School has started. In the past several weeks students have filled their backpacks, started getting up early again and have headed off to school. The children’s day care at my church has started as well. There are lots of children, laughing and even a few tears around the church. My office, which I’m still settling into, is near the playground of my church. This means that throughout the day I hear laughing, playing and running from the children. As I’m writing a sermon for Sunday, planning classes and sending emails, you might think this would be distracting background noise. I have found the opposite to be true. The sound of laughter and pure joy is a beautiful thing. It’s something I forget in the busy and sometimes stressful world of ministry.
I believe that pastors and lay people alike, can forget what it’s like to have childlike joy in our journey of faith. Our church is currently in a sermon and book study series on a book about discipleship. I realized today that we forget to include joy into the equation of discipleship. Following Christ is not meant to be a burden. It may be challenging at times, true, but it’s not meant to be negative. It’s Good News!
The children outside of my office remind me of Jesus’ encounter with children in the Gospels. Matthew 19, Luke 18 and Mark 10 all record Jesus’ experience with the little children. Mark wrote:
“13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”
Receive the kingdom of God as a little child. Have faith like a child, Jesus said. I believe he meant have faith with joy. Children are not weighed down by the worries and concerns of life. They are simply free to receive the joy that God has given them. I pray that throughout your day you might find a little joy. Following Jesus is about seeing the beauty of the world, cultures and people that God created. I pray you might see that beauty and experience that kind of joy.
As I shared above, the noise of children laughing and playing was not distracting at all. In fact, it brought a smile to my face, so much so, I opened my office door that leads to a balcony so I could hear the children even better. I opened the door to joy. May you open the door of joy this day.