What a pleasure to be back! As I sit here at my computer in my office with music playing, Rita, Betty and I having hugged and caught up, with Ginger’s snug asleep in her little doggie bed my heart is full of excited anticipation to see all of you!! My devotions this morning were appropriately focused on Joy as that’s exactly what I’m feeling stepping back into life together with you. There is much to be joyful about in returning: being well enough to work, seeing our snow-capped mountains, and all my dear Port Angeles friends! All of that is soooo good, and brings such joy! However in the past weeks I’ve been strongly reminded that it’s not just good views, being with good people and a sweet dog that guarantee true joy….as Jesus followers we’re promised Real Deal Joy no matter what comes our way…even in dark, uncertain times, even when you fear your life is threatened as I felt as an ambulance sped me to Harborview’s ER.
In my days away from you I was profoundly reminded that as people of faith we have a very unique experience with Joy, one that’s inextricably tied to our rela-tionship with the God we worship. No matter what life hurls our way we are people filled with God’s very Spirit who pours into us God’s very own Joy! The Psalmist writes that Joy fills our hearts just from being in relationship with our Awesome Creator God who faithfully and deeply loves us from conception to the grave. Luke tells us that the Angels shouted from the heavens the Good News of Great Joy for the whole world that Jesus Christ had been born! Paul speaks over and again of the Joy that Christ brings to us, the Joy of our faith in him, the Joy the Holy Spi-rit gives, the Joy of God making us God’s own hands & feet in the world! And, Paul insists that the Joy we have as Christ followers has nothing to do with our circumstances. That in peril, persecution, in bodily brokenness and sickness the Holy Spirit continues to course through our bodies with the resurrection power of God! That there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love and companionship of God through Christ Jesus! Nothing! That is Joyful News!
On top of being excited to see you dear friends, is my excitement to be back with you Holy Spirit filled people! To be with you, each of you with your own story, your testimony of dark, challenging times when you’ve experienced Jesus, the Light of the World breaking through. Maybe it only seemed like a glimmer of Light at first, a gentle, breaking of dawn far off on the horizon, but whether it was a blaze of bright, blinding glory or a simple soft glow of hope, you too have experienced Christ shining through and filling you with the Joy of knowing your not alone, your loved, your precious to the God who created you in his image. Joy!
See, it’s us in our worship, in our gathering around the Word, in our fellowship and serving that our faith is encouraged, strengthened, and grows! It’s where we lean on the faith of others when ours is weak. Where we’re reminded of who God is, and who we are things get confusing. We were made to be in relationship, to share life, and it’s in the Church where the Spirit mightily unties us together with God and each other. Where we remember that in life and in death we wholly and truly belong to God and that we don’t want to belong to anyone or anything more than God. So, dear people of God I’m so excited to be back with you and to experience with you the unfailing love and peace of our Joy giving God!