Peace, Joy, Play

When I seriously study the Gospel readings assigned by the lectionary for this time of year I wonder why Jesus didn’t complain more. There are very few references to Jesus asking to be given another job or even complaining about how hard the job is. For the most part, I imagine him enjoying his work. I heard a saying once, “If you can find a way to get paid to do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.” I have encouraged people to make time to do what they love because they will probably be pretty good at it. They will naturally give it more time and energy than others who perform the same task as a job only. Even if they are not the very best in their field, they end each day renewed and energized.

This doesn’t mean that those of us who do what we love don’t get tired or worn out. Jesus got tired and took “time apart.” But Jesus never lost the ability to see the bigger picture and find the joy in the task at hand. I was reading the forward to a book by Cynthia Winton-Henry titled “What the Body Wants”. It had been assigned for a class I am taking. The author of the forward, Phil Porter, talks about “play” but I think it speaks to what I am wondering about in the recent scripture readings. He says, “In my own life, the world of work and play are intersecting more and more. . . . I look for an attitude of play in all that I do – the joy, satisfaction, delight, meaning, and engagement that is possible in almost any moment, and I am happier and healthier for it” (p.6)

Jesus continued to eat, teach and worship with the leaders of the church even though those same people would often criticize him and would eventually support his crucifixion. Not only did he continue to eat with the sinners and tax collectors but he continued to keep company with the Sadducees, Pharisees and church leaders. He told both groups parables, spent precious time with them and told them about God’s love. It appears he found joy, delight and meaning in these encounters. Maybe what the author calls “play” and others call “joy” the church calls “peace.”

Maybe where you find joy or peace will be totally different than where I find it. Some, like Br. Lawrence (you can Google him), say they find joy in washing dishes or mopping floors.  I have met people who find joy in putting together newsletters and mailings. We might surprise each other if we shared what brings us joy. I remember in one of my first jobs at the movie theater, we had to open every carton of cups and count each cup. I was surprised at the number of cartons that had one or two cups off from the count on the box. I actually enjoyed counting cups and would sometimes race to see who could accurately count the most cups. It still brings a smile to my face when I go to the movies and see a pencil or pen mark on the lip of a cup. I hope you have simple or odd things that you have discovered that bring you joy.

Many of you have heard me say that I love the “work of the church.” I do. It brings me joy to be with a family as they make plans to celebrate the life of a deceased loved one. I love visiting with couples as they talk about their wedding and the life they plan to live together. Liturgy, music, worship, baptisms, communion, receiving members, watching the faces of the congregation as they sing some of the great hymns all bring me joy. When I first entered the ministry I did not score highly in the area of teaching but I have discovered great joy in teaching and watching as the scripture takes on new life and meaning for someone in the class. I have learned to cherish my time in some of the lesser known committees, those I have never seen mentioned in the official list of Methodist committees, as I see people who take great joy in making things look nice or giving to others.

I continue to work at finding joy not only in the “work of the church” but in what I would call “church work.” It is not as hard to find joy as it sometimes is for me to keep it. Jesus seems to have found a way to find and keep joy even in really tough situations so maybe we should all keep trying.

See you Sunday,