The Command of Joy

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. (Philippians 3:1)Here the Apostle is commanding the believers to have joy in the Lord.  How can that be a command?  We too often see joy as a response to something, but it is a decision that we must make.  So not to be joyful is disobedience.  All too often, believers walk around depressed, discouraged and just plain glum.  I think so often that has to do with our focus.Paul’s focus was on Christ, not on his accomplishments, or even all that he gave up to be a Christian (Philippians 3:2-8).  He focuses on Christ in a way that seems counter-intuitive for joy; he focuses on Christ’s death.  “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:10-11)”  His focus was not a morbid obsession, it was confidence in God.  Paul saw life through the lens of God’s eternal justice.  Though the Messiah had come, obeyed the Father perfectly, kept the Law completely, fulfilled the will of God fully; the Messiah was unjustly accused and mistreated.  The Messiah was killed by unjust people, but then as proof of his acceptance by God, Christ was raised from the dead.  We walk in joy, because no matter how much injustice we experience, no matter how unfairly we are treated, no matter when we are rejected for all the good that we do, our faith is in the God that raised Jesus from the dead.  And the promise, that we too will be raised in complete justification by the Judge of all the living.That is why Easter is the season of Joy.  The command to rejoice in the Lord, is not a denial of the pain of life, it is despite the pain of life.  This is not all there is.  We have faith in the God that raises us from the dead.Pastor Greg

How Do We Begin the Season of Joy?

So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:8  

The Season of Easter is a season of joy, celebration, and happiness at the news of the empty tomb and the resurrected Savior.  That is the way it should be!  Yet, the way we experience life rarely is it completely this way.  As we see the response to the Resurrection in the Bible, it is often mixed with other, and sometimes conflicting emotions.  Such as the passage above: fear and great joy. 

Joy is a mark of God’s Spirit dwelling in our hearts.  Also, we see fear there too.  Christ’s victory over the grave and death does not mean that now our lives are worry free.  Jesus is very clear to his disciples, “in this world you shall have tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  Life, even following the Resurrected Son of God, is one of struggle, conflict, painful times, rejection, and confusion.

 As we struggle with ourselves, we must admit that our desires to do better often go awry.  We are frustrated with how incomplete our love can be expressed.  When we stand for the just cause, we are rejected even by those we are trying to help.  The presence of these things does not exclude joy in our experience of follow the Resurrected one.
Then our confession is that the season of joy begins sometimes with fear, confusion, struggle, and pain.  We do not deny the reality of life, but we grasp a greater reality that puts it all in order.  The reality of the empty tomb and meeting the living Son of God. 

Pastor Greg

The Greatest Easter Sermon Ever Preached!

In the Fourth Century, the Archbishop of Constantinople John Chrysostom (349-407) preached the most famous Easter sermon, or Pascal sermon in church history.  This sermon has lasted these 16 centuries and is read in most Orthodox Church on Easter morning.  It is not a long sermon, taking about 5 minutes to read out loud, but it contains such joy, and such victorious imagery that Christians return to it repeatedly.

     Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
     Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
     Are there any who are grateful servants?
     Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of  their Lord!


As we read this sermon, he takes away all excuses for us not to be exuberant on the Morning of the Resurrection.  He leaves no one out of the reasons not to join in the “Hallelujahs” filling our churches this morning.  Death and Hell have been annihilated!  Satan and the forces of evil been vanquished!  And we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord!

As we assemble for this Resurrection Sunday, do not allow anything to diminish this joy that is the gift to all of God’s people!

     Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Happy Easter!
Pastor Greg

The Joy of The Cross

We never associate Christ’s death on the cross with joy.  Yes, it is the innocent being betrayed, abandoned, brutalized, and forsaken.  Yet Jesus affirmed constantly that he is doing the will of God in Heaven.  “Not my will, but thine be done,” is the quote from the prayer in the garden before Jesus is betrayed.  Hebrews 10 makes a point of that be the prophetic word from Christ, “I have come to do you will, O God.”

Hebrews 12 gives us this association of the Cross and joy.  Hebrews 12:2, “looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”  The way we approach Lent, and now Passion Week, often forgets and even disdains joy.  In contrast, the author of Hebrews gives the joy that was to come as the reason Jesus endured the Cross and all that it entailed.

I challenged you recently to include in your spiritual disciple of Lent to name at least one thing each day that brings you joy.  If we do not look for joy in our spiritual discipline, even that which is marked with repentance and self-denial, then we are not using Christ as our example.  “For the joy that was set before him” should cause us to anticipate and even find the joy that we are offered in following Jesus as a disciple.  Even when the requirement includes taking up our cross to follow him.

Pastor Greg

PS:  I am looking forward to Maundy Thursday at 7:00 p.m.  I have a sermon in the first person on the life of Judas.  I have presented this on a couple of occasions and have received positive remarks about this approach to the character that betrayed Jesus Christ.

Next meal 3/24/2024