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As I begin I’d like to ask you to get out the sermon notes/devotion/prayer sheet that is in

your bulletin. This devotion is an opportunity for you to go deeper into today’s theme of Joyful

Love. I’ve shared five additional Scriptures for you to use. I encourage you to use this devotion

each day.

I would love to have our devotional use enter into the conversation in our community.

This coming week a lot of us are going to be helping out at Vacation Bible School. I think it

would be cool if we had conversation at Vacation Bible School about these devotional readings.

If you and I see another person we might ask the person their thoughts about the devotional

reading for the day. Our motivation is not judgment or guilt—it’s not like, “Did you read the

devotion for the day?” Instead we are curious about the other person’s thoughts. We want to

have conversation.

Today I’m continuing a summer sermon series on the Core Values of Chain of Lakes

Church. Today the theme is “Joyful Love.” I’m going to focus on joy.

SLIDE: We’ve all probably had some of this in our kitchen? Container of liquid joy

I wish I had a container called Joy that I could squirt all over you, so joy was part of your being.

Helping others experience joy is central to my own mission as a pastor. My dream is that people

who are part of our church will be full of joy. And when people in the wider community talk

about the people at Chain of Lakes Church they will say, “those people are full of joyful love.”

I wish it was as easy as spraying a bottle of liquid joy on all of us.

Why is joy so hard?

Part of why joy is so hard is our Midwestern and Minnesotan suspicion of joy.

Let’s me honest. If a person came up to a Minnesotan and said, “I am full of joy” how

would many Minnesotans respond? Would we say, “I’m so happy that you are full of joy?”

Most likely we would say omething like, “that’s nice.” A typical Minnesotan doesn’t say what

is going through his or her mind. Most likely the thought going through a Minnesotans mind—
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and of course the Minnesotan wouldn’t share this is: “this person needs to get some

psychological counseling.”

We Minnesotans have a suspicion of joy. I think it comes from what I call Minnesota

pessimism. Many of us were taught from early on not to share our emotions with others; we

were taught that we don’t want to be too full of ourselves. If life is going well, “there’s always a

storm around the corner.” If the sun is shining today, we’re just as likely to focus on the 20

percent chance of rain. Because for many Minnesotans there is always a reason for anxiety. In

fact we might not feel comfortable unless we are feeling anxious. Joy does not come naturally

too us.

Please hear me out—some of us here today are suffering and our hearts are loaded down

with troubles. I’m not talking about serious stuff. I’m talking about normal Minnesota


We Presbyterians have a very difficult time with joy. As I shared I’ve been Presbyterian

all my life; I love the Presbyterian church; I have a great desire to see the re-emergence of the

Presbyterian church; I have hopes that our congregation will be a part of the re-emergence of


Traditionally Presbyterians are not known for joy. When I grew up when I came to

worship I was supposed to sit down, be quiet, and bother no one. Traditionally Presbyterians

don’t talk to each other during worship; it’s only recently that people shake hands. Traditional

Presbyterian worship is aimed at our mind. We evaluate the success of worship by the success of

the sermon. Presbyterians don’t typically don’t walk away from worship saying, “that was a

joyful experience.”

If we at Chain of Lakes want to be different, let’s worship with a sense of joy. One of the

criteria for me about whether worship is successful is whether there was a sense of spiritual

energy in worship. It’s especially important that we begin our worship with a sense of spiritual
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energy. What I mean is that when someone walks into our sanctuary they will feel that

something exciting is happening. The music is joyful—it won’t be quiet; people will be talking

to each other; people even might be milling around and sharing with each other; there is a sense

that people are very glad to be present in the sanctuary; and there is a sense that these people

really love each other.

What often happen at a Presbyterian service? We think that the beginning of worship is a

time for meditation. We sit like this; our hands are folded; we don’t even want to move because

we will feel like we’re imposing on someone’s sacred time. Adults like to look around and see

which kids are acting up. Someone’s kids acts up and the rest of the group thinks “that parent

can’t control their kid.” If it is your kid who acts up that person thinks, “I’m never coming

back.” The beginning of worship feels more like a funeral than a celebration. Spiritual energy—


I’m not saying that every part of worship every week has to be full of joy. Joy has to be

authentic—it’s not something that can be manufactured or pushed onto people. What I am

saying is that we begin worship let’s do it with a sense of authentic joy.

We had a group who put together our Core Values. It took us a while to put together this

Core Value. Let me share a bit the development.

Love wins
We don’t serve out of guilt or obligation. Love drives us to serve God passionately. Love wins.

Joyful love
We create an atmosphere of joyful relationships where guilt is not a motivator. We want to be a
community where we look forward to spending time and supporting each other in life.

Joyful love
Our motivation for being in the community will be joyful love. We will forsake guilt and duty in
our service.

The following is what we shared with the congregation this past January
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Joyful love
We will create an atmosphere of joyful relationships where guilt is not used as motivation. We
want to be a community where we look forward to spending time together and supporting each
other in our journeys.

We got some pushback on the phrase of guilt not being used as motivation. The pushback was

not that we want guilt to be used as motivation. Instead the pushback was we were

communicating joyful love as a motivational tool for service. I thought this pushback was very

wise. Joyful love is not a means to a wider end. Joyful love is our end. We want people to

experience joyful love just for its sake.

Joyful Love
We are released to love each other with joy because of what God has done for us. We are a
community who enjoys spending time together and supporting each others’ journey.

We started out our explanation as saying that “we are released to love each other with

joy.” I want to push deeper into this idea of being released. Question. Who is doing the

releasing? God has released us.

Next question is “what are we released from?” Or a corollary question is “To what are

we released?”

We are released from the power of our own sins. One of the most important parts of

worship is the confession of sins. As a community we first confess our sins; then we have a time

of silent confession. Then the pastor shares the Assurance of Pardon or another way to say this

is we are released from our sins. Sometimes churches then sing a song as an expression of joy.

Then we share God’s love with each other. This order is significant—confession, assurance of

pardon, singing, sharing God’s love. In this part of worship we are released. This whole process

takes between five and ten minutes. This might be the most significant time of our week.

God also releases us from death—we are given the gift of salvation. You and I are

released to spend eternity with God. God releases us through the gift of the Spirit. As baptized
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people we carry the Holy Spirit with us. We suffer, but pain doesn’t have the final word.

Because we have the gift of the Spirit we always have the possibility of being released from this


We’re released from this terrible triad—sin, death, pain. Who does the releasing? God

does. I would hope that because of this release our hearts are on fire with love for God..

Joy is a topic that is central to the Bible. In preparation for this sermon I was planning on

reading every verse in the Bible where the words joy and rejoice were used. I pulled out my

concordance and found that the word joy is used 219 times in the Bible. The word rejoice is

used 175 times in the Bible. Jesus frequently—especially in the gospel of John shared the phrase

with his disciples, “make my joy complete.” In his paraphrase of the Bible Eugene Peterson

translated this phrase “make my joy complete” as “God’s joy would become mature in us.” I

like that. This joy that comes from God becomes mature in us—it becomes complete.

Today’s reading from Psalm 16 shared a wonderful example of a person who desired joy.

The writer of the Psalm seemed to be in a difficult place. He started out “Protect me, O God, for

in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

These words are powerful. I have no good apart from you.

Often I think we confuse joy and happiness. They are not the same. Happiness is a

wonderful quality. Happiness results when something good happens in our life. Say we get a

raise at work, or we make a sale that we wanted to make, or someone in our family has

something go our way, or our get a good check-up from our doctor. We’re happy. Last night

Amy and I attended her High School reunion. We had a wonderful time. We were happy.
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What happens life doesn’t go our way? When we lose our job, or we get a pay cut, or we

have a fight with someone in our family, or our health deteriorates, or the reunion doesn’t go

well. We don’t feel happy about that.

Happiness depends on the external situations of our life.

When the Psalmist wrote, “I have no good apart from you,” he was not talking about

happiness. The goodness that the Psalmist described is not dependant on our external situation—

on our job or our family, or our health or our emotional well-being. This goodness is a spiritual

connection to God. When we experience release from the power of the terrible triad—sin, pain,

death—we experience joy.

Close your eyes as I read the rest of this Psalm.

“Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;

Their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
Or take their names upon my lips.”

Then the Psalmist wrapped up:

“I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
In the night also my heart instructs me
I keep the Lord always before me;
Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
My body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
Or let your faithful one see the Pit
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
In your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

This is different than happiness. This is joy. This is what I desire for all of us. I so want

every person at Chain of Lakes to have this type of faith. Maybe you already have it. I want us

to have the type of faith that no matter what is happening in our external situation, we experience

joy. Our relationship to God is so deep that even when we experience pain we’re full of joy.

One practice that can help us develop this type of faith is to memorize Scripture. I want

to take some time to help us memorize the last verse of Psalm 16. Memorizing Scripture is a
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wonderful way to implant the word into our souls. I’ve memorized Scripture for years. I’ve

memorized many Psalms and other readings in the Bible. It’s my experience that when we

memorize Scriptures these Scriptures come to us at important times in our lives. Somehow—in a

way that we can’t explain—a Scripture comes to mind at a time when I need it.

My method of memorizing Scripture is the 3,2,1 method. I read a Scripture three times

and then try to say it once. Then I’ll read it two times, and try to say it from memory; then one

time. Then I’ll go the other way. I’ll try to say it two times from memory and read it once. I

won’t go further if I don’t have it. If I read it three times and don’t have it memorized, then I’ll

say it three times again. When we memorize Scripture always say the reading after the Scripture.

I’m encouraging us to memorize Psalm 16:11. So we’ll say Psalm 16:11 after we’ve read it.

You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11

Memory work is a matter of repetition. When I encourage people to memorize Scripture,

I’ll sometimes have people tell me that they aren’t able to do this. I understand this. My

memory is not that great. It’s my experience if I repeat the Scripture enough then it will be

implanted in our memory.

I started this sermon by sharing that I would love to sprinkle a bottle of joy on all of you

so that we would experience joy. Let me wrap up by sharing another way we can experience joy

—that is through weekly participation in worship.

I shared this with the Steering Committee this past Tuesday night. It’s my hope that

every participant at Chain of Lakes will develop the practice of weekly worship. What I mean is

that unless we are sick we will worship God. If we are out of town, we will find a place to

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Summer can be a difficult time for Minnesota churches. We Minnesotans tell ourselves

that we only have three months of nice weather and we want to extract all we can from it. It’s

easy to miss worship during the summer.

We miss something so special when we miss worship. We miss the possibility of being

open to experiencing God’s presence and we miss joy.

I know there are all sorts of obstacles to worshipping every week. I’ve had people tell me

the obstacles for 20 years. Some of us have to work; some of us travel; some of us go to a cabin;

some of us have kids in sports; some of us just want to sleep. I understand all the obstacles. But

I also know the classic phrase, “where there’s a will there’s a way.” When we want to worship,

we will worship. We’ll find a way.

Ultimately I hope that we will worship not only because of the benefit of seeing others in

the community. Ultimately I hope that we worship not because we have a task to do or our kids

want to go to Sunday School. Ultimately I hope that our motivation for coming to worship is the

expectation of experiencing god. We grow to discover that in worship we open ourselves to

being touched in some way that will help us experience joy. Our relationship with God is so

important to us that we can’t imagine going a week without spending time with others in


The best way for us at Chain of Lakes to live out this value of “Joyful Love” is to value

worship so much that we can’t imagine going a week without out it. The best way I can sprinkle

an imaginary bottle of joy on all of you is to help you see the importance of weekly worship.

Friends, worship is to our souls as breath is to our lungs. Our souls aren’t fully alive without


Let’s commit ourselves to weekly worship; let’s commit ourselves to taking a risk of

being joyful people; let’s commit ourselves to being known for joy.