I'm back! A month of paid time off; to stop, step away from all life's demands, and simply think and feel. What's that like? Sounds great, doesn't it? It's a privilege to be sure. But beware, there be dragons here. We Americans are different. While our European counterparts pour a million strong into the streets at the mere thought of government making their life harder. We here in the "States," just let stuff happen. Rather than bury our legislators with calls and visits, we adjust; accepting whatever gets thrown at us. It's constant compromise. Health care costs keep going up - oh, well. Real income keeps going down - oh, well. And that's just a sampling. Our personal needs as adults get kicked further and further off the agenda. And the cost can be our very happiness; our joyful spirit, our well-being. But there's only so much compromising the human person can do.
Today, I begin a sermon series about "joy". When I was able to step away from the demands of my job - first, it took almost a week to get into it. I immediately felt empty, lost, and useless. There's a sailing term - "dunsel." A dunsel's something or someone that has no meaningful or useful purpose. Stepping away from Lake Edge, I found I'd given so much to this church I had smothered my joy. Just like many of us unconsciously do.
In the Scripture from Acts, the new joy-filled Way of Jesus is just getting off the ground. Peter and John are the first to publicly witness to this way. They've no money to give to the man who begs for his daily bread. Instead, they give him something better. And the man literally leaps for joy. How did you feel when you heard this story?
As I felt how much the demands of life caused me to accommodate; literally squash my own joy, my level of misery scared me. Don't dwell on the miracle in this Gospel story. Instead, focus on what happens when joyful followers share their joy; unburdening someone else of the obstacle causing their "paralysis." This is the real miracle we all need.
Church can't merely be an hour on Sunday. I know how hard it is to get kids ready and out the door, or move weary bones and sore bodies out of bed and through the routines so we can make it to a church service. If our gathering here's becomes just another thing we must shove into an already over burdened life; it won't be long before we resent it and drift away. "Joy." It's central to our life, and not just something we get to glimpse once in a while.
Peter and John needed Jesus' joyful Spirit to live every day with their joy front and center. So do we. We need each other. First of all, we've gotta stop acting like our fears, disappointments and emptiness aren't important; to ourselves or to anyone else. Peter and John gave the paralyzed man their full attention, and with it the fullness of their "Joy." Little by little we've accepted one debilitating slight after another, until we're just as paralyzed as the guy in the story.
Well, it's time to stop accepting less than the full joy promised by our God. It's time to Thrive! The Christ the Solid Rock's coming, and we've work to do to get ready. Not to accommodate our new partner, but to begin to thrive. The advent of the Rock is the beginning of our resurgence. Over the several weeks we'll talk about how. For now ask, "What makes me joyful? How can I make my joy a priority in my life?"