Sparking Joy

 This is a transcript from the March 10, 2019 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.

It's about joy. Starting a new sermon series as we start the season of Lent. For all the different things that it might be about, I want you to know this, it's core. This is all about joy. This is about the joy that is there for us. It's about the joy we miss. This is about the joy that surrounds us. This is about the joy we get to participate in. It's about joy.

To start this off, I want to introduce you, perhaps, or I just want to ask, do you know this woman? Some of you do. I can tell just by the way you're chuckling. Some of you do or someone you know does who's been badgering you about her. Her name is Marie Kondo. Marie Kondo is a bestselling author. She also has her own TV show that's a big hit. The thing that makes people such fans of Marie Kondo is she helps people tidy up. The name of her book is called The Magic of Tidying up. I want you to think about that, somebody has a best-selling book and the smash TV show about tidying up.

Does it spark Joy? | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock Churches

She gets people to go through their garages and their houses and to get rid of things. Not just to reorganize but to actually get rid of things. They do it and they are glad for it and they thank her for it. Not since Tom Sawyer conned his best friends into painting a fence with him and then thanking him for the privilege, has anyone been able to pull this off with as much aplomb as Marie Kondo? There's something that she has tapped into.

If you watch her show, if you read her book, you know what it is. You know what it is, that gets people to do what they wouldn't do for years and decades before. How did she get people to do that in such a way that they smile, and at the end, they thank her and are grateful for the experience? It's because, as you know, if you have watched or read her book, she asks you to take hold of everything that you own, every piece of clothing, every book, every shoe, every piece of paper and you hold it in your hand and you ask a question. Remember what the question is? Does it spark joy?

Does it spark Joy? | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock Churches

If it sparks joy she says keep it. You should keep it. But if it doesn't, you should thank it and then get rid of it. Now this is a simple thing but people do this and they find great joy in it. The reason they can be grateful for it at the end is because something has sparked joy in them. The simple act of cleaning up and tidying up has elicited not just drudgery and not loathing but a sense of gratitude.

It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Actually, only when the student is ready does the teacher actually appear because people aren't ready for it and maybe this is just the season we are in that the symbol of suburbia used to be a two or a three car garage but now it is having a storage unit so that your two or three cars can actually be in the garage because otherwise there is no room for them because of all our stuff and there is this sense of maybe, just maybe, our lives are a little overstuffed.

Does it spark Joy? | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock Churches

Maybe they're a little too chaotic, maybe we can't bring order to all those things and we don't know how and so enter Marie Kondo who's coming and saying, "It's not that the stuff is wrong, it's just it's not bringing you joy." Now I know as I'm saying this and you're looking at that, I know there are some people in here going, "Well, that's not so bad. You could put more stuff in there".

You don't have to say who it is. It's all about joy. It's all about joy is what this series is about and has to do with what Jesus is saying. I know that to a lot of people if I were to say, "What is Jesus all about?" Some people would say it's all about religion or it's all about sacrifice or it's all about rules or it's all about moralism. It's all about having to give things up. It's about having to sacrifice things that I don't want because it's about taking away my fun.

Does it spark Joy? | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock Churches

I mean, how appropriate it is the first Sunday of Lent and the first thing that gets taken away is an hour of sleep. I mean doesn't that just seem like appropriate for how we normally think about it and yet if you actually read the words of Jesus, if you watch his encounters, you'll find that there's something else that's going on. Just listen to the prayer that he prays at the end of his life and John 15. He summarizes what he's really all about when he is able to say that, "My joy and these are my commandments follow my commandments so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be made full".

Does it spark Joy? | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock Churches

In other words, this whole thing of following Jesus is about joy. It's about recovering our joy. It is more than as good as it can be to clean your garage and clean your shelves and there's a part that's purgative about that and there's a part that's joyous about that and we're even going to talk about how we can do that together as a church and cleaning out our own spaces. It goes deeper than that.

Thomas Merton has this wonderful quote that "The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish not that just is in our garages in our shelves but that clutters our minds and that maybe, just maybe, that garage of ours, maybe, just maybe, that spare room that is full of stuff. Maybe that is more a reflection of the inner turmoil and chaos and clutter that is in us." And maybe it itself isn't what's wrong. Maybe it's something that's in here that we need to address.

Does it spark Joy? | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock Churches

This series I want to talk about spring cleaning of the heart. Spring cleaning of the soul. What is it that we need to do to bring order here? To do that I'm going to introduce one more best-selling author. His name is St. Augustine. Obviously, that's his DMV picture. It didn't come out as well, but you know how those come out. He lived in the 300s and a best-selling author. It's pointed too by many people either in the Eastern, the Western Church, Protestant, and Catholic as being one of the seminal minds that has shaped the way we think.

Does it spark Joy? | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock Churches

When he talked about what's wrong with the human condition, he didn't just say, well, you're all bad or you're wrong, he used this phrase. He says, "What's at the core is we have disordered loves". It's our heart that's disordered. It's cluttered. It's not working. Disordered love means that we love the right things to the right degree and the right way with the right kind of love.

He says that's what it is. It's not that there are things in your life. Things aren't bad. It's just when the things somehow we love them more than we loved our relationships. We love the wrong-- We have a disordered heart. Even the virtues. He says think about virtues. It's still a matter of love. If you are faced with a situation where you can be honest, you have to choose and you go, "What I love more is the well-being of society and others more than my immediate gratification." We call that honesty. If it's disordered, if what benefits me is more important and I love that more than the well-being of society, then all kinds of things get disorder not only in our own life but in society.

The question this morning to start this series is this, how is your heart? How is the ordering of your heart? How are you loving the things that you have been given in such a way? Is it bringing joy? How do we know? How to go through all of those things if we want to sort it out? Because sometimes we don't even know what's bringing us joy. We have confused and we have substituted for joy, and that's where we come back to our passage this morning.

Because Jesus for whom it is all about joy in that Sermon on the Mount where he's talking about all the things that people clutter their lives with. It's not that they're wrong, it's not that they're bad. There's a place for all those things, but it's when they get out of order and so he gives us this principle that's at the core of it all, if you want a well-ordered heart, if you want a life that is uncluttered, if you want a place that taps into the great joy of God, then do this. The thing you should want most, the thing you should love most, the thing that you should hold up and sacrifice everything is this thing that God's kingdom and doing what God wants. Why? It's because then everything else sort of falls into place.

Does it spark Joy? | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock Churches

If you want a well-ordered heart, if you want to take inventory of your own soul this morning, the question becomes what is it that gets in the way of that? Because whatever gets in the way of giving my ultimate allegiance to what God wants is what's getting in the way of my joy. Whatever clutters the path between what I sense what God wants: the love, the joy, the peace, the justice of this world, the well-being of others, whatever gets in the way of that is what's cluttering my life as well.

Does it spark Joy? | New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock Churches

How is your heart this morning? How is it going with you? Because what is being asked for and what it's looking for is how do we get rid of those things that stand in the way? This morning we started the service with a song, "Create in me a clean heart". Thousands of years ago somebody was saying the exact same thing that we know to be true whether it comes to our closets, whether it comes to our agendas, our checkbook, our daily planner. Create in me a clean heart, an ordered heart. Restore to me the joy of your salvation.

I like simple outline, simple outlines help me keep my myself clear. In case you're wondering, the first part of this has to do with, it's about joy, therefore, it's about God.

The second half or part of this sermon is, it's about God and therefore it's about joy. Tricky, huh? This is how I keep straight things. What I want to do is I want to affirm again, that what we're talking about at the core this is joy, because it's about God. That joy is not something that comes around God and in spite of God, it's because it's part of the essence of God, and therefore, joy is different than happiness.

Happiness is those things that is very conditional. When the conditions are right, I am happy. When I get to watch what I want to watch, my team wins, I'm happy. When fortunate comes my way, I am happy. Happy is a little bit like rain. When it comes and I get my water from the sky, when it rains and the conditions are right, I have lots of things to be happy about. Joy, on the other hand, has a different source. If happiness is like rain, Joy is like the underground river that's underneath us.

There are people whose lives are in drought. There are people who are in great grief. There are people who are stretched thin and yet these sometimes are the same people who seem to have the deepest reserves of joy. How does that happen? It's because it's not external, it is they have tapped into something that I believe is the very essence of who God is. This is who God is. Nehemiah says, "The joy of the Lord is my strength." It doesn't mean that I'm going to be joyful and therefore strong or if I'm strong, therefore I'm joyful. It just says I get to tap into the joy that is the essence of God and in that, that is my resilience.

That's my buoyancy. That's what keeps me afloat. That's what sustains me, whether I'm happy or sad, good times or bad. That the real task, the real task is how do we find ourselves and connect deeply with that underground resource, that underground source of God's essence, which is God's joy.

We get to live on the front range, so it's a little easier for us sometimes, isn't it? You look out the window, and you see the mountains and you got a day like today, wonderful. You see snow and then out of the snow comes the daffodils and all the bulbs that are part of early spring and the birds and there is something that just seems embedded in the creation itself because it's part of this, it's close to the source of the Creator. This ever creating, this bringing out of death life, is bringing something new that was tired, this emergence of joy that's part of where we get to live. If that doesn't get you, then just as you go out today, turn left and walk down those halls and see the results of the preschool art show.

If you want to just see joy explode everywhere, go walk there, and if that doesn't get you, then you got to check your pulse because there is something about that. You just see the exuberance that is there. I think there is something whether it is creation teaching us or children teaching us, those things that seem to be closest to the creator seem to also be the clearest messages to us. They also seem to be the least cluttered things let's get in the way of that and we are able to see readily the joy that is a part, that is embedded in the DNA of this creation, in the DNA of our soul.

Our job is not we don't have to manufacture it, our real job is say what's getting in the way? What's getting in the way of our joy? What gets in the way of that deep connection with God, that buoyancy? We come to a season of Lent and there are lots of practices at Lent and you have them and I have. May I just suggest you don't let somebody else determine your practice for Lent because too many times we buy into the idea that God is the God who doesn't want us to have fun and therefore the most religious thing we can do right now is to eliminate something.

I'm going to eat less chocolate, I'm going to watch less TV, I'm not going to do certain things, I'm going to do other things, that may be fine, but please don't get it in your head that that in any way delights God. It's not like God is anti chocolate or anti dessert. It's not that God doesn't like joy. God invented joy. The real question is, what do you need that maybe it is eliminating those things, but it's only so that you can eliminate the things that have somehow disordered? You have given too much value to chocolate or to things or to TV or to whatever it is and so by taking a practice of getting them out of the way and that helps you experience joy more directly.

Maybe it's taking something on but don't let somebody else tell you what to do because then it's just an obligation. The question is still, what is it that's going to spark joy? What is it going to connect you? What is going to help you align with the joy of God? Our kids just got those fish banks and they have something going. They're not just for kids by the way, I invite you to take one of those if you choose because every day there is something that is to help make you mindful of the many things that you have been given and then use that as a way to spur yourself to gift so that others can experience the joy of God somewhere in this world, particularly in times of tragedy.

Sometimes it has to do with prayer. Sometimes it has to do with reading. You decide but choose something not because somebody tells you you should do it because we all know what happens there. Is it just feels like someone's taking something away, making us do something we don't want to do. Rather, let's learn from today. What is it that's sparking joy? What is it that's going to help you align with the joy of God? Let's do that because there's something that is wonderful when we are cleaning out, it can be drudgery, or it can be exciting.

If your garage is full and you are actually getting a new car, something you really wanted, doesn't that make the task of clearing something out a lot more joyous because you know what's going to be moving, you're making room for it? Isn't it amazing when a new child is on the way and a whole room that was full of other stuff suddenly is gone through and it's work but it's not drudgery because there is this anticipation of a new life that's coming in and there is joy when we are clearing things out, when we are reordering our heart it is so that something else that's even better, cleaner, more joyous can move in?

What is it you need to do this season to address the things that are getting in the way of God's joy? The question is, does it spark joy? Because when we have made it about drudgery, when we have made it about obligation, we have made God way too small and we've made the gospel way too thin. We have made it as if God were some cranky landlord making us do things we don't want to do, rather than the God who's inviting us in to the great joy of creation that we get to align ourselves with what God is yet to do this season, this season.

May you get a sense of a ordered heart. May you, in so doing, restore the joy of salvation to your life. May the joy of the Lord become your strength and your buoyancy. May God's joy be in you. May you live courageously. May you live boisterously. May he live robustly. May you live a life that is a life of joy. Amen.