so i'm preaching this week (that's right, i'm a preacher. you know, in some ways its weird to say that i'm a preacher. i don't normally introduce myself that way. i tell people i'm a pastor or a united methodist minister. i don't often say that i'm a preacher. the title 'preacher' sounds antiquated to me, like some sweaty revivalist threatening people with menacing scriptures about sin and hell. and yet, i absolutely am a preacher. i preach weekly. and i love preaching. its one of my favorite parts of being in ministry. as you may know, i love words, and so being able to connect with people through the ministry and mystery of words is an absolute joy for me. and so, back to main topic of this post: joy) on joy. there have been approximately 45 trillion sermons delivered on this particular topic, so i'm not sure what i am audacious enough to think i am really going to add to the canon of joy sermons. but i'll give it my best shot. i spent some time chewing on nehemiah yesterday, and how the Israelites had been through some incredible turmoil and stress and pain and grief. and after such a long time, and after so much work of rebuilding and reconstructing, when ezra and nehemiah and the levites read the law to them, they wept. this is from nehemiah 8 if you want to look it up. anyway, the people wept. they fell down and cried. we aren't told exactly why. but we are told that nehemiah's response wasn't to pat them on the back and say, "oh, its ok. let it all out. this is nothing that a little anti-depressant won't take care of." no. instead, nehemiah tells them to get up and celebrate and prepare a feast and prepare enough for those who don't have anything to prepare. he tells them that this is a sacred day, a holy day, a day for feasting and celebrating. why? "because the joy of the LORD is your strength."
is the joy of the LORD my strength? i don't know. i want it to be. i want to be sustained by joy. i want to be surprised by joy (cs lewis). i want to be moved by joy. i want to en-joy (in-joy). i want to share joy. i want to live and breath joy. i want to share joy. i want to be known for joy: for loving every minute of this crazy life. for being wide-eyed with wonder at the sky and the moon and the colors and the air and the feel of coldness in my lungs and at how bad those american idol auditions are and how blessed i am.
sometimes i think i need to stop berating myself. stop regretting this or that. stop crying about how hard its been. stop worrying about how hard it might be. and just celebrate, because the joy of the LORD is my strength.