The Joy of The Gospel
Joy of the Gospel Week 1
(Health warning – there are differences in the way a written text is engaged with compared to that of a spoken text. You have to imagine the speaker speaking as you read, rather than simply reading this).
So, the next six sermons come under one title. The joy of the Gospel. Both 9.30 and 11am having same talk to help us together to think about the joy of the Gospel. I’m excited about doing this series which the home groups are going to follow in their particular ways.
I’m excited as it says something about togetherness. I’m excited as it will help us see what we’re doing as a parish, how different things fit together, but mainly I’m excited because as a church I think the one thing we need at the moment is a feeling of joy and if this helps us to freshly encounter the joy that Jesus offers us, then brilliant! I’m excited that we have an opportunity altogether to to experience afresh the joy that knowing Jesus brings.
The series is following a book that home groups will be using that has been written by an Anglican about something that the Pope wrote! Very ecumenical. There will be some very pithy quotes from him on our journey together. So, six talks about joy, the need for joy, about how this joy rubs off on others, the challenge of being an outward facing, joyful church, one that really wants to tell others about this joy, about being a community that is truly focused on Jesus in word, deed and open to the work of the Holy Spirit. So, lots of good stuff.
How do you define joy? A Google definition is “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness:” Its not just yippee, but ummm. Its peace as well as exuberance. And reading is Paul saying to his favourite church, the Church in Philippi, rejoice. Rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always. Have yippee, umm, peace and exuberance in knowing Jesus, again and again. ‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ Now, Paul was in prison when he wrote these words. So, rejoice in the Lord always even when things are against you. Or a better way of looking at it, following Jesus can bring feelings of yippee, umm, peace and exuberance even when life is knocking you for six. It brings a joyful certainty to life as we live it.
So, is Paul’s hope for us as a whole church true? Is it possible for us as part of the body of Christ to feel yippee, umm, peace and exuberance, even when we’ve been following Jesus for years and years, even when we’re hurting? Is it possible?
Well, Paul knew a thing or two about suffering. He was shipwrecked, whipped, stoned, and here, he’s in prison, yet he had encountered Jesus so powerfully that he could carry of rejoicing.
Rejoice. How is that possible? In the gospels when those seeking Jesus encountered him they left with joy. Healed, restored, forgiven, whatever, AND they left with joy. Frankly, there is something really deep within us that when we encounter Jesus, now by his Spirit we simply find ourselves feeling completely at peace with God.
I wonder what your experiences of this are? Can you think of a time when you know you’ve encountered Jesus and you are simply left feeling completely and utterly whole. Joy. If that has not been your experience how could it be? Should it be?
A couple of comments from the Pope: “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.”
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.”
No one is excluded – this joy of the Gospel is for all, all who accept Jesus’ offer of life. Its an every day thing. Okay, such an offer comes with costs – it does mean that we have to pursue God. We have to want to long for more of him. It does take effort. But that joy is there and it is really profound. Really deep. It refreshes parts that other joys simply cannot reach!
Now, I don’t know about you, but I think we are a church that is seriously in need of a bit of joy. Its been a bruising period of time in our church life together. 9.30am – age and health is taking its toll. 11am has been unsettled. There’s been a fair bit of church politics going on. We need joy.
Maybe the Pope’s words are really our words for this moment. “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.”
What can we do to encounter such joy? Is it loud music? Is it church party after church party? No. It is the fresh taking hold of what Jesus has done for each of us. He has removed the barrier called sin between us and God. There is now freedom to encounter God. So, there is the assurance of God being with us daily.
Three ways of encountering this joy and of developing this joy.
1. To simply be still and to welcome Christ afresh into your life. He is here – his Spirit is with us. Simply, to accept that, and to each day spend time letting Jesus in on your life, that does allow joy to seep in. So, if you are in need of Jesus’ joy, a challenge. Why not spend some time each day over the next seek weeks simply being still and welcoming Jesus, all that he has and is doing for you, fresh in to you life?
2. Be with people who are actively seeking to encounter Jesus. That’s about prayer, fellowship, very churchy word, talking about Jesus together. It very interesting that within many churches people are shy to talk together about Jesus. So, a second way of pursuing joy is to pursue Jesus. Church has to challenge and change us. This is all about pursuing Jesus. And yes, our home groups are great places for such pursuit to carry on outside of a Sunday morning.
3. There is story after story in the Gospels of people encountering Jesus and discovering joy. The 10 lepers, blind restored to sight, 5000 fed from a bit of bread and fish to name but a few stories. We do encounter Jesus today. We do so through his HS. Some find that prospect a bit weird. How can we in the 21st century accept that God affects our lives personally by his Spirit? Well, its always been the case. Be open. It is as we open ourselves up to the work of Jesus’ spirit that this joy begins to erupt. Be open to do that.
We will have a moment after communion for anointing. A ritual action of marking on the forehead with oil, and a moment of accepting afresh the joy that Jesus offers. It doesn’t mean instant joy. But it marks the beginning of a season of pursuing Christ’s joy. And also prayer ministry is a time for being filled afresh with HS, that which brings joy. Do make the most of that opportunity.
So, joy. Jesus brings joy. We can experience joy. May we.
A man walked by a table in a hotel and noticed three men and a dog playing cards. The dog appeared to be winning. "That must be a very smart dog," the man commented. "He’s not smart," said one of the players. "Every time he gets a good hand he wags his tail!"
When we have joy in our hearts, it will be obvious to everyone! Our tails will wag and people will see that. And that’s the subject of next week. Having first encountered joy, it will naturally be seen by others.