The Joy of the Lord Is Our Strength
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” - Nehemiah 8:10b
Wasn’t Sunday amazing? We celebrated three New Members joining the church, two of them being baptized and were lead through the entire worship service by our children and students! If you weren’t able to join us in-person, or live on YouTube, you can go back and re-watch there or on our Facebook page. I promise you, it’s well worth your time!
What was the most moving part to me was the absolute joy that these children and students at in this moment. Here they were singing, clapping, speaking, praying and even jumping for joy!
As Presbyterians, we’ve garnered the name as the “frozen chosen” and unfortunately, over the centuries, it’s been earned. And while there are a lot of great aspects of our particular branch of the Christian Church, being stiff and stodgy, gruff and grumpy is not one of them! Just in case you weren’t sure, just take a look at Nehemiah.
Following the Babylonian exile, God’s people returned to Jerusalem, to re-build and re-settle - the wall, the temple, their lives. In some ways, it reminds me of what we’re doing here and now. This pandemic has robbed us of so much - while we’ve tried to keep going, it just hasn’t been the same. We’ve lost opportunities to gather, to celebrate, to just be the full community Jesus has invited us into - and we’ve lost friends and loved ones too. Now, we’re trying to re-build and re-settle in this new space.
God’s people had done the same thing, they gathered together and brought out the scriptures… but as they read, they were heartbroken. Each verse reminded them of a loved one who was no longer with them, of a celebration that had been missed while in exile, of a cherished plot of land that had been in the family for generations and had turned from a happy home into a plot of rubble. And so they cried, they wept, they mourned for what had been and what looked like would never be again.
Until Nehemiah stepped up and spoke these words:
Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
This past Sunday, we were reminded of this truth. In the midst of a similar season of loss and grief, we saw this message etched on the faces of every child, every student… every person in that sanctuary. The JOY of the Lord is OUR strength! What propels us forward, what draws us together, what sustains us in the times of doubt and uncertainty - it is the JOY of the Lord. When we gather, when we worship with joy, we are providing a suit of armor that protects us from so much negativity that exists in our world.
I’m genuinely happy that in the coming weeks, we will literally see more of this joy on the faces of each other, as we, continuing to follow the CDC guidelines, invite people who are vaccinated and comfortable, to remove their masks. While we want to maintain the highest degrees of safety for our community, as we continue to fog and sanitize and mask during Sonshine Station (large and small groups), we also want to make sure that we are not marginalizing others who’ve felt cut-off by the masks, despite doing all of the right things.
As your pastor, who’s been fully vaccinated now for over a month, I’m grateful that my presence, even without a mask, doesn’t pose a risk to you. I desperately want you to see the joy on my face, the and the love in my heart that I have for you, and not to have it hidden or obscured by the mask on my face. At the same time, if we’re talking one-on-one, and it will make you feel more comfortable for me to wear a mask, if you will feel more honored and more loved and more at ease, I will joyfully put my mask on for you!
At the end of the day, we all want the same thing - joy! I’m grateful that we were able to experience it Sunday and I’m even more excited that we’ll be seeing and experiencing more and more of it in the coming weeks and months.
Welcoming You to Grow JOYFULLY in Jesus,