I had the great joy and honor of officiating at a wedding on December 30th. What follows is what I shared with the happy couple.
Joy knows sorrow and yet leans toward the light.
Erik and Chris, you wanted the message and experience of JOY to take central place in this marriage ceremony and in your married life. And I will tell you that seeing you walk up these steps hand in hand together was for me and hopefully for all of us, a moment of deep and profound joy. Trying to describe or talk about joy will always fall short of witnessing it or experiencing it. Nothing I say here will match or even come close to the look of joy on your faces this day.
But I’m a pastor and I still want to say a few words nonetheless 🙂 Joy, just like love, hope, and peace can be one of those words or sentiments that can quickly sound pollyanna-ish–too fickle and fragile, too shallow to meet or address the magnitude of pain experienced by so many. We might wonder whether it is responsible, or naive, even selfish to seek and experience joy when so many people are despairing, when so many aren’t allowed to love who or what they love.
I agree with one spiritual writer who wrestles with this question in this way:
“I have little patience for the blind joy of those who fail to see the sufferings of the world. I am skeptical of those whose joy seems forced, happy no matter what befalls them. But there is another joy—deeper than the good times and bad times life metes out, stronger than our best attempts and sorest failings—a joy that lifts us when we cannot lift ourselves, a peace that grasps us and returns us renewed. To know the joy that comes from God is not to be carried away in blissful happiness, but to be strengthened and deepened in our love for others and for the world.” -Barbara Gerlach
In other words, the joy that the Biblical writers try to describe and the joy Jesus embodied is the kind of joy that will motivate us toward substantial change, working to make life more beautiful not just for ourselves, but for others.
Another writer puts it this way: “True joy moves us from the cramped world of self-preoccupation into a more expansive place of connection and kinship.”
Chris and Erik, you will most definitely have days of cramped self-preoccupation. Days when it is difficult to look up from your work, days when conflict will restrict you, days when you will doubt your worth or confidence, days when someone or some church will delegitimize your marriage, days when joy and happiness will fade. If and when this happens, may you dig deep and remember that you are loved in and through it all. I believe the more you can be attuned to that truth, the more love you will have to offer others.
In just a moment, we will hear a piece of music by Hans Bridger Heruth called Joy. I found a lovely description of this piece of music which I would like to share with you.
For readers you can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/heruthhb/joy
“The exposition of this composition is warm and bouncy and characterizes someone that is young and full of hope and joy.
The liveliness subsides into a middle section that is hollow and ethereal, possessing a feeling of distress.
The voices echo each other’s words in a haunting ostinato while other voices sing variations of the phrase, “I am loved, I will sing,” in such a way that seems as if they are reassuring themselves of the statement.
After the climactic end of this section, the choir enters with the phrase: “I am loved, I will love”.
It’s sung in unison and is accompanied by the hopeful piano motif from the beginning of the piece. The music revvs back up into the first choral melody, yet once the piece reaches the height of this phrase, the listener can hear that our “character” now sings these melodic lines with a tinge of pain in their heart; pain, however, that they’ve overcome.
This pain is represented by drawn out melodic lines and harmonic dissonances within otherwise major chords.
As the choir begins to hum, two soprano soloists begin to sing their own line. I’d like to think that the first soloist represents the young, innocent character from the beginning, while the second soloist that joins the first represents the character’s older self who has triumphed through the hard lessons life has to offer.
The piece comes to a gentle close with the same line of: “I am loved, I will love”. It is a powerful line of text, with an even more powerful message to carry. Whether or not you agree with this sentiment, you must agree with the fact that our world is suffering, and only the power of love and the music that we share with people can heal it. We must love others, and we must share with them our hope.
And so I say to you Chris, you are loved, so love.
Eric, you are loved, so love.
To everyone here, we are loved, so for goodness sake, let’s love.
“Joy knows sorrow and yet leans toward the light.” that’s a beautiful thought