I love the Church! I love the congregation at Woodland Church in particular. Life with them is joyous, with its seasons of celebrations of birth, new birth, baptisms, holidays (Holy Days) like Christmas, Easter, Pentecost. It’s also sobering with its seasons of fasting at Lent and the funerals where we worship our LORD and offer our thanks for the life of our brother or sister in Christ.
Today, someone expressed their thanks that Woodland is becoming more multicultural. It made me think while driving to a funeral that the Church is made up of every tribe, nation, ethnicity and language group in the world. It is a Church on earth and in heaven, whose members form a cloud of witnesses. Looking out at Woodland and seeing what God is doing in us brings joy to my heart. For instance the joy I saw in Phillip and Melody as they led us in song Sunday morning, the smiles, hugs, and noisy greetings passed as we welcomed one another, the thoughtful faces as the Word was preached, joy in giving and praying.
Sunday night, we laughed and listened to the stories shared in a small group that we were invited to. Arriving at home last night sleep came quickly but it was a deep and joyful rest.
This morning I rode with two pastors and my daughter to the funeral. I listened as they recalled yesterday’s ministry with joy, thanksgiving and quite a bit of laughter.
The funeral was in a beautiful little church outside of Jackson, Michigan. We sang hymns, listened to a granddaughter read so expressively Psalm 23, and a son-in-law give a tearful but grateful and joyful tribute to his mother-in-law, and to the pastor of the church’s message from Isaiah 43. The message was Fear Not and included the story of a wife, mother and grandmother who loved Christ and His Church and lived by faith with joy! I watched as her family was comforted by their mother’s pastor’s message and memories sensing a deep joy among those attending. They knew! That Wanita was with Christ. (See Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8)
The more I reflected today, I thought of those from our congregation who feed the hungry, care for the sick, support missions, lead our children and youth ministries, who serve civically, teach in our schools, coach athletics, our artists, Connections hosts, and all who passionately follow Christ leading their families and doing good work. And in all they find joy in Christ and one another.
After leaving my study at Woodland I went for a run. All along the way I could only think about the joy experienced by so many of the people I pastor knowing the personal trials they have had. How? They have experienced the grace and forgiveness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
After a quick shower our family gathered around the table laughing, eating and telling stories of the day. Once again joy!
I find so much joy in knowing Christ. I find joy in my wife, children, grandsons, and friends. I find joy in the people I pastor! I find joy serving our community. I find joy in life. But as I was reminded today, someday I will find joy in dying in faith, for to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord. What a joyful way to go to sleep tonight
Joy in Christ, in one another, in serving is so different than fun. Fun is fun then it’s over. I like fun. But I live for joy, that is eternal and fulfilling!