Our scriptures today are all about Sabbath, which is supposed to mean rest. But “keeping the Sabbath” across generations in the church often turned into grim adherence to strict traditions rather than true rest and refreshment.
It was as if people were supposed to work hard at resting!
We sometimes think of Christianity as hard work—and it undoubtedly is.
We have to work against our old familiar sins and pray for God to help us increase in virtue and generosity.
But at heart, Christianity is not about work.
Suffering and struggle are vital parts of the journey that have their own unique spiritual value, but suffering and struggle and work always lead somewhere else. And that somewhere to which they lead is joy.
The Bible is full of joy.
The entire purpose of the Bible is to communicate the joy of salvation—it even says so: “We are writing these things to you that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:4).
The psalmist says of God, “You show me the path of life, in your presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11). The opening line of our psalm this morning is, “Sing with joy to God our strength.” (Psalm 81:1)
And Jesus says to us directly of his entire message to us, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11).
The church is a place of joy that encourages the believers and strengthens them to go out and serve in the world.
In Acts we read that “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:52).
Paul writes over and over to the congregations of the early church about how their prayers and good works and simple presence as people give him such joy. He tells the believers in Thessalonica, “Yes, you are our glory and joy!”
Paul writes about an upcoming visit to the Romans, “Join me in earnest prayer to God…so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.” (Romans 15:30-33).
That is my prayer for St. Francis this summer as well, that we may abide in joy and take refreshment from one another’s company in this church.
You have worked so hard! I want you to take these summer months to really enjoy church. Continue reading