25 April 2010

Homily for Easter 4-Jubilate

As we continue to celebrate our Lord's Resurrection and His victory over sin, death, and the devil, we rejoice in His gifts of mercy, life, and forgiveness. On this day the Church bids us to "Rejoice!" Today's homily was titled "The Joy of It All," and drew several themes from the great little book by Rev. Matthew Harrison, A Little Book on Joy: The Secret to Living a Good News Life in a Bad News World. (I highly recommend this great little book!)

To listen to the sermon, click on this link, download the audio file, and enjoy!


  1. Thank you for posting your sermons.

    Do you think that God ever takes away our joy for a time as a chastisement? Or is our lack of joy always because we take our eyes off of Christ?

  2. First of all, thanks for listening! (Okay, I'm assuming you listened, but your question hints that you did. :-)

    As to your question, what a good one! At first I wanted to answer, "Well, yes," and leave it there. But then I thought more about it.

    Does God ever really take away our joy? After all, He is our joy. Being restored to life with Him is our joy. Having Him rejoice over us is our true joy. Having a Savior who died and rose again for us and loves us and forgives us is our real joy. God would never take that away, even for a time.

    As for chastisements, does not God use them to bring us back to Him, that is, back to true joy? As Hebrews 12 says (shortly after the part on Christ's joy as He endured the cross), "the Lord disciplines the one he *loves*, and chastises every son whom he receives" (Heb. 12:6). Why would He do that? To "make our joy complete" (1 John 1:4) or, back to the words of Hebrews, "He disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness" (Heb. 12:10), that is, His joy.

    So I'm inclined to go with your second option: lack of joy means lack of Christ (taking our eyes off of Him, going without Him, etc.). If our true joy is Jesus Himself and being with Him and Him with us, living in His forgiveness, growing in His grace, etc., then lack of joy comes with "lack of Christ."

    But we also need to remember that we can have great joy at being with the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit can even in the midst of very joyless circumstances. After all, this life is no bed of roses! Even in the midst of our many sorrows we can still have joy - because we still have Christ crucified and risen, the Father who loves us, and the Spirit who makes us alive and holy.

    Perhaps an illustration will help. If I get a dislocated thumb, it hurts like the dickens. Why? Because the bones are out of joint, out of place. In order for my thumb to heal, it has to be pulled and snapped back into place. That hurts like the dickens too, perhaps even more than the original injury. But then the bones are back in place, aligned the way they're supposed to be. Does my thumb still hurt? Of course. And it will for a time. But it's back in place; the bones are realigned the way they should be. That's joy. Even in the midst of the pain? Yes. Because even with that pain, the joint is back in place and on the mend.

    The same is true of us who are alive in Christ and yet still live in this vale of sorrows. We have joy because we have be put back into joint - back into the proper place - with our God and Savior. That's the true joy, even though we still ache and throb from the woes and sorrows of our sin, the world, and death itself. So with eyes fixed on Jesus we have true joy ... sometimes even when we may not feel like it. And the full load of joy, the complete experience of joy (i.e. healing with God), will come on the Last Day and last for eternity.

  3. Hi, Diana,

    "So, you are saying that if we have faith, we can still have joy even when we don’t feel it?"


    "I wonder if joy is like a root that keeps growing deeper and deeper in a person. Even if we don’t see the fruit of the joy bubbling over in someone (or growing above ground), God is still helping it to grow within, through trials or even a weak faith, as He draws us to Himself."

    I hadn't thought about that angle with my garden illustration (which was simply about the Holy Spirit bearing the fruit of joy in His timing), but I like your take on it.

    "But what of those pesky thorns that choke the faith causing it to die?"

    Ah, on to a bit of a different discussion. :-) What did Jesus say about those pesky "thorns"? They are "the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches" (Matt. 13:22). Sure, they'll choke out the faith and the joy. But notice that Jesus is speaking of this in the context of hearing His Word (the seed)...or not. When we are hearing His Word - a.k.a. fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12) - the Holy Spirit gives us His gifts, especially faith and joy. He tends the "garden" that He has planted in our heart, mind, and soul and strengthens us in that faith and joy as we hear the Word and understand it (Matt. 13:23). All pure gift - and joy - yet again.

    "So if the Word and Sacrament is our medicine, then we need to keep coming to Liturgy even if it seems the Word is falling on deaf ears? Am I getting this?"

    Sounds like you're getting it to me. What joy!