Full of Joy

This message was shared at Centerville United Methodist Church in Centerville, IN on Sunday, November 2nd. Matthew 5:1-12 was the Scripture reading for the day. Prior to the sermon, a brief explanation on All Saints Day/Sunday was shared utilizing resources from Ministry Matters and the General Board of Discipleship of the UMC. 

“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.” (Matthew 5:3-4)

Our Scripture this morning came from Matthew 5:1-12. Can you imagine being in the crowd as Jesus began to deliver this teaching. He starts with these words…”Happy are people who are hopeless.” How many of us would have dismissed Jesus at this point? Are you kidding me? Happy are the people who are hopeless? If we just heard the first parts of each statement, we’d probably think this Jesus character is nuts! “Happy are the hopeless. Happy are people who grieve. Happy are the humble and meek.”  I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been hopeless, I haven’t been happy. When I’m grieving, I’m rarely happy.

Eugene Peterson, in the Message paraphrase of these verses writes, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

The idea is that, when we become fully dependent, fully obedient, and fully faithful to God, we can find true happiness…no matter where we are in life. When we seek God, there is that “peace that passes all understanding”…that somehow we make it through the most difficult moments of life. We are not to look at our current situation…but look to what lies ahead…and be “full of joy and be glad.”

When we realize that this life is not the end of the story…when we realize that the reign of the kingdom of God is a very real and present thing…we can find hope, joy, comfort, peace, and, yes, even happiness. While our pain and sorrow is real and may last for quite some time, we should be working towards joy. When we think of the tremendous blessings the saints brought into our lives, we should be full of joy and be glad.

In the Gospels, we see the powerful, yet compassionate side of Jesus. We see a Jesus who brought happiness through breaking down barriers, walking with people through difficult moments, and performing miracles. “Jesus performed some miracles as signs of his identity. He used other miracles to teach important truths. But we also read that he healed people because he “had compassion on them.” Jesus was, and is, a loving, caring, and feeling person. When you are suffering, when you are grieving, remember that Jesus hurts and mourns with you. He has compassion on you.” (From Life Application Study Bible Devotion, Day 166 on Matthew 14:14)

I believe it is a miracle when God meets us in our suffering, in our grieving and mourning and turns our mourning into dancing, our grieving into gladness, and our tears into shouts of joyous praise. Jesus’ desire is not to rush our mourning or grieving period, but to offer us love, grace, mercy, compassion and peace as we suffer through the pain and sorrow of human loss.

This text is appropriate for a day like All Saints Sunday. On this day, we remember those who have gone before and provided a faithful witness of following Christ. In this text, Jesus is essentially saying that God is with us at all times. When we are hopeless, God is with us. When we grieve and mourn, God is with us. When we hunger & thirst for righteousness and justice, God is with us. The blessedness and happiness Jesus speaks of is the blessed assurance that God truly is with us…when we are hopeless, when we grieve and mourn, wherever we’re at, whatever we’re facing, through the good, the bad, and the ugly, God is with us. That produces joy and gladness. We have been blessed…we must engage life fully…we need to strive to embrace happiness, knowing that this is not the end of the story.

Our journey to happiness may be long and difficult. We may experience moments of happiness, followed by moments of grief. The key is to make Jesus the central focus of our lives…no matter what we are facing…and we’ll be able to have confidence that one day all our sorrows will fade and we will embrace true happiness in the presence of our Creator.

Pharrell Williams is a musician, producer, and currently a judge on NBC’s the voice. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. I believe his song “Happy” gives us a glimpse and idea of what happiness looks like. Let’s take a look at Pharrell Williams “Happy”

How do we, as followers of Christ, embody the happiness Jesus speaks of? Does our relationship with Jesus provide us with such comfort, peace, hope and joy that we just can’t help but sing and dance? The Bible tells us that God will turn our mourning into dancing, our tears into shouts of joy (Psalm 30:11)!

In light of Christ’s resurrection, evil, sin, not even death have the final word…though the pain and suffering may last a long time, it won’t be the final word. So, on all saints Sunday, we celebrate life! We remember those saints in our lives, we honor those saints in our lives, we celebrate the lives of those saints, and we strive to follow their example.

Let us think of the saints that have gone before. Who are the saints in your life? I think of Dale Brubaker (prophetic words of wisdom), Jay Leatherman (encouraging, kind words), and my great-grandmother Cora Bathauer (faithful example). What is it that qualifies them as saints? Their hope in Christ and their faithful witness.

One of the ways we can honor that “great cloud of witnesses” is by attempting to live faithful lives, providing a faithful witness for those who will come after us. By participating in the life of our church in our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness, we not only honor the saints, we honor God, and we set an example of faithfulness. Next Sunday, we will hold a Rally Day. Following the worship service, you will be invited to join us in the fellowship hall to visit tables and learn more about our ministry teams. This will give you an opportunity to sign up to participate in areas that interest you or in which you are gifted. My goal is that we would all take “A.I.M.”…all in ministry. We need each and every one of you. Whether you serve on a team or commit to pray for our church, you are a crucial part of this church. If we are going to grow, if we are going to reach more people with the good news of Jesus Christ, if we are going “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” it will take all of us working together. Serving the church is a step towards faithful obedience of Jesus. So, following the worship service on the 9th, you’re going to want to sign up for something…because we won’t let you out of the building until you have! It’s going to be a busy day as we honor our Veterans as well!

Rev. Tom Heaton from Mission Guatemala will be here to share about the mission and present a challenging message that confronts our tendency to make excuses…to find reasons why we can’t serve. Tom is a very passionate and gifted preacher. His heart for missions is contagious. I am a better person because of Tom’s example and friendship. I can’t wait for you all to meet him and hear about this incredible mission. He will share about the mission in more detail during the Sunday school hour. This would be an excellent Sunday to invite your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers.

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