A time for joy

Published 8:49 am Thursday, March 28, 2019

For those of us who are liturgically inclined, this is the season of Lent. The season of 40 days (excluding Sundays) of penitence, reflection and prayer leading up to the great high holy day of Easter. It’s a time to remember we are limited, finite beings — dust — and we need to repent of our sins, as we were told back on Ash Wednesday. Like we need to be reminded.

Actually, we do. There is a lot of denial that goes on in our lives. We deny all kinds of things — deny our age, deny our relationships, deny our families. Jesus said that if anyone wanted to follow him they needed to deny themselves, but we don’t seem to be very good with that. We are all about ourselves. But other people? Not so much.

Lent is a time to remember what it is we need to deny — an overwhelming ego; an attitude that takes care of No. 1 and blows off everybody else; a world view that is centered on me, how many likes I have on Facebook, how many friends I can claim (who cares if they are not very deep?)

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These are not things we like to take on. But Lent gives us a reality check on life, and invites us to live differently for a while–without alcohol or the internet or chocolate or something else — so that we can grasp what is really important.

But years ago church leaders set aside one Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent, this year, as “Gaudete” Sunday, or “Joy” Sunday. It’s a time to remember that God wishes joy for all people, not a sour attitude. Depriving ourselves can be a good spiritual exercise or it can be just another way to feed our egos.

But then there comes this Sunday, this Joy Sunday, even in the midst of Jesus’ journey to the cross. It is joy because we celebrate that God does not give up on any one of us. God is always there, in the midst of life — and death. God is in the midst of our sufferings, as well as our joys. God is with us in the midst of our times of despair, as well as our hopeful moments.

The fourth Sunday in Lent is not a time to throw down as many jelly beans as you can in anticipation of Easter. But It is a time to stop from the sour faces and heavy penitence that can mask what we most need to turn from. It’s a time to remember that God is a God of love and God is a God of joy. Joy that we are together; joy that we live in this time; joy that there will always be hope as each day dawns. Joy that God never lets us go.

REV. TOM ROBINSON can be reached at robin216@ embarqmail.com.