Make a Joyful Noise


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 98; 146, Exodus 15:1-21, 1 Peter 1:13-25, Gospel Reading John 14:18-31

How do you express your joy in the Lord?

After the Red Sea closed up behind the nation of Israel, forever freeing from the slavery of Pharaoh and Egypt, Miriam (the older sister of Moses and Aaron) took up a tambourine and began to dance and sing the Lord’s praises. Other women soon joined her.

The Psalms speak of many ways to express our joy: with song and praise; with trumpets, horns and harps; with dancing and joyful noise. The Psalmist describes the earth herself praising the Lord through the roaring sea, clapping floods, and singing hills.

Can’t sing well? Sing joyfully anyway! Got two left feet? Dance joyfully anyway! Can’t play the harp or drum? Clap your hands, stomp your feet, hum a crooked tune … joyfully!

Spontaneous expressions of joy aren’t something we see a lot, at least not outside of church. And if we do see them, it’s often through a cynical lens. When a stranger at the gym greets us with: “Jesus wants to you have a blessed day!” (true story), do we mumble “Thanks…” or do we shout “Amen, sister! You too!”

Maybe you’re an introvert, and such overt expressions seem more stressful than joyous. Let your joy erupt through poetry, kind deeds, or deep whiffs of spring blossoms. Your joy is between you and God, so don’t let anyone tell you there’s a right or wrong way.

The important thing is to express it when you feel it. Let it settle into tapping fingers and swinging hips and smiling lips. Do this often, and when you don’t feel it – when reasons for praise seem far away – you’ll have the muscle and soul memories to draw on to help you get through tough times. The body, the spirit, and the mind can all influence each other. It’s no cure for clinical depression or anxiety, but choosing to act joyfully can often bring us closer to feeling actual joy.

We are joyful because Christ has redeemed us. We are joyful because God is still moving through the world. Every day there is a new song to sing.

Comfort: You aren’t just allowed to be joyful … it’s encouraged!

Challenge: Make time every day to express joy. See if it changes you.

Prayer: God of Joy, thank you for all you do and all you are. My joy is complete in you! Amen.

Discussion: How do you express joy?

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Jesus, Life of the Party

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 51; 148, Genesis 6:1-8, Hebrews 3:12-19, John 2:1-12

Christianity is serious business. The language of our faith uses words like sacrifice, atonement, sin, repentance, blood, and crucifixion with alarming regularity. We often speak of love as a demanding experience. We revere saints who deprived themselves of all earthly pleasures and martyrs who died in horrible ways. Suffering and death are undeniable parts of our collective story. If we are supposed to be willing to follow Christ to the cross, why do we ever sing songs like “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart?”

Despite the bloody reality of the cross and the traditional fire and brimstone sermons we have heard, suffering is not the default position of the Kingdom of God. Christ did not suffer and die just so we could continue suffering and dying. In the book of John, his first public sign is turning water into wine at a wedding banquet. That’s right: he made his public debut at a party, and performed a miracle so the party wouldn’t have to stop. It wasn’t just any party though – it was a celebration of life recognizing a joyous bond between two people, and the bond between each of them and God.

The Cana story does not appear in other Gospels, but in Matthew Jesus describes the Kingdom of God as a wedding banquet where outcasts feast. In this life suffering may be inevitable, but we don’t need to wear it like a uniform to be good Christians. To the contrary, Jesus had little regard for people who put their suffering on display as a show of piety. We are to confront head on the suffering of the world and help where we can, and to rely on God when we ourselves suffer, but we are never to be resigned to misery. While suffering is sometimes the cost of staying the course on the way to the feast, it is not God’s desire for us. The ultimate purpose of the crucifixion was eternal life. Jesus came to heal us, to teach us to forgive, and to celebrate with us. Let’s not forget to RSVP.

Comfort: God wants us to be joyful.

Challenge: Best as you can, don’t run away from people’s suffering; confront it with them without being consumed by it.

Prayer: Lord, lead me to those whom I can help, and open my hearts and hands to them. Amen.

Discussion: Suffering is part of life. Is there a way to make it useful?

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