When plans were underway to create a yearlong sermon series at Round Hill Community Church entitled, “A Life Worth Living,” it seemed perfect to conclude our adventure by celebrating joy as a key ingredient of a good life. After all, Jesus said to his followers: “I have come that you might have joy, and have it in abundance.”
But at home and overseas joy is having difficulty finding some breathing room. There has been international concern about whether the United States and North Korea might move from verbal sparring to military action. And the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend are cause for lament. Those who belong to white nationalist groups continue to foster a spirit of hatred and discrimination in our country, persistent in their disparagement of people whose skin color, faith tradition, sexual orientation or ethnicity does not line up with their vision of what it means to be fully alive. When a violent confrontation took place in Charlottesville between “Unite the Right” marchers and counter protesters, the result was deadly. By the end of the weekend one woman and two men were dead, and nineteen people were wounded.
So how can we throw a party for joy at such a time as this? Aren’t anger and sorrow more fitting responses when damage is inflicted upon human life? Doesn’t talk about joy feel frivolous at best and unfaithful at worst?
I would argue that joy is just the companion we need when we dust ourselves off in disappointing days and begin the work of healing the common good. Joy wants to be needed, wants to fill us with an unexpected surge of life in our down moments, wants to restore in us a sense of wonder when our spirit is diminished by discouragement. Joy says to us, no wonder you’re filled with hate and frustration: your God is too small!
God’s love embraces with infinite tenderness all people, and welcomes all people to a vision of equality, reverence and inclusion. This does not prevent people from choosing to be hateful or violent. But God remains God: mercy within mercy within mercy. The same holds true for us: be compassionate as God is compassionate, said Jesus. It’s the only job description we’ll ever need in our quest for a life that’s truly good.
So once again, the journey to healing begins. To inspire you on your way, I invite you to click the following link and read a story about the human capacity for love and forgiveness. It just might fill you with joy.