Those who sow with tears, will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them… Psalm 126
Joy is really important for mission. Joy deep within you. Joy deep within your church. Joy that has a constant source. Joy that never runs out.
There was a man I once knew, who used the phrase ‘deep joy’ as a form of punctuating sentences he used. If some good news was shared, he would respond with the phrase ‘deep joy’. If a mutual arrangement was made: ‘deep joy’. If he was offered an unexpected gift: ‘deep joy’. It became his Pavlovian exclamation to almost anything, or at least it seemed to be so. He was aiming to convey a joy that was deeper than fleeting happiness. A joy that he believed came from God. Sadly, in some circles, it became a subject of mirth, to the point where his catchphrase was featured on t-shirts worn by his friends. But was he on to something?
There is a wide range of things which bring us joy. A good movie. A compliment. A relaxed meal with friends. Seeing somebody change for the better. West Ham’s first win of the season. But like the Psalmist we know that life is not always joyful. We know that other feelings can crowd in and joy can get lost. This doesn’t mean that we should always be smiling and happy. It’s wonderful if you are, but the reality is that joy is something we can choose to have. It might take some effort, but it can become an integral part of our faith, even though we may not show it at all times. Joy can always be there as part of our make-up; one of the deeper ingredients of our life and faith.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Paul encourages us to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ in Galatians and part of this is knowing the joy of the Spirit. We can experience this joy when we follow Paul’s advice. It is a gift to us, but we need to receive it with open arms and hearts. We might have to turn ourselves to God in a deliberate act of meditation or action to receive the joy he gives to us. Each of us will do it differently, but we should take the time to receive and know the joy of the Holy Spirit!
And how does this have a link to the mission life of our church? Joy is foundational to our faith. Maybe, if we experience the joy of the Holy Spirit more, we might find our faith would shine brighter and longer into our communities. When we are joyful, we feel positive, energised and confident. The joy of the Holy Spirit could help us in our mission as a church. It could be the wellspring for ideas, creativity and engagement with our community. We may never know when our joy might make a difference to someone that we meet. So let’s be joyful. Let’s know joy deep down in our heart.