In his sermon at the Eucharist on Friday evening during Council, Bishop David Reed focused on joy as found in the diocesan theme for this year – “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” He remarked that joy is different from happiness. “Joy needs other people. Joy comes from outside ourselves – we can’t conjure it up – and it is not governed by circumstances. Joy is gift from God.”
Joy has a purpose, said Reed. It strengthens us to “get over ourselves” and leads us to get involved in the lives of others.
He reminded the congregation that at the Last Supper, Jesus said to his disciples, “I’ve said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” By “these things,” said Reed, Jesus means when we abide in him – in a deep connection, a sharing of life, a participation in Christ’s life. In joy, we are involved in other people’s lives, said the bishop, and joy needs to find a voice in us.
Our churches, said Reed can be joyful places when we know ourselves to be grafted to Christ’s life. “People don’t need the church to find entertainment and happiness,” he said. “There are plenty of places for that. “But what we have been given and what we can give is joy. Joy seeks and creates community and connection.” That is the vocation to which the church has been called – that in the midst of everything, we are joyful.
In the book of Nehemiah, from which the diocesan theme is taken (8:10), the people have just returned from exile in Babylon and find Jerusalem in ruins. Then the priest Ezra reads from the Bible, helping them remember the sacred stories they had forgotten. And the people weep as they remember that God is in the ruins and as they see clearly their sin and disloyalty. But Ezra tells them to dry their eyes, for this day is holy to the Lord. They experience “joyful defiance, renewed strength in the Lord’s joy, and the people rebuild not just the city but themselves as God’s people,” said Reed. “Their amnesia is healed and they are restored to God, strong in his joy and joyful in his strength.”
Over and over, said Reed, in the ruins of bombed-out churches and churches wrecked by hurricanes and other causes, people gather and worship, not happily but joyfully. “In the grief and loss, in the rubble, [the people] remember God and find that in the strength of his joy there is new life. They know again that what God cares about most is the rebuilding of human beings, fully alive.”
You can view/print the full sermon on the Go Green page. Video to come.