I’m excited to be preaching on Sunday at St. John’s Lutheran in Shakopee as part of a series on Brené Brown’s Wholehearted Guideposts - Cultivating Faith and Courage. The ultra cool thing? When Pastors Linda, Christine and I scheduled out the calendar, this Sunday’s assigned lectionary text of John 15:9-17matches up with the joy and gratitude guidepost. This lesson includes Jesus saying, "I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!" We didn’t plan that out! My fellow liturgical junkies will appreciate how that ‘just happened.' The Spirit is at work!
I wrote my sermon on the plane returning from a retreat I led a few weeks ago. That was before the rioting in Baltimore. Or the earthquake in Nepal. Or the visitation and funeral for a young man who dead too soon. Or tornadoes in OK, KS, and TX. Clearly, I'd had some rewriting to do.
So the question quickly becomes a very old question - How do we talk about joy when so much tells us it is foolish, when there is so much to grieve?
First, Brené’s research - rehearsing tragedy or holding joy at bay doesn’t insulate us from the hard things. The hard things will find us but we absolutely can deplete our resiliency to the hard things when we don’t practice joy and gratitude. I remember being on a mission learning trip to Mexico and the community organizers working in squatter clusters talked about their rhythm of work: act and celebrate. Celebrating wasn’t if, when, and maybe. It was just as essential as pounding the pavement. They knew celebrating would keep them going.
Second, faith and theology - I love reading Working Preacher and this week the amazing Dr. Karoline Lewis began her reflection with this FB post from a working preacher she knows:
“Nepal, Baltimore, school shootings, cancer, suicide, poverty, discrimination, apathy, violence, ignorance, spite, abuse, injustice. Some days it's just too much for my little heart.”
We all know that space. It is so true. I will add to the conversation what’s been rolling around in my soul this week:
Avoiding heartbreak is like lots of armor that won’t protect us the way we think it should; it is seductive and tantalizing but it isn’t real. Instead, the joy Christ talked about at the Last Supper offers a different way. A way in which our hearts get broken again and again and again but because your heart is broken, and so is mine, and so is yours and yours and yours and so is the heart of Christ when we pick up the pieces and start to put them back together again, I’ve picked up some pieces of yours, and yours, and yours, and yours, and you all have picked up pieces of mine, and we’ve all picked up some of the heart of Christ. . .
Maybe this is one way we become new creations.