Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Journey into Joy, #1

The Colorado Rockies are the buzzsaw to end all buzzsaws. Good grief, have they ever redefined the definition of "hot streak."


My preaching path has taken me on a personal journey. The church at Woodward Park is coming along for the ride, but the journey is mine to take.

It is a journey I'm craving. A journey long overdue.

It's a journey into joy based on Paul's little 104-verse letter to the church at Philippi. Among the themes that dominate Paul's writing -- no less than 14 different times within the letter -- is the theme of, you guessed it, joy!

Now, how does one attain joy? That's really what I'm craving to know. How does a person cultivate a life of joy?

I think our contemporary, marketing-crazed society would define joy something like this: "joy is a feeling of pleasure derived from pleasing circumstances." "If my karma is good," the popular notion might go, "and the stars are aligned just right and my horoscope says so, then I can expect the circumstances of my day to be pleasing." In the culture around me, I think that's the gist of how popular thinking regarding joy goes.

But is that all joy is? Is joy simply the residue of a lucky break? Frankly, when I've attempted to manage or manipulate my own life in the hopes of manufacturing what I perceive to be agreeable circumstances, the stress and anxiety of it all saps me of any hint of joy.

Ironically, when Paul penned his inspired letter to the Philippian church, he wrote not from the sanctity of a quiet study but with the clanging of the shackles around his own wrists echoing through his prison cell. Chained to the Roman Praetorian Guard, for nothing more than his faithfulness to the cause of Jesus Christ, Paul pens a letter to a church that had gone above-and-beyond in their care and concern for his well being.

We'd forgive Paul if the tenor of his letter was fraught with anger and bitterness. After all, he's in prison...for doing exactly what Jesus asked him to do! This isn't punishment as a consequence of wrongdoing, this is an injustice of the highest order. Yet, Paul's words offer no hint, no not one, of bitterness or anger.

When he writes, his words drip with, you guessed it, joy!

How did Paul achieve such joy, separate and apart from his circumstances? It's clear that his circumstances are inconsequential to the joy he experiences deep in the bowels of his Roman prison cell, but even deeper in the recesses of his own heart.

Tomorrow, I'll share with you a secret I've learned about attaining such joy -- the joy that rises above the circumstances and sustained Paul, and can sustain you and I, through any trial.