Smiles. Genuine, Christ-shaped smiles everywhere. Retirees chatting happily in the sanctuary before service starts. Deacons cutting up with one another while they greet church members and visitors at the door. Children chasing each other through the pews and chairs and halls and stairs. Two lady friends giggling in the back of the sanctuary. I love the joy that bubbles up and spills over every time I’m at church.
I notice many every Sunday and Wednesday many in our our congregation taking seriously Paul’s command,
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Like any church, we have people who struggle with life’s difficulties. We have some who’s general disposition tends somber. We have others who can be negative from time to time. But as a whole, those who come on a week to week basis are seeking hope and joyously looking to the Answer. I make a beeline often to one church member who’s always got some quick witted jab or smart retort. I will often seek out another to playfully remind him how Alabama fans like himself tend to agitate many of the rest of us. I shared in a sermon I preached a while back about my disdain for spiders. My church family has constantly reminded me of that. I’ve had more than a few “fear of spider” memes or “jump-out-at-you” spider videos shared to my Facebook page with an “Oh Robert…” note attached. It’s all in good fun.
The lighthearted playfulness reflects Pastor Greg’s jovial nature. In my time at Mud Creek, I have heard countless tales of practical jokes, pranks, and fun moments (and I’ve participated in one or two). Most are true, while others, well, let’s just say I am sure a healthy helping of exaggeration has been dolloped on top. But here’s one important piece of advice for any of you wanting to get in on the joking action—snakes aren’t a laughing matter with Pastor Greg (to him at least).
Shouldn’t we as God’s children have the most fun? Shouldn’t we be the most joy-filled of all people? Shouldn’t we truly enjoy one another and the time we have to gather together? Yes! We should because we have eternal hope. In Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, he has defeated everything that can steal our joy. In his process of remaking us as Christians into his image, he’s consistently restoring joy and gladness even in the midst of discouragement and difficulties. And Paul tells us a little later in Philippians the perspective which gives this joy.
12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
In Christ’s power, we can face whatever circumstances come our way. In his strength, we can have joy regardless of what we are facing. And in his wisdom, we can have assurance that the light and momentary trials of this world will one day pass, and we will enjoy heaven in Jesus’ presence for all eternity. Joy! True, Christ-shaped joy everywhere.
My church gets this right. And that’s one reason I love my church!