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July 5, 2021

Be a Blessing: Be Joyful

Be a Blessing Banner at First Congregational United Church of Christ (DeWitt, Iowa)

Every day at my house, right around dinner time, there is a moment of ridiculous joy.

Most of you know that Mariah and I live with a dachshund named Hildegard. We got Hildegard from the Quad City Animal Welfare Center when she was about two years old. Now, she’s about nine-and-a-half. She’d getting older. She’s slowing down a little bit. She has occasional back problems. She’s just not quite the sprightly young puppy that she used to be.

Hildegard likes to nap on the couch. She likes to snuggle into nice soft cabled fleece blanket. She likes to sit on the chair by the window and bark at the world. She likes to roll in the grass and sneak snacks off the sidewalk.

And she loves Greenies. She loves her something dental every day. She loves these special treats that she gets while the humans eat dinner, and that keep her teeth clean and her gums healthy.

And so, in the evenings, we have a routine.

While I’m cooking dinner, she starts sniffing around the kitchen, hoping for a tiny piece of bacon or chicken or carrot or whatever. As I set the table, she starts following me around with her eyes wide open and her ears perked up. And when I open the drawer where the Greenies are, and pull out the bag, and open the bag, and pull out the treat…

Well, if you’ve ever had a dog you know those moments when they get so excited that they can’t contain it. She wags her tail… and she wags her whole body… and she jumps up.

And when I ask, “Where do you go?”, this dog—this dog who’s getting older, and slowing down a little bit, who has occasional back problems, and who just isn’t the sprightly young puppy that she used to be—runs through the house and leaps into her crate.

And I give her the Greenies. And she wolfs it down so fast that I’m not sure it actually does anything for her teeth or her gums.

It’s a ritual of pure unbridled ridiculous joy for a dachshund.

And it’s a ritual of joy for me, too. That joy might not be as pure or unbridled or ridiculous, but it’s still joy. And joy is important. Joy is a celebration of being, a manifestation of abundance, an act of resistance against the world as-it-is, an act of imagining the world-as-it-could-be.

In fact, it is such an act of imagination that—for just a moment—we are transported to the world-as-it-could-be… to the world-as-God-intends-it.

Joy is a little glimpse of the kingdom of God. It is revolutionary.

This week, we are continuing our summer sermon series about being a blessing. We’ve talked about leading with love, and praying often, and practicing peace, and giving thanks. We’ve talked about how those are ways of being blessed and ways of being a blessing.

And, later, we’ll talk about being kind, and doing good, and having courage; we’ll talk about working for justice, and being the light, and encouraging others. We’ll talk about how those are ways of being blessed and being a blessing.

But today, we are talking about being joyful.

And, like last week, our reading is a psalm. It’s a hymn. It’s a song. It’s the kind of thing that you might sing as loudly as you can while you dance around the living room.

It’s a song that offers praise to God: “Declare the glory of the Lord among the nations! Declare their marvelous works among the people! For God is great… and God is greatly to be praised!”

It’s a song that offers glory to God: “Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name. Being an offering; come into their courts; worship in splendor, all of the earth.”

And it is a song of joy. It’s Let’s Go Crazy. It’s Walking on Sunshine. It’s Uptown Funk. It’s Good as Hell.
“Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice. Let the sea roar and the field exult. Let the trees sing for joy and the forests dance. For God is coming to judge the world with righteousness and truth!”

This is a song of joy.

And just like last week, we are right there with the songwriter, because we know that we have reasons for joy.

We know that God’s judgment… is mercy. We know that it’s liberation. We know that it’s salvation.

We know that in the hardest moments of our lives, when we are at our most distraught… when we are at our most broken… when we are weighed down under a crushing mass of sin… God looks at us with love… and lifts us up from the ash heap… and fills our cracks with gold… and turns our scars into artwork… and restores us to life.

And knowing that—knowing who God is and what God does… for our sake and for the sake of creation—how can we keep from singing? How can we keep from calling on the heavens and the earth, the seas and the fields, the trees and the forests, to rejoice? How can we keep from dancing around the living room… or the sanctuary… or fellowship hall… or the parking lot?

Joy is a celebration of being, a manifestation of abundance, an act of resistance against the world as-it-is, an act of imagining the world-as-it-could-be. In fact, it is such an act of imagination that—for just a moment—we are transported to the world-as-it-could-be… to the world-as-God-intends-it.

Joy is a little glimpse of the kingdom of God. It is revolutionary.

And don’t get me wrong: it is true that everything has its season, it is true that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. There is righteous anger. There is holy frustration. There is sacred resignation. There is even prophetic barking.

But it is also true that there are forces in this world that want to rob us of our joy.

There are media networks dedicated to stoking our anger at those people over there… who live across town, or over in the city, or halfway around the world… who look different, or act different, or talk different.

There are companies that make money off of our frustrations… with how we look, or where we live, or our social status; with what we eat, or what we drive, or what we wear.

There are people in power who would be happy if we would just resign ourselves to the way things are… if we would just say to ourselves… if we would just say to each other… if we would just say to the world, “Why bother? Nothing’s going to change.”

And I will say it again: there is righteous anger. There is holy frustration. There is sacred resignation. There is even prophetic barking.

But in the face of those forces that want to rob us of our joy… joy is an act of resistance… joy is revolutionary.
Joy is the little glimpse of the kingdom of God that inspires us to seek the next little glimpse of the kingdom of God. And at its best… at is purest… at its most unbridled… at its most ridiculous…

…it is the dance that inspires us to clear the floor so that everyone can dance…

…it is the laughter that inspires us to tell the joke so that everyone can laugh with us…

…is it the song that inspires us to teach people the words and the melody so that everyone can raise their voices…

…it is that feeling that inspires us to call out for friends and neighbors, for strangers and enemies, for heaven and earth, for seas and fields, for people and animals, for trees and forests to join in the celebration…

…and to make sure that everyone… that everyone… that absolutely everyone… can join in the celebration.

Every day at my house, right around dinner time, there is a moment of ridiculous joy.

And I don’t think that Hildegard knows that she’s bringing a little bit of revolution into our house; though I will admit that dogs know things that we don’t. But whether she knows it or not, she is bringing a little bit of revolution—she is bringing a little bit of the kingdom of God—because she is bringing a little bit of joy.

And the truth is that the world needs more joy. The world needs more dancing, and more laughing, and more singing, and more celebrating. The world needs more pure, unbridled, ridiculous joy.

Because when that joy fills the world—when everyone can be part of it—we will be surrounded by the kingdom of God. And what a wonderful world that will be.

Monday, July 5, 2021
Be a Blessing Banner at First Congregational United Church of Christ (DeWitt, Iowa)

about

I’m a pastor, an author, and a nonprofit development and communications professional. My passion, my mission, and my calling is bringing people together to do good, with a particular focus on serving people who are experiencing poverty and other forms of marginalization.

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