Summary: A sermon on joy, the fruit of the Spirit.
In a few weeks gardeners here in central Alberta will head out into their backyards and community gardens to prepare the soil for this year’s planting. If you’re one of these gardeners, will any of you plant pineapple? That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Pineapples grow in places like hot Hawaii not arctic Alberta. And yet according to one gardening website, the pineapple is a fruit that can grow well just about anywhere because it does well indoors in tubs and pots. Pineapples are incredibly low-maintenance as they need little water and soil and can grow in full sun or partial shade. What’s more, pineapple plants multiply quickly, which means you can grow a lot of fruit with minimal effort. Intrigued? Simply place the top of a store-bought pineapple in a hole you’ve made in a pot of soil. Arrange the soil to support the top. Water it and the rest will take care of itself, or so this website promises.
Just as pineapple can grow well anywhere, so can joy, the fruit of the Spirit we want to consider today in our continuing sermon series: Fruit That Is Always In Season. But doesn’t it seem impossible that you can have joy no matter what the climate of your life? Can you be joyful when you’re struggling to make ends meet? Can you be joyful when you’re separated from loved ones, or having problems at school? Yes, even in situations like those you can be joyful because joy is something the Holy Spirit produces—not something you yourself have to conjure like a $20 bill you dig out of your purse to pay for a movie ticket.
Listen to our text from Hebrews 12:2, 3. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2, 3).
Let’s get one thing straight. Joy is not the same as happiness. One devotional writer observed that ? is circumstantial. It winks on and off like a fire-fly’s backside. Hitting green lights all the way to work makes us happy. Getting rear-ended in the parking lot makes us unhappy. A compliment from a teacher makes us happy. Being criticized by friends makes us unhappy. Happiness hangs out at backyard BBQ’s and waterparks. But it’s an infrequent guest at funerals and in ER waiting rooms. (Sarah Habben)
Joy is different. Joy isn’t a feeling. It’s more of a knowing. What did the author of our text say? “For the joy set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus’ joy came from knowing he was about to make peace between sinful humanity and our holy God. Did he feel happy when he anticipated the agony of the cross, abandonment by his Father, the weight of our sins, and death? No—he was overwhelmed with sorrow! He was so sorrowful that he sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane when he thought about what lay before him. But even in sorrow he knew the joy of doing his Father’s will: presenting the world with the forgiveness we could never earn. (Sarah Habben) By allowing himself to be mounted on the cross, the Son of God turned that instrument of torture into a giant sewing needle, and with the red thread of his blood he mended the tear that our sins had caused between heaven and earth.
The pain of the cross brought Jesus joy because it was pain with a purpose, like the pain of childbirth. And it’s also here at the cross that we find the source of our joy. For if we can find God on the gallows, then we can find him everywhere—even where everything is painful and makes no sense. (Paul Wendland) They say you can see God’s hand in creation. And that’s true. Soon our gardens and our trees will be budding with beautiful blossoms. Warm sunshine will fill the air and the long evenings will call to us to come outside and to behold God’s beauty. But if you want to see God’s heart, then you need to go to the cross. (Paul Wendland) For there you not only see his love for sinners, you see his absolute dedication to us sinners. For if God gave up his Son so that you and I have eternal life, he will also give us everything else we need until we’re enjoying the glories of heaven. The Apostle Paul put it like this in Romans 8. “If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”