This morning I began my day with some time in Psalm 47 and a prayer guide titled The Songs of Jesus by Timothy Keller. Psalm 47:1 says: Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. In his reflection on this psalm, Keller writes: “Rather than think of ourselves as an embattled, political minority or persecuted underdogs, Christians should be so over-flowing with the joy of our salvation that we feel the privilege of singing his praise to those who do not know him.” (p.98 The Songs of Jesus)
As Christ followers we serve and follow a risen Savior. He is King Jesus, the One who overcome sin and death. His resurrection, celebrated just last Sunday, makes it possible for you and I to know joy. We can know the joy of our own redemption from sin. We can know the joy of abundant life in Christ. We can know the joy of a promise of eternal life with him when, one day, we enter into our life after death. In short, there is so much to be joyful about.
Yet how often do we project a different message through our countenance, our words, or our behavior? When we go through life long-faced, despondent, complaining or piously encumbered, we act more like that “embattled minority” Keller counsel us to avoid representing. My experience of Easter this year was joyful, was yours?
I loved the entire Easter weekend. We celebrated a Saturday egg hunt with children from the church and neighborhood. It was so good to be together and share in that annual tradition (cancelled last year you may recall). Later that day, my wife and I hosted several of her siblings and some of their children, along with their 94 year old mother/grandmother. Thanks to vaccinations and immunities we felt safe to gather as family. It was joyful to watch our grandsons on the back lawn playing with uncles and cousins.
Then came Easter Sunday. Easter is always joyful, but perhaps this year even more so. We had our highest attendance for in-person worship in well over a year (not that it’s all about numbers!). Plus we had a strong online participation. We read, told and acted out the Easter story. We sang the music of Easter – some new, some familiar. I was blessed to once again preach the story of Easter, trying to point people toward the hope that is ours in Christ’s resurrection. It was joyful! I was filled with joy!
Then came Monday. “Old blue Monday” my grandmother called them. Actually my Monday is Tuesday because I take Monday’s as a day off to recuperate and Tuesday opens my new work week. It seemed like everything that hit me on Tuesday was dour if not dire. Bad news, sad news, grave news. As one salesman who used to visit my office said, it (the pastorate) was about death, disease and dysfunction. That’s what Tuesday felt like. The particulars don’t matter, it’s the feeling that crept in through the door with those presenting issues. How did I so quickly allow it to steal my joy?
Have you ever experienced anything like that? I bet you have – unless you are just a hopelessly unfettered optimist (God bless you). Most of us know what it is to ride the roller coaster of emotion from the heights of celebration to the depths of disappointment. We become responders to the external factors that bombard and befuddle us. In doing so we surrender the joy of our faith. Tragic.
It seems to me that there is a segment of the Christ following world that has chosen to live in this place of long-faced, somber, near defeat; occupying (as Keller says) a position of “embattled minority” or “persecuted underdogs”. That’s not the legacy Jesus offers us, is it? Why go there? Why dwell there?
Yes – there is much that should concern us in 2021 – the rise of racism, Christian nationalism, the ongoing pandemic, to list a few – but the risen Christ plants joy down, down in the depths of my heart. Will I live, serve, sing, worship from that place of joy? Will I own my responsibility to enter worship in joy, looking for joy, connecting with joy? Will I chase away Monday’s (or Tuesday’s) blues with the residue of Sunday’s shine? I guess that is up to me, and it is up to you.
If you go through life looking for things to be unhappy about, you will not have to look too far. But if you go through life grounded in the joy of the risen Christ, that will be the song you sing and the life you live. Be joyful. Let your life, and therefore your witness, overflow with the joy of your salvation, that you may participate in the singing of praises – so those who do not know Jesus, may want an introduction.