The late, great theologian Erma Bombeck once wrote,
“In church the other Sunday I was intent on a small child who was turning around smiling at everyone. He wasn’t gurgling, spitting, humming, kicking, tearing the hymnals, or rummaging through his mother’s handbag. He was just smiling. Finally, his mother jerked him about and in a stage whisper that could be heard in a little theater off Broadway said, ‘Stop grinning! You’re in church’ And with that she gave him a swat on his hindside and as the tears rolled down his cheeks added, ‘that’s better,’ and returned to her prayers.” She goes on to say “I wanted to grab this child with the tear-stained face and hold him close to me and tell him about my God. The God of joy. The smiling God. The God who had to have the sense of humor to have created the likes of us.”
There is Joy as we gather together to worship Him, and as we hear His Word. He wants to have fellowship with us, that we know and trust Him above all things, and desire to live with Him in His Kingdom forevermore.
Throughout the history of the Christian Church, the faithful have gathered at the church for worship, not only on Sundays, but throughout the week as well. Holy Cross has appointed a few times throughout the course of the year for 'mid-week' worship. During the season of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, we are called to come to the church for worship on Wednesdays evenings for six consecutive weeks. During Holy Week, we are called to come to church on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Additional 'mid-week' services we've limited to Advent, and Christmas Eve.
Why is it important to respond to the call to come to these 'mid-week' services?
For one, they mark the most significant events in the life of our Lord, Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ, we want to be with Him and celebrate His life in His temple. Compare this to the birthday or anniversary of a child or parent or dear friend. We surely would not miss attending the occasion unless it was absolutely impossible to be present.
Secondly, it is important to allow these important times to interrupt our daily routine. When the church calls it's people to come to church during the mid-week, it is an interruption to our regular routine (and we all like our routines), and it may be a refreshing opportunity to see the presence of Jesus in the middle of our day-to-day life that we too often miss. It also presents the opportunity for the strengthening of self-discipline to set aside what can be set aside for the sake of hearing the Word, and for prayer.
I suspect that a great many people, both outside as well as inside the church may wonder just how much pleasure and joy is appropriate for Christians. Confession, repentance, self-sacrifice seem to be the dominate themes of the faith. Yet, the call to ‘rejoice’ is a command that is repeated over and over again throughout the Old and New Testament. What does the Bible have to say about pleasure and joy? It’s important for us to know because it does seem as though we are confused, and in our confusion, we have taken this whole business of pleasure and joy out of God’s hands. Which may well account for why we are such a “pleasure-seeking” people and yet such a joyless people as well.
The angels announce “joy to the world,” because “the Lord has come.” Jesus offers you a “complete joy.” He says, “I am the vine and you are the branches. As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”
The Christian faith is not a theology of sorrow and sadness. By no means! It is a theology of joy. But it is a theology that real joy is to be found in a relationship with the One who has established true joy through His death and resurrection. Only in Him will your joy and pleasure ever be “complete.”
Join us again on the Lenten Journey, won't you?