Follow Me – Biblical Practices for Faithful Living
“Practice Joy – Sharing Joy with Others”
Rev. Dr. Todd Speed
Dectaur Presbyterian Church
Luke 15: 1-10
May 8, 2022
Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?
When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.”
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.”
Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
We have been talking about “joy” for the past several Sundays of this Easter season. We have been reminded that it is good to be joyful on our own, to rejoice in God’s mercy, to rejoice in God’s daily saving grace, to experience the joy of God’s comfort even when we are down, and the joy of God’s guidance when we are perplexed.
Experiencing that deep sense that God is truly with us and for us elicits personal joy. It is good to be joyful on our own. But it is even better to share experiences of joy with others.
As human beings, we were meant to share the joys of our families, our friends, our neighbors. When the shepherd found the one lost sheep, he called his friends together, and said: “Rejoice with me!”
When the woman found her one lost coin, she called her friends together and said: “Rejoice with me!”
Even with all the problems associated with social media and its misuse, Facebook has been an incredible vehicle for those who want to share their joys or sorrows. Someone posts that their high school or college senior has graduated, and they receive dozens of likes. Someone posts that their loved one is in the hospital, and they receive many comments of comfort and sympathy.
Rejoicing together is one of the experiences that makes human life rich and wonderful. Experiencing joy with others is an integral, even necessary, part of human life.
When the Braves won another World Series, they brought shared joy to the city of Atlanta.
When the Georgia Bulldogs won the National Championship in football in January – for the first time in 41 years – they brought shared joy to many alumni and friends.
At the Atlanta United game yesterday, when they scored a goal less than three minutes into the game, the whole stadium erupted in cheers!
One reason that sports are so popular is that they tend to bring us the experience of shared joy.
One reason that we put so much time and effort and money into weddings is that weddings can offer that experience of shared joy. When the bride walks down the aisle, when the young ones are still on the dance floor hours later, joy is shared among all.
In life, there are always plenty of sorrows to be shared. There are always losses and injuries to be grieved. Life often does not go as planned, and sometimes all seems lost.
But going through those difficult experiences together can make the sharing joy together even more sweet.
Isabel Taggart, one of our graduating high school seniors, shared last week that she could identify with Jesus in the story of the lame man. She said that, among her friends, she is a “go to” person, someone who listens to them and cares for them. Her comments reminded me of my Senior Sunday many, many years ago when I was graduating from high school. Our group chose Romans 12 as our text for the day and each of us offered a short meditation on a few verses. My focus was Romans 12:15 – “Weep with those who weep; rejoice with those who rejoice.”
I have no idea what I may have said in that senior sermon years ago, but I do remember having learned by my senior year in high school that human life is not meant to be lived alone.
Human sorrows are not meant to be borne alone; human joys are meant to be shared. I suppose that senior sermon became the foundation for the sharing of joys and concerns that I encourage us to do before nearly every meeting of our teams and committees.
Besides worshiping God, the sharing of joys and concerns may be the most important business that we attend to in the life of the church.
We held the memorial service for Carolyn Brooks here yesterday. It was a joyful service of worship with beautiful music and words of appreciation for a life well lived and a sanctuary full of friends and family.
At 87 years of age, there was joy at her memorial service because Carolyn embodied the intentions of I Corinthians 12:26:
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
Carolyn would rejoice with you if something good was happening in your life. And she would suffer with you, empathize with you, when something was not going well. Carolyn would share joy with her grandchildren one week as she held her annual Grandma Camp, and the very next week she would share in the suffering of a DEAM visitor or a Threshold client.
Carolyn learned early in life that is our Christian duty to rejoice with others, and not just our family members, when good things happen to them, and likewise, to suffer with others when life is hard.
She learned that when we are experiencing joy, we are to let our friends and neighbors know, and likewise, when we are suffering, to make friends and neighbors aware of our distress. More than an action, the sharing of joys with others, and the sharing of sorrows, is a spiritual practice, a Christian discipline, a life habit.
Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and the Dalai Lama of Tibet have both experienced great sorrows and tragedies and challenges in their lives, but they are also both known as joyful human beings.
In the book they wrote together, The Book of Joy, they wrote: “We are most joyful when we focus on others, not on ourselves… When we close our heart, we cannot be joyful. When we have the courage to live with an open heart, we are able to feel our pain and the pain of others, but we are also able to experience more joy. The bigger and warmer our heart, the stronger our sense of aliveness and resilience.”
(Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, 2016, p. 261)
Joyful people tend to be lively and resilient.
In our text for today, Jesus describes a woman on a mission. She has lost a silver coin, something precious to her, so she engages on a search of the whole house. She overturns the furniture, rustles through the drawers and cabinets, sweeps under the beds, clears out the closets, all in order to find one lost coin.
Jesus may have been referring to a Middle Eastern tradition of a woman stringing 10 coins on a necklace as part of her dowry. The number 10, like the number 100, is a perfect number, symbolizing wholeness.
Some women would wear this necklace of 10 coins throughout their marriage as a symbol of a complete and fulfilled home life. If one of those 10 coins were lost, a woman would simply have to find it to restore the symbolic unity of her marriage. She might know that the lost coin was in her house somewhere, and that she would eventually come across it. But the woman would be willing to endure an immediate all-out search in order to locate the one important missing piece. (Leonard Sweet, Homiletics, “Seeker-Friendly”, p.12)
When the woman finds the coin, she calls together her family and her neighbors, and everyone in the village rejoices with her! Those same friends and family members with whom she had shared her angst and worry now share her joy, her joy over finding something precious to her, something which restored for her the symbolic wholeness of her life.
Jesus testifies that God knows this type of joy. When one lost sheep is brought back into the fold, God calls together the heavenly host and rejoices. When something precious that has been lost is now found, God calls together the heavenly host and rejoices.
God does not become resentful when someone else enjoys success. God does not become anxious when someone else receives great adoration or a promotion or a win. God does not become jealous, or wonder if there will be enough praise to go around.
When we walk with God, we are quick to care when a friend or family member is hurting, and we are quick to rejoice when a friend or family member has reason to rejoice.
On this Mother’s Day, we remember the best aspects of a mother’s love. A loving mother reflects the goodness of God when she rejoices with the one who is rejoicing. And a loving mother reflects the compassion of God when she suffers with the one who is suffering.
A loving mother or father or brother or sister will live by the intentions of I Corinthians 12:26: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
To God be the glory as we all seek to love as God has so greatly loved us.
Rev. Dr. J. Todd Speed
Decatur Presbyterian Church
May 8, 2022