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Choose Joy at Easter

Author: Andy Drozdziak

Choose Joy at Easter

We need to ask ourselves if are really joyful Easter people, says Andy Drozdziak.

Jesus Christ our king is risen! Let this place resound with joy.

-from the Exultet, Easter Vigil

In May 2015, rock band U2 discovered that tour manager Dennis Sheehan had suddenly died. Due on stage, the band were shocked.

They contacted church leader Rick Warren. Warren’s carefully-chosen advice was brief: choose joy.

Choose God’s joy, he said, in order to continue through the heartache. Warren’s advice came from his own journey of grief, having recently lost his son, Matthew, to suicide.  These words gave U2 the strength to continue.

In Eastertide, we are called to rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection and show that life has triumphed over death in our lives and in the world.

Celebrate life

Henri Nouwen says, “The joy of Jesus lifts up life to be celebrated.” Authentic joy transforms individuals, communities and nations. It is present even when we feel bullied or persecuted. Jesus invites us: “Remain in my love…and your joy will be complete.” (John 15:9,11)

Joy is based upon the truth that I am a beloved son or daughter of God.

I once travelled with my Manchester parish on pilgrimage to Walsingham. Stopping for lunch in Newark, we played football and shared food. Friends chatted or stopped for a smoke as children ran free. Before leaving, we held hands and said the Lord’s prayer.

In some ways, it was a simple act; we were thanking God for His joyful presence. Yet we also demonstrated that, by gathering as God’s people, the spark of life is present which makes life exciting.

Many stared at us holding hands. Perhaps they were struck, as I was, by the joy present. Joy is often given in this way to a community of believers: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” (Matthew 18:20)

Joy at all times

Choosing joy can be costly. The song Blessed Be Your Name was written after Beth Redman suffered a series of miscarriages, who asked: “Why was it happening? Even when I'd sought God so hard, it was almost more than I could handle.”

Beth and husband Matt felt challenged by Paul’s words: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16) They had a choice: be bitter or trust God.

They chose trust and joy over bitterness, despite not understanding God’s ways, and wrote Blessed Be Your Name: “Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name…my heart will choose to say: Lord, blessed be Your name.”

We need to ask ourselves: are we really the Easter people? The joy of the Gospel is not present in many churches. Instead, maintenance, ritual and fear hold sway. Even in renewal, joy is not always evident and we limit the Spirit’s joyful, life-giving work.

Return to our first love

So how do we rediscover the joy of the Gospel?

The first step is always to return to our first love: “Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5)

We need to rediscover God’s unstoppable love for us and believe that we are totally forgiven. We also need intimacy with God and to radiate God’s love to others.

For many, life is not easy, with financial difficulties, work and family pressures.

However, I challenge you to choose joy, because God loves the world and, in Jesus’ resurrection, life triumphs over death: “In your presence there is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11)

By doing so, we will see fruit that will last.

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