The Joy of the Gospel
Joy of the Gospel: Going Forth
So, week two of our sermon series The Joy of the Gospel. Sadly, I didn’t get too far with the 9.30am last week, although, thank God, Vera is doing okay. A copy of what I spoke about is on the church website and there is a really short summary on the back of the printed order of services.
Looking at joy that knowing Jesus brings. Asked the question is it really possible for us to feel joy because of Jesus? Yes. This joy can be described not simply as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” Rather, its about ‘ummm.’ Contentedness. Its peace as well as exuberance. Jesus brings this. And Paul calls us to rejoice all the time even in challenging times. So, following Jesus can bring feelings of yippee, ‘umm,’ peace and exuberance even when life is knocking you for six.
Jesus brings a joyful certainty to life as we live it.
How is that possible? The gospels show those seeking Jesus left with joy. Healed, restored, forgiven, whatever, AND they left with joy. No one is excluded – this joy of the Gospel is for all, all who accept Jesus’ offer of life and pursue him.
And I suggested three ways of encountering this joy and of growing in joy:
1. To simply be still and welcome Christ afresh into your life, every day. Why not spend some time each day over the next six weeks simply being still and welcoming Jesus, all that he has and is doing for you?
2. Be with people who are actively seeking to encounter Jesus. Church has to challenge and change us. Pursue Jesus. Our home groups help with this outside of Sunday.
3. Be open to encounter Jesus and discovering joy. Prayer ministry is one opportunity to ‘be open’ as can be reading the bible to encounter Jesus.
The thing is, Jesus truly does give joy that affects us deeply within. We won’t experience constant joy – but we draw from one joyful encounter to keep us going through less joyful times. And frankly, we need more of that joy! I was going to mention to 9.30am but didn’t get that far
that we’re in need of more of this joy – 9.30am is facing age and poor health. 11am has been unsettled. There’s been too much church politics going on. We’re moving through that,
but we are in need of a fresh slice of joy. But assuming we freshly, together, without being cynical pursue Jesus and encounter his joy, well, what then?
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 spiritual tails will wag and people will see that. This is a key way we’re hoping, as a church to engage with the many centre users who come into the building. Its as others see our spiritual tails wagging, seeing our deep inner joy, then others will want some joy for themselves.
I guess the Gospel reading is well known by many. Jesus telling his followers, us in our generation,
to go – go and tell others about him, to go make disciples. A disciple is someone who follows deeply their teacher. So, to make disciples is to makes others follow Jesus deeply. So mould their lives, to deeply trust Jesus both now, in life but also at life’s end as we journey into eternity with Jesus.
Feels an awesome thing – ‘go!’ What me? Well, that’s what it says!! Evidently the word go can be translated from the original Greek as travel. So, travel with Jesus to see new disciples being made. That sounds a bit better! We are co-workers with Jesus. The whole ethos of the Church is that
Jesus commands his whole church to travel with him to make new disciples. Our God is a missionary God. That’s his core nature. Missional – reaching out to others to tell them he loves them. That’s why we’re here today. Because God reached out to us.
That command to go, or to travel has to permeate all we do… Church can never be a club. Churches are not expected to be safe places! They are places where lives are changed as the Jesus’ joy is encountered. When Church is seen as a cruise ship rather than a battle ship, then problems happen. You know, a cruise ship where all entertainment is laid on for you. All inclusive. That’s not what a missional church is about.
Ann and I looked round a battle ship once. Amazing – there are no frills. Everything happens with purpose. A battle ship is built for purposeful engagement. God has designed his church like that
to mirror his nature. Purposeful engagement. God first reaches out to us. We say yes in response to God first saying yes to us.
We worship God as a result of that – we go yippee, ummmmm, as we encounter his joy. Then we spend the rest of our lives making sense of that joy and seeking to let others know about it for themselves, because our tails just can’t stop wagging!
I love our dog – she’s really cute. She is constantly wagging her tail. Makes me smile. It wags in differing ways. Whack, whack… Times when the end just goes really quick. Sometimes its like a helicopter… Joy just radiates from her and if we walk down a crowded street with her we get stopped three of four times. ‘What a lovely dog – so happy, so cute….’
Joy shines out and it affects others. The idea of getting the wider community to use our building is not about getting money. We need the money and its helpful, but its not the main reason for getting people in. The main reason for getting people in is simply so they can begin to see out tails wagging, giving off joy. You see, people don’t come in on spec on a Sunday morning. Why should they? They can stay in bed or go shopping. But to experience a disciple’s joy, our joy at knowing Jesus, that begins to bring people in.
I long to see a café here – good coffee!! To get people mingling and talking, providing opportunities to show off our wagging tails. It will make some feel ‘what they doing here? Its not my church anymore!’ But wouldn’t it be wonderful to see lots of people encountering Jesus’ joy? Expressing that through the worship that happens throughout the week here? That’s what we’re here for, to make disciples. We might not be overly successful, but we have to try!
A couple of quotes from the Pope to bring this week’s talk to a close. “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open … Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators.”
You know, Bishop Martin has called this year, the Year of Mercy – a year for flinging open the church
doors and saying to people “Hi. Come on in. You are welcome!” As that happens, the Church’s worship life can happen around all that happens rubbing off joy on people. You know, Wed morning communion is great. We worship in the chapel, have a coffee afterwards in the entrance area, and all around people are coming into the building. That’s important. Our worship, when it is mission focused, affects those around us. It always comes back to that joy that Jesus offers.
Second quotation from the Pope. An interesting one. And if you know his history, you know he means this! “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” Now, that’s him talking about cruise ship verses battle ship.
And its all about joy. God is so full of joy – remember he rejoices over us in singing to quote Zephaniah 3:17. As a result, he reaches out to us first of all. We encounter joy and we go ‘uuuuum’
this God stuff works. Then we realise that God doesn’t stop there. He tells us to travel with him and share that joy with others.
What we’re seeking to do here, in opening the Church up to outside users it to show joy. Yes, we will get bruised and dirty on the way. And that joy keeps us going. I want others to experience the joy I’ve experienced, because frankly, life without that is hopeless. And others can encounter that joy and join with us as we travel along.
Please keep pursuing joy. The joy that Jesus brings: Be still, Be with, Be open. And may our mind-set always be to let our tails wag!
(Footnote: This script is not prose – it is oral in style, so best to be read imagining the speaker preaching).