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Archive for May 26th, 2019

Until now you have asked nothing in My Name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (St. John 16: 24)

You would think that joy is a dirty little secret that churches keep well hidden.  The only place where and when joy is mentioned is in the Scriptures and then in the hymns of the Church.  “Joyful, Joyful, we adore Thee”  “Joy to the world the Lord is born”  There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than 99 sinners who need no repenting. Rejoice in the Lord, I say again Rejoice.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you judge the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations upon earth. 

How many times on a Monday morning at work, when the rerun question is asked, “How was your weekend?”,  and the response is, Joyful? Joy seems out of place in the world.  There seems to be a related word to joy: Happiness.  Are they synonyms?  Happiness is not out of place in the world. Happiness is even in the founding document of our free nation:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The word, “happiness” is related to “happens”, “happenstance”. All those words, including happiness, comes from the old Norse root word, “happ” which means fortune or luck, which is either good or bad. “Oh, what bad luck”. “You’re so lucky”, said with a tinge of envy.  We have established luck as a deity in the state lotteries.  Happiness is very much at home in world.

Then there is the lament of bad luck, bad happenings:  “Oh, it’s just one damn thing after another”. And so the advice:  “Cheer up, things could get worse. So I cheered up and sure enough things got worse.” The old joke catches the problem. In fact change is not always for the better. Not by a long shot. But the ideology of progress has no way to deal with that.” The Lord has dealt with it:  

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me…Truly, truly I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.  You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn 16:16, 20)

 Jesus not only foretold the disciples’ sorrow, but He also prophesied and promised them joy.  Their sorrow would be turned to joy, in Christ’s resurrection.  And not just any joy, but a joy that would never be taken from them (Jn 16:22). His joy is the risen Christ Jesus Himself.

In fact, in the Bible the translation of “happiness” or “happy” only occurs about 10 times.  The words related to “joy” and rejoice almost 500 times. I asked the Bible class at the Mayflower what makes joy different than happiness?  A woman said joy has power.  1 Peter 1.3: “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The constant changes of life can bring us to tears.  We can feel lost and adrift in an ever changing world, uncertain what tomorrow will bring.  The world promises happiness and we seem to be like a dog chasing it’s own tail. We can be filled with sorrow; and yet, at the same time, we have a joy that is unchanging, a joy that’s certain and true.  This joy is based on Christ and His death and resurrection. The dear sister at the Mayflower is right:  this joy is power and it is and like our salvation given by sheer grace alone. As the Gospel is the power of God for all those who believe.
    This joy is a constant joy.  This joy is an unchanging joy.  This joy is a result of Christ’s death and resurrection.  On the cross Jesus defeated all sin.  He overcome the disciples’ sin, the world’s sin, your sin.  He shed His blood to cleanse you.  And with His resurrection He won you everlasting life.  Jesus’ death and resurrection, this is a constant that never changes.  Jesus death and resurrection is a fact of the past, never changing.  He died once for all, and the life He lives He lives to God (Rom 6:10).  This redemptive fact affects your life: your past, your present, and your future.  Because of what Christ has done for you, God gives you the promise of life.  
    The joy of everlasting life that God has given you, that joy is yours right now, at this very moment, even in this world filled with change and sorrow.  This joy isn’t a forced happy joy that never feels sorrow or pain.  This joy doesn’t super-glues an artificial smile on your face.  No, this joy recognizes the pain and sorrow in our world.  But this joy also knows the certainty of salvation.  This joy recognizes with confident hope Christ’s promises fulfilled.  And this joy rejoices knowing that the forgiveness of Christ and His promised everlasting life can’t be taken from you.  These are certain realities based on Christ’s death and resurrection, and no matter what you’re going through, nothing can change that!  
     It’s founded on His promised salvation.  No matter what twists and turns life throws your way, you belong to your Savior.  And the unchanging joy of everlasting life in Him, that is a gift that belongs to you.

The disciples’ joy is the joy of the Lord that He has made them His own. As He said, they did not choose Him, but He chose them.  They needed choosing, forgiving, redeeming.  Ask and you receive that your joy may not simply be but be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  The joy of the Lord is that one sinner repents is found and forgiven like the one lost sheep of 99 found again.  The joy of the Lord is His grace, hidden from the wise and learned, is revealed to children and they understand. The joy of the Lord is He commands, teaches and inspires us to pray. Next to preaching the Word of God, the greatest service is praying which all Christians can do as they are baptized and believe.  He overcame the world which does not pray to the Lord but preys upon each other ironically and tragically to get the good stuff of life and be happy.

Please note, in 400 plus references to joy and rejoicing, this following Scripture is key for this sermon to understand the stability and  power of the Lord’s joy.  In Galatians 5, the Apostle Paul lists the fruit of the Holy Spirit. He first lists love, then…joy.  Joy, the Lord’s power to salvation is the stability of being loved. 

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;
    he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness,
and he will be the stability of your times,
    abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
    the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.

Wounds against the love are many that is  sin. With His wounds we are healed.   A baby not being touched…dies.  Sometimes it may be that the love has been so controlled and controlling, then it is not love.  But if some cares for you, adopts you as his or her own, don’t let go.  The Lord has adopted us in Baptism. Our joy is filled in His love of us that as He first loved us, we love.  “Everyone loves a winner”, and “Everyone wants to be around a winner” has some truth but if it was completely true everyone should be around Jesus Christ and loving Him.  Now some preach be a winner or a conqueror. We will have tribulation in this world, but take heart, I have overcome the world. He invites us to stay close to Him as He is Victor. In hoc signo vincet. In this sign conquer. In this sign of the Cross we are conquered and in Him,

“…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8)

Our life of prayer and Scripture is daily being taught to love by the Holy Spirit,  as we have been loved, seeking His kingdom and the joy that surpasses all understanding. Love, joy and what is next Galatians? Peace…and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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