what sparks joy?

***also available at DignityUSA

These can be dizzyingly depressing days with bad news seemingly on a non-stop loop in the news. However, today’s readings and reflection remind us that we are invited to joy, and we are invited to remember that Love has joy in us. Even now, the Source of our being celebrates and delights in each of us. Might we not also find (or co-create) the space in our hearts to delight in the ways that Love is made present in our midst?

July 3, 2022: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Isaiah 66: 10-14c; Psalm 66: 1-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6: 14-18; Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

For fans of the cleaning and organizational philosophies of Marie Kondo, the question of what sparks joy is a familiar invitation, mantra, and challenge. In the midst of all that is happening in the world from increased visibility of gun violence to anti-LGBTQ legislation, especially targeted at trans people, to debates about who is worthy to receive communion, to ongoing stressors of a pandemic that seems to surprise us with new hardships every time we seem to have a handle on it, to these most recent attacks on the bodily autonomy of women—rejoicing and flourishing are hard things to embody let alone imagine as possibilities. It’s hard to resonate with Marie Kondo’s pinging of joy when life (and the 24-hour news cycle) feels like a never-ending s***storm whose deluge is overwhelming to the point of not just mucking up God’s presence but paralyzing us physically, emotionally, and spiritually from even fathoming that God is somehow holding us in this murkiness. 

However, the prophet Isaiah, the Psalmist, Paul, Luke, and even Marie Kondo are reminders that amidst the chaos, God IS doing great things, sometimes very simple things, but none the less still great. There are shimmers and glimmers of hope: folks are rallying their voices proclaiming that communion and the sacraments are not weapons, folks are recuperating from COVID much quicker, young people are making their voices and lives fiercely and unapologetically known at all levels of society through TikTok and other social media platforms, people are speaking out for the equal dignity of women—each breath we take, even when hard and stifling, is a reminder that hope is a real option in this moment. How are we holding onto hope and how are we sparking joy in our lives and the lives of others?

It is ironic, funny, and sad that two thousand years later, the debate between Peter and Paul about who can and can’t join the Christian community is still lingering or, perhaps more accurately, festering. The fight between these two apostolic giants continues today with the debate of who can and can’t be ordained, who can and can’t receive communion, who can and can’t be theological—I don’t want to minimize these important and necessary conversations, but I do wonder if the debates are distracting or preventing us from immersing ourselves in the rainbows of God’s love, light, and presence. My hope and prayer are that these conversations spark and ripple joy as we live into new ways of being church by dismantling oppressive, unhealthy systems of coercive power. And if these contentious conversations are not sparking joy and hope in us, perhaps we need to find better ways to have them.

As I bring my reflection to a close, I offer some percolations on Luke’s gospel. As we live into and live out our ministry of wholizing hospitality, we cannot do so alone. Jesus recognized that it takes a village, a tribe, a familia, to be Church in the world, and so he sent the disciples out in pairs. We are all called to do something, and whatever our something is, is connected to and complemented by the something someone else is doing. I also want to lift up something that can be overlooked in this passage. We must rejoice like the disciples in the known and unknown fruits of our ministries, but we must also discern when boundaries are needed for our self-care and for the thriving of others. In many activist circles, we focus so much on doing that we forget that sometimes the necessary and loving action is setting a boundary and ensuring that it is respected by all. Sometimes we do need to shake the sand from our sandals, whether that means unfriending someone on social media, deciding to stop attending a particular faith community that does celebrate our wholeness, or leaving an unhealthy relationship. These are just some examples and I realize that these decisions are extremely difficult, messy, and complex. The boundaries we place can always be changed, removed, bedazzled, and take on new forms—sometimes we uphold the boundary for others as a form of solidarity. Our survival, our thriving, our ability to spark joy sometimes does call us to ensure that our personhood, our voices, our bodies are respected so that we can rejoice and celebrate, even as the Divine Love celebrates each of us right now – and always.


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