"If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!" Anyone else besides me remember singing that song as a kid? We had so many versions! We tapped our toes, stomped our feet and even did all three! It never dawned on me when I was a kiddo that I could choose not to show it.
Now that I'm an adult, I wonder how many of my fellow adults would just cross their arms and say to themselves, 'I'm not clapping, tapping, or stomping and you can't make me!"
I've been doing lots of thinking about happiness and joy this week as I've been preparing for this week's sermon. As Christians, we should have joy. But does that mean we're always happy? Is there a difference? If so, does the difference really matter?
We enter into a new phase of our Luke study this week because we'll be talking about Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem - what we usually call "Palm Sunday." But it's August! How can we consider a Palm Sunday message on August 27th? Are we even allowed to do such a thing?
This brings us into a small internal conflict with how we have been raised as Christians in the 21st century. We can't help but be influenced by the 20 centuries that have gone before. Early on in the church - especially when people didn't know how to read - the church came up with the idea of the church calendar. Every week in the church year would have a special focus. For those of you with a mind to count - that's 52 lessons each year. Each year those 52 lessons would be repeated to some degree. Every Easter we would talk about the resurrection. Every Christmas we would talk about Jesus' birth. Every Palm Sunday we would talk about Jesus and his parade of disciples walking into Jerusalem.
Here we are though now in the 21st century with Bibles all over the place - even on our phones. We can study until our hearts are content... so why be content with only 52 lessons? And why stick to talking about Palm Sunday only on Palm Sunday?
We have 5 more chapters to talk about in Luke's Gospel - and all of them take place in the last week of Jesus' ministry. Pretty concentrated stuff. Some lessons there He really wanted us to know about - and so we're going to take our time and study these final 5 chapters just like the other ones. Each week we'll look for the special lessons the Holy Spirit moves us to consider.
This week we consider happiness and joy. As Americans we say we have the right to pursue happiness. As Christ-followers, I say God is righteous to pursue us - and that pursuit we call joy! My happiness is often dependent upon my circumstances. Let's face the truth that our circumstances are not always happy ones. But God's pursuit of us? God's love for us? Always dependable and always a cause for joy!
Praise Team - Artist Focus on For King & Country. Our praise team this Sunday is made up of Brandi, Missie, Makayla and first-timer, Jefferson Weixel. I'm thinking Makayla might have had something to do with Jeff singing. Ha! However God works, right? Seriously - all the songs this week will be from the group, For King & Country, and Makayla definitely had something to do with that. Early this year Brandi asked all the praise team members which groups did they want to develop? This one was Makayla's choice.
The Praise Team will open with "It's Not Over Yet." As a congregation we'll all sing together 3 songs: "Proof Of Your Love," "Shoulders," and "Fix My Eyes." The first and third of these congregational songs we have sung before. Now we know which group got us started on them! Before we get into the sermon, Makayla will sing the special: "Priceless!"
Thanks so much praise team for all your work this week. Let's all show up on Sunday and make sure to show our appreciation!
Keep Praying. Always always always we pray for Dave and Jenny. We were so delighted to read Dinah's good report on Facebook: "My mom has been working ever so diligently to regain fine motor skills. This is a daily battle to unscrew & squeeze toothpaste, apply lip balm, eat soups & jello... and yes write her name. Today, she walked 15 feet in the hallway and wrote her granddaughter a note!" As Dinah reminded us... "May we never take for granted God's blessing every single day!"
Let's also be praying for Jan Calendine. Jan's sister, Ethyl, was admitted to the hospital this week for a broken hip. Jan has recently lost two other sisters in the last 15 months so please keep her and their family in your prayers.
Marci and Denny lost Denny's mom last week. The funeral will be this coming Tuesday - for only close friends and family. Marci and her family certainly need our prayers.
Aaron struggled with a horrible headache that sent him to the ER this week. I know he would like our prayers.
Jack really struggled in church last week with his balance and anxiety. We must keep praying for Jack and Sheri. Then Aimee and Loni are still going through their treatment regimens too. So many needs in our small congregation! I don't know about you but I find it is easy to be overwhelmed. Then God's Spirit reminds me that overwhelmed and on my knees is not a bad place to be.
Love you all much! Be happy if you can. Be joyful no matter what. Hope to see you on Sunday! - Pastor Mark