The Gospel reading for this week gets us thinking about joy. As so often is true, a look at one thing in the readings gets us considering other things. Joy touches upon many aspects of our faith experiences and the life of the church. As we discussed the reading in our staff meeting this week we recognized that joy does not lend itself to easy definitions. But we do know it when it happens.
While happiness seems to be a response to favorable circumstances, joy goes deeper. The Gospel of John reminds us that joy is grounded in the presence of the Holy Spirit. In this way, joy may occur when we are least expecting it, even in the midst of loss and hardship. This is so because joy is a manifestation of love. It accompanies the promise of God abiding with us in all times and circumstances. Joy then turns us outward toward others with actions that speak of hope. Here is a good contentment and an awareness of what truly matters and sustains us.
Joy is rooted into the depth of God’s gracious ways for the world. It is less about our plans and strategies. It is the acknowledgement that the Holy Spirit is out ahead of us drawing us into the next things. Our participation in the mission of the church is a response to this surprising work of the Spirit. So the posture of the church is one of discernment as a community of faith. Just when we feel that we have it figured out the Spirit brings dimensions of newness.
Finding the fitting response to this new thing can be hard work but it is worth it. It keeps us alive to the journey and to the needs of our neighbors. It invites us to be living daily into our identity as the church together.
Let the rivers clap their hands, and let the hills ring out with joy before the Lord… Psalm 98