Week three is the time to throw the parties! This is the joy Sunday, the celebration of the gift that comes and the gift we are to and with one another. Let there be shouts of praise and hope. Let there be laughter and joy. But don’t let it be simply a surface experience, a pretending all is well when there are many for whom all is not well. But let there be a deep reservoir from which joy can be drawn and tasted. Speak of the joy that sustains, the presence that abides, even in the difficult moments, even on the cloudy days. All of which means we don’t force people into a certain kind of response; we simply make an offer – an offer of joy.
How do we do that? We tell stories! Who in your community seems to be a person of joy, no matter what? Who finds ways of celebrating for the oddest occasions? Who can talk with authenticity about finding joy in the midst of despair? They are likely to share that their realization doesn’t make the pain go away, but it does give it a gilded edge, or perhaps a new perspective, or the resources to continue. Tell the stories, the deep stories of joy in the midst of your own community. Those stories are there, sometimes you have to look for them, but they are there.
There is also anticipatory joy that is best seen in children. They are trying their best to hold it in for another week and a bit, but it is about to burst out of them. Let it. Let them express their joy in singing or acting or moving. Let them dance during the hymns. Set them free to let the joy be seen in their little bodies. It can’t help but infect the rest of the congregation. (OK, I know “infect” isn’t the best word to use these days, but it seemed appropriate!) Let them influence; let them raise up; let them help put smiles on faces not used to smiling anymore. No, it doesn’t change difficult circumstances, but it is a promise that there is a reversal on the way. There is a kin-dom on the way.
We are depicting the joy of coming home to a welcome that sweeps us off our feet. Even if many of us can’t find it anywhere but here. So, let it be here. Let this be a sign of the coming kin-dom. Remind us all that there is joy in this home. Promised joy. Felt joy. Real joy. Let’s lean into joy today.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.