Sermon at First Presbyterian Church Lockhart

"Where Is Our Joy?"

Isaiah 12:2-6,Psalm 126,Philippians 4:4-7

December 13, 2009

by James Greene

Have you ever noticed how some people just have a sense of Joy as part of their DNA and their personality?The wife of one of my CLP classmates, is just such a person.We all wentout to a restaurant after the Presbytery meeting in October.There was a mariachi band there and she just really loved the music.The energy, and sense of, just being in the moment, and enjoying the fellowship, had us all caught up in the music and the joy of our gathering.It was fun from the heart.

Much like the reading from the Psalm 126 this morning, we see the theme in a song of joy.It is one of the Psalms of ascent, that was sung by worshipers, on the way up to the Temple in Jerusalem.Just like this Season of Advent, it demonstrates praises of anticipation, and of Godís redemptive works and blessings in our lives, and in their lives.It is also a request for God to restore us and our fortunes.We can express the same request in the modern day example of the current economic down turn.(Especially when you see your 401 turn into a 201.)

†††††††††† Some people see the Verses 5-6 as asking God to give them a harvest for their work, that God would supply only the equal amount of effort they put into the sowing and planting.It is a continuation of God bestowing ďa crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning.It is the sowing in tears in planting that yields, a Joy that is ten-fold, in the realization of resurrection, which is Godís Will for all people.It is where death has been conquered, and we are released from darkness.This is the Joy of Resurrection with the great in-gathering of Godís people. We see how this Psalm is a reflection of, the same Hope and Joy, and anticipation seen in this Advent Season.

ISharing Joy ††††

†††††††††† Do you know that the Capitol City A&M Club in Austin, provides 8 scholarships to Texas A&M?Did you know, they provide more scholarships than any other A&M Club?We call it evangelizing.We convert longhorn kids, and send them off to be Aggies.It is part of the Greater Plan to keep the universe in balance.

Every year on April 21st, at Aggie Muster, they announce and introduce the recent local high school graduates who are the recipients of scholarships.One year the key speaker for Muster was Mr. Frank W. Cox III from Dallas.Heís the author of the book ďI Bleed MaroonĒ.He had a great message to those recent graduates, who were leaving home, and going off to college for the first time: Once upon a time, there was this Aggie who was working for the highway department in a summer job.He was hired to paint the center stripes on the new road.

So, on Monday, they gave him a paint brush and set a bucket of paint on the center line, and put him to work.That day, he painted 5 miles of stripes on the fresh asphalt.

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His boss was really impressed.

The next day he painted 4 miles and that was Good, but by that Friday he had only painted 1 mile.His boss came up to him, a little upset and said, ďAggie, you did such a good job on Monday painting those stripes, but today you only completed 1 mile.Whatís wrong?Why are you slacking off?The Aggie said, ďWell Mr. Supervisor, Iím trying as hard as I can, but itís a long way back to that bucket

Mr. Coxísmessage was this:ďyou take the bucket with youĒ.Everything that the young high school graduates had learned: the values learned at home, from their extended families, in their church, in their school, they needed to remember them and to take it with them, when they went away to college.It was a part of their character and a part of their identity.

 

It is the same with us here in this congregation. We need to remember that Godís gifts at Christmas are not just to us, and for us.They are to be shared.We, like the Aggie, need to remember that we are called to take the bucket with us.We are to share Godís gift of Joy with those around us, in the field and in the work place.

God does have a sense of humor, and that humor is a result of His Joy.We know that laughter sometimes is the by-product of Joy.For those of us who carry a few extra pounds around after Thanksgiving, laughter is also good exercise.Iíve been told it is like jogging, on the inside.†††††

 

IITrue Joy

†††††††††† The reading from Isaiah talks about drawing water, with Joy, from the wells of salvation.It is an image of singing while we work.How many times do we carry

a tune with us while weíre working?How many times, is it a tune praising Godís blessings in our lives?Like the Psalm of assent, it makes the work easier, and it is really an act of prayer, in our work.It is like the Aggie painting the stripes on the highway.We bring our Joy with us, in the workplace, in the midst of where we live.

†††††††††† Remember, when the Angels came to proclaim the birth of Jesus, they did not go to the people worshiping in Temple, or to the Priests.They went to the shepherds.They came to them, out in the middle of the fields, in the middle of their work, bringing the Joy of the Good News that their salvation and God was present among them.

It is an Amazing Joy, - in really knowing that God cares for us in our lives, in the middle of our work relationships.(from Turning Point, 1993) ďWhere then is real Joy found? -- the answer is simple, - in Christ aloneIt is not about what makes you Ďhappyí, but what really gives you Joy.

 

IIIOur Joy

What does this mean to us today, -individually?In our reading in Philippians we are called to be Joyful in the Lord,- always.The same as in the Psalm, we are to be a walking hymn of praise to God.It should be a part of our character and identity, just like the young graduates going away to college.It should be with us always, and we should always (like the bucket) take it with us.Joy is also the by-product of obedience.

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IV So, today we ask: ďWhere is our Joy

When we fulfill our purpose we share Godís Love and we share Godís Joy.

It is not happiness, but a truly heart warming radiance that comes from deep within, that brings us to our feet singing.It is a heart felt thankfulness, that can not be put into words.Joy is a sense of ĎHomeí.It is the feeling of being in the midst of the church family; of being accepted as you are,-- where you are in your journey.

It is knowing that someone loves you, and that will carry you through the coldest of days or seasons.Joy is knowing (in our heart of hearts) that our God loves us, seeks us out and calls us to him.

So, in this Season of Advent,- in your Joy, - share it freely.It is Godís gift to us as Godís People, that we cannot store up, or we cannot bottle, or we cannot manufacture.We have to share it, because it is part of us, and comes from the core of our very being.

This Joy is Godís gift Ö.

 

From The Father, and The Son, and The Holy Spirit.A-men

 

 

 

 

 

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Charge and Benediction

In an article written ďToday In The WordĒ, back in June, 1988 (p. 18)

 

A man in around 200 AD, was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: "It's a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it

a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy, which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome

the world. These people are the Christians--and I am one of them."

So, remember, Rejoice in the Lord always.I say again,- Rejoice!!

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†††††††††† "The grace of God, which passeth all understanding,††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††† TBoCP

†††††††††† keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God,

††††††††††††††††††††† and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

†††††††††† And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

††††††††††††††††††††† be amongst you and remain with you always."