Sermon offered at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Waldorf, MD Sunday, October 25, 2020
In the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love:
hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
praising thee, their sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
drive the dark of doubt away;
giver of immortal gladness,
fill us with the light of day.
– – – – –
We have been talking about joy for a couple of weeks now. We are naming sources of joy and love on FaceBook each day. In her sermon last week, Mother Maria gave us four practices that lead us to be open to joy. Do you remember them?
1. Spend time with God, everyday
2. Take a break from the world
3. Take a sabbath
4. Be grateful
The word joy, is used in the Holy Scriptures over 200 times.
If you look up “JOY” on the internet, Google returns over 5 billion results.
SUCCESS magazine recently ran an article, 11 Ways to Find Joy.
One website, with no verifiable medical expertise spouted this:
“Joyful people have less of a chance for a heart attack or stroke. They have lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. Joy boosts immune systems, fights off stress and pain and improves your chance of a longer life.”
There is, in our world, no lack of advise or list of how-to’s on how you can find joy.
An important part of joy folks, is the converse of joy; trials, tests, sadness, disappointment. Because you see, if there were not lows in life, how could we possibly know and further, appreciate the blessings that give us gladness and joy?
One night this past week, I was up at 2:00 in the morning. Couldn’t sleep. So I turned the TV on and there was a documentary on some characters I bet all of you know.
I brought them along this morning.
The documentary was all about the people that help the special characters perform on Sesame Street. Through this documentary, I got to meet these people and hear about their job. There were some scenes where these folks were working with their characters and something would happen or something would go amiss and all of them would literally lay back on the floor and laugh. Not just a chuckle, but the deep, oh-my-gosh-it-hurts, stop it, stop it, belly laugh.
And as they talked about their work and helping these characters, there was pure joy in what they were doing. There was…
Joy of being with each other.
Joy in the life they bring to Big Bird and Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Elmo, and even Oscar the Grouch.
Each time I see a Sesame Street character, I will be reminded of the chemistry and genuine love these folks had for their work… and each other.
It makes me think of that bond, that common or united joy we have as children of God and especially of the very special joy we share in this community of St. Paul’s.
Joy of being together, even if it is on Zoom or sitting in the parking lot.
Joy in packing weekend backpacks…
Or cooking for Our Place…
Or tending to the gardens…
Or Safe Nights, or back-to-school parties for the faculty of Eva Turner or Easter Egg Hunts or Christmas Pageants or coffee hours or… the list goes on and on.
And even in this season of the pandemic and change to the way we have always done things, we still can experience that Joy, united as the community of St. Paul’s and of followers of Jesus Christ.
Whether it is the Joy in what the cast members of Sesame Street were doing or the love and care and joy of St. Paul’s, that’s it. That’s what we are being called to recognize and value today. But not just today… everyday as we live our lives and spend time with our God.
– – – – –
We were to be together, gathered in our parking lot or our asphalt chapel to share in the joy of the baptism of Merrick Dorosz. And, while the cold and wet weather prevented us from being together physically, we are still together and this is a joyous day we share with the Dorosz family.
A baptism is one of the most special things we do in the church. And we do it together. It is not just the priest and the one being baptized.
It is the parents.
It is the godparents.
It is the rest of the family; grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and cousins.
And friends remember, it too, is the rest of us. A baptism involves all of us.
We hear the parents and godparents make some promises… and it is so wonderful to hear these promises and think about the love behind them for the child being baptized.
And then we get to the part where we… we, all of us… we join in.
The words, “Will you who witness these vows all in your power to support this person in their life in Christ?” – well, that where we all come in to share in the event.
And then, we all repeat our Baptismal Vows and then we pray as one body, as a family in Christ, for the baptized. And then, we, as part of the body of Christ, receive the newly baptized into the household of God.
– – – – –
The world is pulling on us right now. There is the upcoming election and all of the words we are subjected to from the candidates and their supporters.
There is the pandemic that has claimed over 225,000 American lives.
There is the information super-highway of the internet and social media that we sift through each day looking for truth and justice.
There is being apart from our family and friends.
And yet, in this time this morning,
in spite of everything else going on,
together we are called to the joy of the love of Jesus Christ.
– – – – –
It is the emotion that resonates with our core; the spontaneous result of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee,
God of Glory, Lord of Love
Thou art giving and forgiving,
ever blessing, ever blest,
wellspring of the joy of living,
ocean depth of happy rest.
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother:
all who live in love are thine;
teach us how to love each other,
lift us to the joy divine.