‘Why don’t you all f-fade away….. Not trying’ to cause a big sensation… just talkin’ bout my generation.’
There, now you’ll have the Rolling Stones in your heads all day (they didn’t age well, did they?)
I have stuff to do. Plus the dogs are making me feel guilty by sunbathing in the tiny patch of golden light streaming through my window (don’t have a garden, but I could take them down to the beach again) and the coffee machine needs de-scaling, and…. anyway, I have stuff to do. Real stuff that might earn a quid or two. Grown up writing. Instead, here I am again. What is it with you bloggies? Why are you all so tempting?
I’m re-reading the concluding chapters of Francis Chan’s ‘Letters to the Church’ because it’s a book loaded with many ideas but it’s so busy knocking down icons left right and centre, that I was left a little fuddled about what to think next… and I really don’t like that. I like to come away from a book or a sermon, knowing what I’ve learnt and what I think. Otherwise, what’s the point? So I’m reading his concluding chapters again to marshal my chaotic thoughts.
On Sundays my church is following a sermon series on Philippians, ‘Joy Always’ so I’ve been thinking about both joy and rejoicing quite a bit recently. Only this morning I had a new idea about the phrase ‘rejoice in the Lord!’ and it wasn’t a great or mountain-moving thought, but it made for a happy moment. Oh, yes! New thoughts are so pleasing. Then, not even thinking to link the two, I turned to Mr Chan and read this: ‘The Church was meant to be a beautiful army, sent out to shed light throughout the earth. Rather than hiding together in a bunker, we were supposed to fearlessly take His message to the most remote places. People should be in awe when they see His people with a peace that passes comprehension and rejoicing with inexpressible joy.‘
My inner ear swivelled – there’s that word ‘Joy’ again. I paid proper attention as he went on: ‘Are you known for being ridiculously joyful?’
Well, I answered a bit hotly, I’m very well known for being ridiculous. Does that count?
He says: ‘We have tried to attract people through so many different strategies. What if they saw an army of people with inexpressible joy, peace that surpasses comprehension, and immeasurable greatness of power? How could they not be intrigued? People were attracted to the early church. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by a group that shared possessions, rejoiced non-stop…..always gave thanks? ….’
And this is the bit that got me: ‘This is our heritage. This is in our DNA.’
Joy is in our DNA as a church. Wow. Really?
I think of the empty pews of the established church, I have an image of the tiny handful of elderly and frail people I see walking to a local chapel once a month, and I remember hearing of a church in mid Wales where the front door couldn’t be used because there wasn’t a single person young enough to manage its three steps. I know that in elderly worshippers there’s love, there’s devotion, there’s some sound theology…. so what’s missing in my generation? Why has the Church so often failed to bring in new blood, failed to teach the young, failed to pass on the baton? What’s been missing?
We heard, some weeks ago, that joy is more than a human emotion. Joy, like Love, is a person. Joy is Jesus. If we don’t share Joy, do we share Jesus? If we don’t know Joy, do we know Jesus?
Wow. If we don’t know joy, and we don’t know Jesus, then we are a pretty tragic lot. Psalm 16 tells us that in God’s presence there is joy. Everywhere you look in the Bible, there is the undercurrent of joy. All through the New Testament, particularly the epistles… joy. Our hope is Joy. Joy is mentioned in the Bible 241 times. Sorrow 36 times. Pain 62 times. There’s a whole load more joy in the Bible than there is the bad stuff. And I’m getting my capital letters and small case all mixed up.
I like what Chan says ‘take His message to the most remote places’ but just this last Sunday we were reminded that Jesus said “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you” So, it’s not all about distant mission fields and exotic cultures – it’s about here and now. Today.
My wizened, tight little British soul (I imagine it as a walnut) shrivels even smaller when I think about telling people my story. If I know you already, it’s dead easy, you’ll have a job shutting me up. If I’m writing, dead easy, words just spill out. But people generally? Tell the people I meet how Jesus has transformed my life? That’s so hard. Don’t nutters do that?
But maybe I’ve been thinking on the wrong lines. Maybe I’ve been thinking about talking about Jesus rather than letting Jesus show Himself in me. In His Joy.
It reminds me of a day quite soon after my husband died. Life was a bit bonkers – a child, a really demanding workload, raw grief, a brand new crippling mortgage, and just me to juggle it all. I was shopping in Sainsbury’s, reaching into a freezer, when I saw a grim face, a bitter face, glaring, really glaring, into mine. That woman was sour and cold and miserable. It was one hell of a shock – the woman was me, my reflection in a chrome surface. It was a wake-up call, and I realised that I had to change. That’s what I think the established church needs to do now, look in a mirror, and ask ‘Can I see the joy of Christ?’ and then change.
But change starts with me. So, I’m going to try Joy today.
Oh, yesss…. stand back.
Joy coming through.
Thanks for listening, if you have been.