A Joyful Glimpse in the Midst of Lent
- The Rev. Bob Dannals
- Mar 16, 2017
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A central aspect of the Christian journey is to see in Jesus the ability to dare to enjoy life. In spite of and in the midst of conditions which can be abrasive, harsh, competitive, agonizing, dispiriting, diminishing, and full of combative insensitivity, we are given occasions of pure joy, of laughter and bliss, of support and affirmation. And we bump up against others who are experiencing the same thing.
Last year, New York Times columnist, David Brooks, wrote a compelling piece on the nature of joy in the midst of a world of hard knocks. He wrote: "About once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner joy. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their joy is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude." Could David Brooks be speaking of you?
At its Tuesday afternoon meetings, the Holy Innocents' clergy and staff begins with reviews of the previous week. What worked, or didn't work? How hospitable were we in the name of God? What arrangements helped the flow of people and activities? Who were the visitors? Did they receive what they needed? What follow up or outreach might we do? We evaluate and critique what went poorly and we celebrate what went well. In the midst of these various discussions, I hold a quiet standard as an essential ingredient for our life together. Did we experience great joy? Were there moments of spontaneous bliss and laughter? Did we keep things light enough to make room for God's Spirit to lift our hearts and give respite for our souls?
Unlike prudent planning, or making everything nip and tuck, joy cannot be arranged. Certainly it can't be forced. It's born out of the sheer pleasure of being alive and the outstanding privilege of serving God and God's people. Joy is born from gratitude!
So, in the midst of complexity and rigorous worldly conditions, and, yes, right in the middle of Lent, I am holding out for a large helping of joy ... pure, unadulterated, peaceful, civil, respectful, honoring, awe-struck, and compassionate joy. I am pitching for an image of Jesus cranking his head back and letting go with a full expression of praise.
During this season, as we take stock, self-examine, fast, study, serve, and take in the journey of the cross, I invite you to also pause and take in a few glimpses of pure joy.