Since Easter, our pastors have offered a series of sermons called Practice Joy. The anthems and hymns have been joy-based.
Still, sometimes I forget about doing joy. I read the news or watch it on television and become distraught. It’s not just the latest shooting, but about some state legislator from Tennessee (I think) who says we can’t do anything about it. Or the book bans that are designed to “protect” our kids from becoming transvestite Latinx bisexuals spouting Critical Race Theory. When I see this, I curse at my television, quite literally.
But two events last weekend reminded me of the power of joy. One was the sermon, tied to Romans 12:9-21. Specifically, in verse 15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There is power in not going through the pain alone; there is even a reflective joy.
The other was that my wife and I attended a gathering at the First United Methodist Church of Schenectady. The congregation was celebrating its 27th Anniversary as a Reconciling Congregation. For those not versed in UMC lingo, “All persons are recipients of God’s love and grace; God intends the church to be a community which embodies love, grace and justice for all people as a sign of God’s covenant. We, therefore, will continue to seek and welcome persons of any age, gender, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability as full participants in our community of faith.”
The speaker was Bishop Karen P. Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Conference, the first openly LGBTQAI Bishop in the United Methodist Church. She may be the most optimistic pastor I’ve encountered, and I’ve known a few.
After speaking for a while, she asked us to discuss the things that distress us with a neighbor. This was very easy. After another bit of her sharing, she called on us to share what we did to bring ourselves joy. This was more difficult.
After the talk, my wife and Karen got reacquainted. Karen is the sister of one of my wife’s best friends since college. Karen had spoken in Oneonta, about an hour from here, at some point pre-COVID, but I couldn’t make it.
On the lookout
After the talk, I started looking for every opportunity to find joy. We went out to a diner and had cheeseburgers. Of late, we rarely have beef, so it was terrific.
Then I went home. A blanket had covered my stuffed animals because I was tidying up. But they gave me joy – I was reminded of this when a young girl at the Karen Oliveto talk mentioned hers – so I needed to liberate them. One of my favorites is Lenny. He’s named after Leonard Bernstein and has the sweetest roar. We hung out on the sofa and watched TV.
The next day at church, there were several opportunities for humor. Like many funny things, the humor is diminished in the retelling. One encounter involved pizza, inside out.
Don’t forget to practice joy. It’s easy to forget.