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A little introduction to “…and then there was joy, a fall devotional.”
The world always carries an ache, whether in our own bodies or our neighbors’ bodies. Some days we are more in tune with that ache than others. But, held within is also the promise of joy. Not “joy that pushes away sorrow” but a joy that doubles over with effervescent laughter even as we wipe tears out of our eyes or our neighbors’ eyes. When we least expect it, a bright embodied joy emerges. In this odd season, where compassion fatigue, zoom fatigue and just general fatigue are not quite yet in the rear view mirror, and yet life must go on anyway, I hope that a fall devotional on joy helps you awaken to the presence of God within the ordinary, the extraordinary, the perplexing, and the impossible. Monday through Friday from now until Advent, I will curate a scripture passage and a joy-adjacent essay or poem, and I will write a prayer to accompany word and reflection, so that we might dig deeper into who God calls us to be.
Thank you again for joining me on a journey into prayer. I am grateful for you.
Katie Snipes Lancaster
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
Rejoice in hope,
be patient in suffering,
persevere in prayer.
A Look at Joy
The difference between joy and fun is as great as the distinction between joy and a gamble of chance, or between a meaningful life and a lottery win. Joy is enduring and puts a mark on one’s attitude to living. Fun is short-term and serves amusement. True joy is only possible with one’s whole heart, whole soul, and all one’s energies. The feeling about life that underlies the party-making fun society is, I suspect, more boredom with life than true joy. True joy opens the soul, is a flow of spirits, giving our existence a certain easiness. We may have fun, but we are in joy. In true joy, the ecstatic nature of human existence comes to expression. We are created for joy. We are born for joy.
As Friedrich Nietzsche writes:
Joy—deeper still than misery:
Pain says: Refrain!
Yet all joy wants eternity
—wants deep, wants deep eternity.
Why is Christianity such a unique relation of joy, even though at its center stands the suffering of God and the cross of Christ? Because we remember the death of Christ in light of his resurrection, and we remember his resurrection in the splendor of the divine, eternal life that is embracing our human and mortal life already here and now. This is the logic of “how much more” (Paul Ricoeur): where sin is powerful, God’s grace is much more powerful (Romans 5:20), for Christ has died, but how much more is Christ risen and has Christ overcome death (Romans 8)! So pain too will be caught up and gathered into joy, despair into hope, and temporal death into the joy of divine life. Pains are passing, and I hear praise everlasting.
(excerpted from Jurgen Moltmann’s essay “Christianity: A Religion of Joy” in the 2015 book “Joy and Human Flourishing” edited by Miroslav Volf)
God, take us deeper.
Take us deeper into joy.
Not for our own amusement,
but for the sake of
an authentic expression
of human existence.
In all things, make a way, O God.