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Lent 4B

2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 / Ephesians 2:4-10 / John 3:14-21

 

Today is Gaudete Sunday. . .

the fourth Sunday of Lent. . .

 

The Sunday of Joy!!!

 

Why can we be joyful?

 

Why can we be joyful

no matter what is going on around us?

 

Why can we be joyful. . .

whether we’re at a wonderful

gathering with family and friends. . .

 

or isolated due to the pandemic?

 

Why can we be joyful. . .

whether we’ve just aced a test. . .

 

or barely pulled out a C minus?

 

Why can we be joyful. . .

whether a relationship with a friend is going great. . .

 

or there’s been a major fight?

 

You see,

being joyful is not the same as being “happy.”

 

Being “happy” or “unhappy” are moods. . .

they come and go with the ups and downs of life.

 

But “joy”. . . “Christian joy”. . .

is so much deeper than a mere mood. . .

 

“Christian Joy” is a way of being. . .

It’s a way of existing. . .

It’s more profound than “happiness”. . .

or “unhappiness.”

 

One can be in an “unhappy” mood—

But still be filled with Christian joy.

So, why can I be joyful?

 

Why can Steve Roberts be joyful

no matter what the externals are in my life?

 

Indulge me just a little

while I share a personal story

hopefully to shed some light

on “Christian joy.”

 

My dad is 87 years old. . .

he’s in the twilight of his life. . .

 

So I don’t know how much longer

he’ll be with me.

 

And he just broke his hip a few weeks ago. . .

 

He slipped on the ice during the ice storm,

He’s been in rehab for the past 3 weeks.

 

And because of the pandemic,

I haven’t been able to visit. . .

which is tough—

so many of you know this.

 

So this situation,

and his age. . .

presented a great opportunity for me to reflect.

 

Now my dad was a high school teacher

and a basketball coach. . .

 

So not only is he my father. . .

he was also my teacher. . .

and my coach.

 

And he could be. . .

Still can be. . .

a very, very demanding man.

 

It wasn’t until I got a little distance from my youth. . .

gained a little maturity. . .

that I realized his motive for being so demanding. . .

was because he loved me so much!

He always encouraged me

to be the best I could be.

 

“Son, always do your best!!!. . .

Always!!!”

 

I told this story several years ago

about when I had my first fender bender

with the family car.

 

I was a sophomore in high school and

I went over to a friend’s house to

spend the night.

 

He lived way out in the country

and I got into some mud. . .

 

and I slid into the back of a fence post!!!

 

It put a huge dent in the rear of the car.

 

I was scared to death to go home the next morning.

 

I snuck into the kitchen,

where my mom was drinking coffee. . .

 

I told her what happened.

 

She saw that “first wreck fear” on my face.

 

“Don’t worry,

your dad will be OK just as long as you’re ok.”

 

So I slowly, slowly

Made my way back to the family room

and I said,

“Dad, I had an accident.”

 

“Are you OK, Son?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Were you out drinking and

acting a fool?”

 

“No, sir.”

 

“Let’s go see the car.”

 

We walked out to the carport,

and he saw the grand canyon of a dent in the car.

 

But there was no disappointing look on his face.

 

He pulled out his set of car keys

and said,

“Go drive and get you,

your mom and me a good breakfast. . . .

 

We can always replace a car,

we can never replace you.”

 

Demanding yes. . .

but always. . .

always loving.

 

My dad can still be a little OCD about my driving. . .

 

I was driving him to Lexington one day,

and he said,

“Son, aren’t you going a little fast?”

 

Seems he’s always on me about my driving. . .

and it drives me crazy.

 

So one day,

my immature and prideful self

snapped back.

 

I wanted to put an end to him

pestering me about my driving.

 

So, I played my doctor card.

 

“Dad, do you know I’m a doctor.”

 

Do you know that I can take a scalpel. . .

cut open a pregnant belly because the baby’s in trouble. . .

and sew her up again.”

 

“I think I can drive us to Lexington.”

 

That was my trump card, I thought!!!

 

But then,

he responded with the highest of all trump cards. . .

the “ace of love” card.

 

“Son, do you know how much I love you. . .

I just don’t want something bad to happen to you.”

 

Always pushing me to be the best. . .

even with driving. . .

but the motive. . .

always love. . . always.

 

When I was in high school,

every time I went out with my friends,

dad would always give me

some extra spending money.

 

He wanted to be the parent

who always paid for the gas money. . .

and the food at Pizza Hut.

 

Always love. . .

Always.

 

And to this very day,

even though I’m on my own and

have major financial needs. . .

 

every time I leave the house. . .

 

Dad says,

“Son, do you need any money?”

 

“No, dad!”

 

“Well, take this anyway!”

 

And he’ll slip me a few bills.

 

“You know, that’s what dads are for. . .everything I have is your anyway.”

So why can I,

Steve Roberts be joyful,

no matter what the externals are?

 

Not just because,

I‘ve had wonderful parents. . .

 

Because some may not have had that luxury.

 

I can be joyful no matter what

because I have a God who wants the best for me. . .

and loves me even more. . .

much more than my parents.

 

How much more does God will the best for me

and love me than my parents?

 

More than the grains of sand

on the seashore

multiplied by a million, billion, trillion. . .

 

More than the molecules of oxygen

in the atmosphere

multiplied times infinity. . .

 

that’s how much more my

providential God loves me and

wills the best for me

more than even my parents.

 

You see, my story—

and yours—

is Paul’s story

that we heard in Ephesians:

 

God is rich in mercy because of

the great love He has for me.

 

By His grace, I have been saved.

 

I am God’s handiwork.

 

My story is the story of the Prodigal Son. . .

 

My story is the story from Isaiah

where God says:

 

“Can a mother forget her infant. . .

 

be without tenderness for the child of her womb?

 

Even should she forget,

I will never forget you.”

 

My story is from the words of Jesus:

 

For everyone who asks, receives;

and the one who seeks, finds;

and to the one who knocks,

the door will be opened.

 

What father among you would hand his

son a snake when he asks for a fish?

 

Or hand him a scorpion

when he asks for an egg?

 

If you then,

who are wicked,

know how to give good gifts to your children,

how much more will the Father in heaven

give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

 

Joy transcends happy or sad. . .

Joy goes beyond moods. . .

 

“Christian Joy” is a way of being. . .

 

It’s a way of existing. . .

 

No matter what wonderful or

difficult things the world throws at us. . .

 

because it comes from the

knowledge of God’s unshakeable

and foolish love for us. . .

 

And for that, we can all rejoice!!!

Holy Spirit 03/ 13-14/2021