O Be Joyful!

May 24, 2020 / 7th Sunday of Easter / Richard Holmer

1st Reading Acts 1:6-14 / 2nd Reading 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11 / Gospel John 17:1-11

O Be Joyful!

I truly miss singing together in church. Singing gives full expression to my joy in the Lord. And even more, singing with all of you with fills me with profound joy. God puts the song in our hearts and giving voice to praise is truly exhilarating and inspiring. Let me share a brief sample of what I’m talking about (music clip). That’s just a small taste of great joy. I’m sure you long for it as I do.

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The church takes seven Sundays to celebrate the joy of Christ’s stunning victory over sin and death. One Sunday is not enough to contain all the joy of Easter. It is the joy of our salvation, the joy of liberation – like the exuberant celebrations that broke out spontaneously around the globe at the end of World War II – only more so.

The whole creation rejoices at the goodness and greatness of God. Scripture describes how the trees sing, the mountains and hills rejoice, and the rivers clap their hands – FOR JOY, SHEER JOY IN THE LORD! Isn’t that marvelous?

Today God calls on us all to rejoice even in this strange and difficult time, even though we now are apart for a while, even though many have suffered and died, even though the economy is a mess and millions are unemployed, even though we don’t know when or how this pandemic will end.

Listen again to God’s call in today’s psalm, one of the oldest psalms in the bible, Psalm 68:

“Be glad and rejoice before God, also be merry and joyful.”

Do you get the message? These are not idle or thoughtless words. This verse serves to remind us that in any and every circumstance, we have reason to be joyful. Even now, in this uncertain time, we can rejoice. I came across a verse in Psalm 149 that is quite appropriate for all of us who are worshiping at home today, sitting in our living rooms:.

“Let the faithful exult in glory, let them sing for JOY on their COUCHES!” (149:5)

That’s right: rejoice at home on your couches. Why? Because our God is gracious and merciful. Listen to what Psalm 68 says of our God:

Sing to God, sing praises to his NAME; exalt him who rides upon the heavens;

YAHWEH is his Name, rejoice before him!

Father of orphans, defender of widows, God in his holy habitation!

God gives the solitary a home and brings forth prisoners into freedom;…

You sent a gracious rain, O God, upon your inheritance;

you refreshed the land when it was weary.

Your people found their home in it;

your goodness, O God, you have made provision for the poor.

God is our Savior – a present help in time of need – and our eternal home.

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Yes, there is sadness and grief and frustration – heartbreaking losses. We are imperfect people living in a broken world. Every day there is suffering and injustice and disappointments. You know this. However, we are never without a reason to rejoice, because we are never without the gracious love of Jesus. This is why St. Paul, who definitely experienced more than his share of pain and struggle, could so confidently say:

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice!

Not just now and then, not only on Sundays – ALWAYS. You and I do not have to wonder if God will be good to us, if God will bless us. We know beyond doubt that God is good, that we are richly blessed. As we hear in Psalm 126:

“The Lord has done great things for us, AND WE ARE GLAD INDEED.”

We have been redeemed. Our sins are forgiven. We have been freed from the power of death. We are blessed with eternal life. Today Jesus reminds us what eternal life is all about: not only life after this life – eternal life is lived here and now: it is knowing and abiding in God, being ONE with the Father and the Son. To be sure, we have our losses and our burdens, but keep in mind God’s promise:

“Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with JOY, shouldering their sheaves.” Psalm 126:6

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