When we knew the extent of the pandemic lockdown, my personal disappointment was the birthday party we had planned. Invitations never got sent. Flights were cancelled. And the order for apple fritters and maple glazed donuts for Sunday morning coffee hour was postponed. I am old enough to understand that this is a small disappointment. And make no mistake, I understand the gift of having a birthday at all. And the disappointment was still real.
Then my birthday happened. Joy exploded all over the place. My sister-and-brother-in-law adorned the lawn with Mardi Gras beads. My daughter arranged a greeting card avalanche. Ted colluded with the staff for worship surprises. The quilters sent a huge pot of annuals. Pastor Peter delivered a tray of apple fritters with a birthday candle glittering merrily in the middle. Trinity Lutheran Church rolled out a parade that filled my heart to breaking.
My local kids (safely distanced), strawberry shortcake, gifts, flowers, phone calls made for a nearly magical birthday—pandemic style. I woke with a sigh and went to bed awash in joy.
Among the many lovely gifts was a tiny piece of art by our very own Robin Cain. It reads, “Joy is an Act of Spiritual Resistance.”
Joy is an act of spiritual resistance. Joy isn’t quite happiness or merry making. Nor is joy the denial of reality. Joy is a transcendent submission to life, hope, love, and wherever possible, faith. Joy can exist in the darkest places, in hospital rooms, funeral homes and cemeteries. Joy can exist in emptiness and grief. Because joy is not dependent upon the things of this world. Rather, the things of this world are born of joy. Birthday parades are the outcome of a community expressing joy in the face of fear and sorrow and separation. Joy that life persists, God is good, spring comes. Joy finds its source in one place—the Creator of possibility, resurrection and love.
Joy can be experienced in all areas of life. Scientists know joy in patterns and methods. Joy in intellect and puzzles. Doctors find joy in the known and unknown of the human body. The systems that work and the capacity for healing. Engineers find joy in problem solving. Florists in the emergence of a seedling and the impact of the gift of flowers. Teachers in seeing the light go on in the eyes of a struggling learner. And so on. Joy is possible in pandemic.
Here are just two recent examples of the joy that is in us, gifts from God for such a time as this.
Our member Deb Simcik, mom to seniors Nick and Nate, is a kindergarten teacher who has a tradition of a Friday afternoon class dance party. She has continued that tradition from home. One recent Friday she invited her sons’ friends to put on their prom dresses and dance it out in their front yard. It was heart-breakingly beautiful. Girls in every color of the rainbow, no professional updos or false eyelashes, tennis shoes on. Dancing in the dresses they did not get to wear to prom. Joy at being young, and silly, and truly seen by a woman of God who understands both disappointment and irrepressible joy.
The Sunday of my birthday, our gifted musicians chose a postlude for the ages. The Beatle’s classic “When I’m 64.” (To be clear, I am only 60.) This sterling example of joy in songwriting was performed on pipe organ, accordion, ukulele and xylophone. An historic first. And possibly last. Laughter and tears and wonder at what our musicians can produce from the well of joy that inspires them.
Joy is God’s gift to humankind. The flicker of life that inspires us to see beauty, offer courtesy, pray in thanksgiving. Joy is the resurrection burning within us, calling us into life and hope. As you take your walks, gaze out your window, Zoom or chat with friends, or listen to music—anticipate sparks of joy in yourselves or those around you.
Joy is one of God’s most generous gifts and it is highly contagious.
So stay home. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Pursue joy.
By now most of our members should have received one or two phone calls from a member of the staff or council checking to see how you are faring in the pandemic. If you have not heard from someone, please contact the church office to verify that we have your correct phone number!
One of the folks who might be calling you is Pastor Don Fultz. Pastor Don joined the Trinity staff in 2019 as our visitation pastor. In partnership with Pastor Peter, Pastor Chris and Faith Community Nurse Kim Dahlgren, Pastor Don is an integral part of our care team, with a special focus on those of you unable to attend worship in person. He also helps with funerals and hospital visits—in more normal times.
Pastor Don and his wife Eunice have served many congregations, most recently in Forest Lake. And they helped to build the partnerships between the congregations in the Iringa diocese in Tanzania and the congregations in the Saint Paul Area Synod. They are busy and very proud grandparents.
We are fortunate to have both Pastor Don and Eunice here to share their deep wisdom and enduring faith.