That your joy shall be full...

When we left Tucson six years ago, we said to one another: in this new ministry whatever we do must be fun - if it isn't fun, then we're NOT going to do it.  So we took two weeks to slowly drive across the country and then spent a month in a little flat in London exploring that great city.

I realize now, however, that "fun" was too small a word - too inconsequential, too - to define this phase of ministry.  What I really meant was "joy" - this time of leadership and service must be saturated in joy both shared and received - for that is what the Lord was calling for from both of us.  And as I look back over the past six year, clearly not everything has been "fun." 

We have buried loved ones and family too early and felt the agonizing hole in our hearts made real in grief. We have endured the worst economic recession since the great Depression and seen friends lose their homes and move away in search of real employment.  We've witnessed those trapped in fear or addiction give up on hope. We've wept with parents who must stand in silence as their children tumble towards oblivion. We've buried beloved pets. We've prayed with adults still reeling from the abuse of their broken childhoods. And we've been embraced by those who have been marginalized and shamed because of their sexuality.

So "fun" is too shallow a word, but "joy" has been a constant - that deep abiding awareness that come light or darkness, heaven or hell - we are not alone but held beyond all comprehension in God's love.  I think of Psalm 126 as this morning starts to ripen:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.

On this last day before my vacation begins, I was overwhelmed by the joy I know in this ministry.  Today I get to celebrate Eucharist at 12 noon with a small cadre of dedicated contemplatives.  Later I'll do some planning with my creative colleague who serves as our director of music; and then meet with the executive team of the emerging ecumenical justice organization we are slowly bringing to birth in the Berkshires.  I'll have a little time to play with the dog and then share a late supper with a family in the congregation - and maybe play a few tunes with their son who is quickly becoming a monster guitar idol.  In the morning, it is off to Brooklyn for a few days with my first born before she becomes a momma.

Jesus said to his friends towards the end of his life on earth:  s the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant You did not choose me but I chose you.

Today I give thanks to God that I was chosen and even captured by joy - and I have been brought to a place to share it.  I also give thanks that we have been given to a congregation and community eager to let joy guide our hearts.



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