I have now stated in a sermon 3 times that I am a pessimist. This puts me at a particular disadvantage when tasked with coming up with a sermon about joy. To defend my fellow pessimists, we are not devoid of joy. I laugh a lot, I’m at a good place in life with a good community and many friends surrounding me, and I try to practice gratefulness. There is much, for me, at least, to be joyful about! I’m just always keenly aware that there is a lot going on that is discouraging, as well. Eternal optimists sometimes make me frustrated. I’m afraid optimism has the potential to move us into complacency and removes some of the fire within us that keeps us striving for justice, the fire that keeps us (for lack of a better word) “woke.” There is always a struggle, and I want to be a part of it.
However, those are biases and judgments on my part. Joy and struggle are not mutually exclusive. As I parsed this concept in writing this sermon, I tried to think of a time in my life where joy and struggle were at home in my heart and in my person. The most joyous and most struggle-heavy part of my life were the several years I spent working with the chronically homeless and severely mentally ill in Washington DC.
- Hebrews 13:1 - 2
- Nehemiah 8:9 - 10