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Goodness and Joy!

Reading time: two minutes. I recently had a bad bout of “Good sermon, Pastor.” It’s always so awkward to hear and I don’t receive it well. I preached at our home congregation and I worked hard to give my best effort to prayerfully contemplating, crafting and delivering the message, and it was, actually, a pretty good sermon. But the “Good sermon, Pastor” afterwards is always uncomfortable to hear. The preacher wants only to point people to Jesus and longs to hear, “God is so good, Pastor,” but in their kindness and appreciation for a message that proclaims the gospel clearly, people often express their joy over the love of Jesus with words like, “You’re such a good preacher!” That’s not the point. The goodness of Christ is the point. There’s nothing good in us, but isn’t there an appropriate way to find joy in this wonderful calling we have to bear the good news of the gospel to hungry souls?  It’s an interesting dilemma for church workers. We know that there’s nothing good in us: God alone is good and all good things come from Him. The Large Catechism on the First Commandments says that God “is an eternal fountain who overflows with pure goodness and from whom pours forth all that is truly good.” (Kolb, 389:25). The fruit of the Spirit is goodness which I link to Spiritual Wellbeing, being fed in God’s good gifts for the fruit of goodness imparted to us in Word and Sacrament. If it’s good, it’s from God, not from his humble servants, right? However, look at the next sentence from the Large Catechism: “Although much that is good comes to us from human beings…” Get it? God indeed uses parents, authorities and neighbors to deliver His good gifts. That’s where the joy comes in. God can do something eternally good even through a humble instrument like me. Large Catechism: “So we receive our blessings not from them, but from God through them. Creatures are only the hands, channels, and means through which God bestows all blessings.” There’s joy in being the channel! Our favorite definition of joy says that it is a gift of the Spirit deep in the soul when He causes us to see the beauty of Christ at work. The people mean well when they offer words of encouragement like, “Good sermon, Pastor,” and none of us hears those kinds of affirmation often enough. And while they are a bit embarrassing (and certainly lousy theology), there is an appropriate way to find joy in those expressions of thankfulness. “Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight” Jeremiah 9:24. Don’t be shy about looking in the mirror and finding joy in the mystery of the kingdom that God has selected you to exercise his kindness, justice and righteousness on earth. Because of Jesus, you are good. Thanks for reading. Are you interested in helping bring a Grace Place Wellness Retreat to your region?  We’d love to hear from you.  Contact our President/CEO Randy Fauser today to begin exploring the possibilities.  Let’s have a conversation about bringing our Church Worker Retreat to your area soon!