“Let those who plant with tears, reap the harvest with joyful shouts.” Psalm 126:5
There is an undeniable ebb and flow that is the nature of life. Every year moves us through the seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall. There are times of plentiful rain, and times of drought. There are barren periods, and periods of abundant harvest. Circumstances of the seasons can make life more painful or more joyful. This is true of the seasons of the soul as well as the seasons of creation.
I will always remember those Sunday mornings (after years in the pulpit preaching week after week — which I loved) arriving at the church not feeling that great. Perhaps there had been a staff conflict, a sudden loss of a beloved member, or a social crisis like the tragedy of Sandyhook Elementary where 20 small children were fatally shot in December of 2012. Imagine for a moment that this is what a pastor carries to church in his or her heart on the way to lead worship only to remember on this particular Sunday the plan was to preach on “joy.” It was on days like those that the amazing witness of persons like Helen Keller gave me strength. Her wisdom astounds me, and I offer her insight to such times for your reflection:
Join the great company of those who make the barren places of life fruitful with kindness. Carry a vision of heaven in your hearts, and you shall make your name, your college, the world, correspond to that vision. Your success and happiness lie within you. External conditions are the accidents of life, its outer wrappings. The great, enduring realities are love and service. Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulty. – Hellen Keller
Psalm 126 challenges us to hold within our hearts a vision of abundance when all we see is a barren landscape. The Psalmist and Hellen Keller both offer us the promise of what can be in our lives and in our world when “[j]oy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.” The joy of the Christian faith is indeed what allows us to endure when the “accidents of life” knock the wind out of us. The love of God that comes to us in the Christ child is no accident. It is an event that gives evidence to the intentional love of God offering us a hope that is eternal — a love that never fails. There is a deep and abiding joy that burns within us when we can claim this truth. In Advent, once again we can immerse our spirits in the anticipation of God’s promised harvest of healing and hope for our lives, and for God’s world.
Prayer: God of Joy, enter our lives and restore us each day that we may labor for your harvest. Amen.
Rev. John Farley
South District Superintendent
Dean of Cabinet