"From Tears to Joy"
Scripture: Galatians 6: 1-6, 7-16
Sermon: “From Tears to Joy”
My preaching professor from my divinity school wrote a book about his very first appointment in a church. One of the chapters was entitled “The Next Thing I Knew, We Were Married!” The title entrigued me and I read the chapter…which had nothing to do with himself being married to his wife, but everything to with a marriage to the church! When we become a part of a congregation of a church, we’re family now—we’re all part of this bigger family called the church. And in families, as we know, there are always changes. There are births and there are deaths, there are new marriages, and there are new beginnings. There is also sorrow and disappointment, and brokenness and pain. This is part of life. What we hold on to during the joys and sorrows of our life is where are devotion is. Jamie K.A. Smith wrote a book called “You Are What You Love.” This is what shapes us. What do we love? Who shapes our days? In the Old Testament there is a book called Proverbs. In verse 4:23 it reads “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Today’s passage in Galatians talks about new beginnings, new marriages, new creations…it talks about the time that it takes to nurture and to harvest. The context is the Scripture today is a church family. Paul is the writer here…speaking with passion.
In the book of Galatians, Paul reminds us that we are what we sow. If we are sowing to please our sinful nature, we end up sowing for our own personal desires. Such sowing will surely end in destruction. When Paul talks of circumcision in this passage, he means it as a selfish act. They seem to be circumcised to boast about their flesh. Paul says the only thing worth boasting is the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Sowing, then, for our own sake is not the sowing that Paul prescribes. God wants us to be sowers of “the Spirit.” So, what does that mean? Sowing to please the Spirit of the Lord, means that we shall reap eternal life. This sounds easy, but most of us know that with sowing comes great trials and many tears.
Sowing seed, as our farmers especially know, is quite a risk. Both the farmers of today and those of the Bible sowed with tears at times, and reserved joy for harvest time. The risks include anxiety for the rains, the risk of committing precious seed to “death,” the risk of choking weeds and pains of long winters of waiting. Pauls tells us, “do not give up.” Why is it so important to not give up?
Maybe we should go ahead and harvest what we can for fear of losing everything? Maybe we should take care of our own without regard to the rest of the community? God doesn’t think that’s such a good idea. We are part of a family—not of the flesh, but of the Spirit. One thing is for certain, if a man sowed sparingly, he would reap sparingly. If he refused to sow out of fear, he’d get no crop at all. One scholar exclaims that “the miracle is the stout persistence of the farmers, year in and year out, who defied the uncertainties and prayed to the Lord of the harvest.”
Paul explains that we should be like farmers of the Spirit—so that no adverse weather or greed or enemy could take from us the fruit of the Spirit and the joy everlasting.
I have an example if my own life of the risk of failing crops. I am from West Texas where about the only thing to farm is cotton. Our family did not have a farm, but the community where I grew up was full of cotton farmers. One summer I was a bug scout for the cotton farmers. Now, this is no ordinary job. I felt like the cotton of the world depended entirely upon my expertise! In other words, I thought it was my job alone that saved the crop. For you see, if I. counted the bad bugs appropriately, the farmers knew when to spray. Thus, the crop was saved. If I was sure the beneficial bugs outweighed the bad, then the farmer was spared the expense of spraying unnecessarily. Later, I realized how complex and inter-connected farming crops were. I was not just one solo act. Everyone had to work together in order for the bulk of the crops to succeed. I also learned that tears were involved before success happened. Counting bugs in 40 degree Celsius weather was not too exciting. In the midst of the work, however, there was joy in the process. I’ve never seen so many consecutive sunrises in a summer and when I was alone in the fields, my greatest companion was God. The feeling of helping out someone else was joy, as well. Though the toil was great, the result was joyous. I learned to sow with tears, and reap with joy.
Paul wants the church to be knitted together in such harmony. A church were we are mutually enriched by the life we live and work we do. People whose identity is shaped by the Spirit are not people who give up easily. I have already experienced such determination in the people of this congregation. You make the most of helping others. Paul exhorts us not to become weary in doing good, because he knows that God will reap the harvest.
We must remember when sowing for the Spirit, there is joy at harvest time. A joy that is shared, and not kept. II Cor. 9:7 says that God loves a cheerful giver. The actual Greek translation is a “hilarious giver.” Hilarious means boisterous merriment. The harvest was meant to be joyful and shared.
There is no more fitting way to begin again in ministry together and in person, than to share in the Lord’s Supper together. There is joy in the sharing, yet represented too, is the suffering of Christ. We are reminded again that in sowing, there are tears. For the bread is given to us broken. The broken bread, however, is the symbol for everlasting peace and life because of our Lord and Savior.
I often refer to the Lord’s Supper, or Communion as the “Eucharist.” If you are not familiar with that term, it’s simply the Greek word for “thanksgiving,.” The wonderous thing about the Eucharist is how it reaches all of our senses. From the touch of the bread as it is passed to us, to the smell of bread and the taste of the cup. The sound of prayers for all God’s people and the sight of all of us worshipping God.
The Didache is a 2nd Century document that displays the most wonderful description of the Eucharist for us as a church.
“Just as this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and then was gathered
Together and became one, so may your church be gathered together from the ends
Of the earth into your kingdom; for yours is the glory and the power through Jesus
Harvesting in the Spirit for North Lonsdale means loving, serving, and reaching God’s people. We have seeds to plant and nurturing to be done. There are needs all around us that will demand our attention. There will be turmoil among us that will require repentance and resolution. There will be tears. Whether they are simply tears of weariness or tears of deep pain. The good news, however, is that joy comes! Some of my deepest experiences of joy are the result of determination to face the pain. As we have walked through these trials of this pandemic together, and covid years we never dreamed we’d have to endure, there were tears. We were lonely. We were apart. But, joy comes…and we worship a God of hope, a God of love, a God of peace. If we truly are what we love…than let our church be the seed that God needs to share that love with others. For the harvest was always meant to be shared. Amen.