Monday, August 6, 2012

The built-in joy filter: joy, enthusiasm, olympics and faith

Image credit: Andrew Winning/Reuters
There are many reasons I’m enjoying the 2012 Olympic Games. It’s so cool to see events taking place in the heart of historic downtown London and in the beautiful English countryside; I’ve been a fan of track and field ever since I realized I could run faster than anyone else in my school (then my town, and then southeast England); the performances this year have been spectacular and beyond; and the spirit of the athletes – especially the Americans – has been nothing short of inspirational.
FUN: I first noticed how much FUN the Americans were having during the early stages of the gymnastics, when it seemed so many of the teams were under such intense pressure that they were unable to enjoy the occasion. But the “Fab Five” (as they’ve been dubbed) smiled and laughed their way between routines.
Then the swim team, led by the effervescent Missy Franklin, have been nothing short of giddy. Obviously, there have been exceptions, but the general “Let’s have the time of our lives!” spirit is ubiquitous (Check out the team’s You-Tube video if you don’t believe me).
My point is that we always have this choice in front of us, each and every day. We can live as if joy and enthusiasm are a defining element in our lives, or we can allow the darker forces of the universe to creep in and take over our experience and our souls.
By William Haefili, The New Yorker Collection
CHURCH: Rebekah and I were talking about this yesterday, when she pulled out a cartoon she’d cut from an edition of The Christian Century and stuck in her purse. She sees the issue as specifically faith related, and I couldn’t agree more.
Sadly, many of America’s (and Europe’s) so-called “established” churches come with what I call a “built-in joy filter.” The Presbyterian Church is certainly no exception. By “built-in joy filter” I mean a tendency to act as if joy and enthusiasm are fundamentally incompatible with the Christian experience.
But that is so anti-Gospel!
Where is “the life-charged life” when church is deadly boring? when church leaders fail to offer any believable evidence of Christ’s ongoing invitation to “more and better life?” and when we (church members) fail to “Shine like stars in the sky as we hold out the word of life?” (Philippians 2)
Why should my neighbor… or your friend… or anyone else remotely consider becoming part of a faith-based community where joy and enthusiasm are systematically repressed because they are not “what we’re used to around here.”
In need of a little joy and enthusiasm…
DEATH BY STRANGULATION: Well here’s something to get used to: That kind of church is going to grow smaller by the year, and then eventually disappear, because no-one believes it is even remotely connected to the Bright Light who ignited the Universe, who created this world, who offered redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and who sent the Holy Spirit to animate Christ’s followers with such passion that this message of love, redemption and New Life will heal a broken world.
That is the quality of message we have been entrusted with. So, how about a little joy and enthusiasm to along with it?
Sure we’re crazy (see cartoon, above). Crazy about Jesus; crazy about the re-invention that’s possible once we catch hold of everything Christ’s love makes possible; crazy enough to show the joy and the enthusiasm that MUST animate the God-soaked life.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4)
In love, and because of love – DEREK

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