can know that God loves us enough to want us to accept this gift of the Kingdom without fear, we can long to fill our hearts with true treasure, but first let’s be honest-this is a hard, hard thing to do. It can be profoundly difficult to let go of the familiar to embrace gifts we cannot yet see, allowing our lives to be a tunnel for these things to pass through on their way to bless others. If you have ever felt this way, I hear your heart. It takes commitment to the hard and good work of transformation to understand that the only treasures really worth keeping are the ones we should also give away-things which last forever and cannot be stolen or destroyed- gifts such as love and honor, righteousness and obedience, faithfulness and courage, joy and peace.
God gives us the opportunity and ability to bear God’s grace to each other, to be God’s love and grace to each other. It’s a huge responsibility and a gift. It’s something of a miracle each time it happens.
There was another party going on in town that night. One where the rejected, the tired, the weary, the lonely, the ones who mourn, the poor in spirit, the meek, the peacemakers were gathered, where the healing love of Jesus flowed through and around them, where they anointed each other, maybe not with expensive oil, but with tears of joy, for Jesus was with them. The church shows up, our church shows up when we readily offer ourselves and our resources to each other, when we ask the question, “What do you need?” or “How can I support you in the cold dark night, where fear and trembling settle in upon your soul and weigh you down like a heavy down comforter, almost making it difficult to breath?” The church shows up, our church shows up, when we acknowledge our vulnerability before God and each other, or when we acknowledge that we can’t be prepared for everything, and instead chose to trust that it is Jesus who opens the door, invites us in, and prepares the feast.
Give us this day our daily bread. These are familiar words we pray together every Sunday, right before the bread is broken in the Eucharistic prayer. Have you ever wondered why we pray these words at that particular moment? Right before Jesus’ body is broken so each and every one of us can receive and take within us the holy presence of Christ? Why does it matter to us that this particular prayer is on our hearts when the sunlight from the altar window shines upon the bread, which seems to glow with holiness as I break it apart, so we can each be fed with this sacred meal? Give us this day our daily bread. We don’t say, “Give me this day MY daily bread” – this prayer sets us within a community. The prayer is spoken by all of us, for all of us. It draws us into a place of understanding that we are all equal – equal in God’s love, equal in our share of God’s abundance, equal in the blessing we take out into God’s world, God’s vineyard. One doesn’t get more if one has had an exceptionally faithful week of prayer, scripture study, and good deeds. Nor does one get less if one is kneeling at the rail for the first time in 20 years and had somehow forgotten about God all that time. It is this fact that makes the invitation to the Eucharist so appropriate and poignant, “So come, you who have much faith and you who have little, you who have been here often, and you who have not been for a long time or ever before, you who have tried to follow and all of us who have failed.”
Pentecost is a time of celebrating God’s surprises in our lives. Often, it’s fun and exhilarating to run and catch up with the Spirit who is leading us into new life, new ways of being, new callings to answer, new ways of being church. And sometimes, it’s hard, and we feel out of breath, and we want things to slow down, or return to what was. I think this is a very natural reaction because surprises are unexpected and we can be thrown off by the lack of our control, or by the direction the Spirit is moving us toward, one that we may not have chosen ourselves. The Holy Spirit is a wild and crazy thing and yet it always empowers us to join with the first disciples in witnessing to the truth of the risen Christ. I think this is one of most helpful things for me to remember when I’m feeling exhausted by the changes the Holy Spirit is demanding of me – it’s for a good purpose. It’s so I can be a more faithful witness to what lights up my life, to what offers me joy, to what gives my life purpose, what inspires me to become the best I can be – the presence of Jesus in my life.
Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is that which gives life, true life, eternal life, life that sustains and nourishes our souls so we may experience the kingdom here and now, and so that we may be raised up with him on the very last day.
Joy is actually the fruit of spiritual maturity; joy that shows up in our desire to be attached to some purpose larger than ourselves; joy that shows up in our being loving and patient toward one another, joy that shows up in our desire to play our part alongside one another to build up this part of Christ’s body; joy that shows up in helping to carry the burden of others; It’s a glorious and joyful thing we can do for one another and which we can become. For when we show joy, we are inviting others to taste and see that the Lord is good. And that’s letting God’s grace into the world.
I can’t believe there is no one else in history who has ever been more amazed at what God has asked of them than Mary; although I also believe each of us is asked something from God which would amaze and delight and scare us a bit. Mary was given something exceptional to do, a unique role to play in our salvation story ~ and yet to hold her as an exception, as someone asked of something we could never be asked to do, is to put God back into that temple, which is outside ourselves. Each of us is asked to say yes to God in a very specific and unique way to us.