In the first week I started in this role, a former reader told me she didn’t read Canadian Mennonite anymore because it didn’t have enough joy. Ouch!
We Mennonites do take ourselves very seriously. We trudge the hard road of discipleship taking to heart Jesus’ call to “take up your cross and follow me.” We strive to make our Christian life a matter of right believing and right living. This often involves scrutinizing our own lives—and the lives of others—to see if we measure up to the high standards of the gospel.
In those high standards, where is deep joy found?
Yes, the pages of Canadian Mennonite sometimes carry the controversies of the day, the critiques, the bad news of injustice and pain. They are part of our life together. But we also try to pay attention to the good news present in our church body and in the world. While the word “joy” is absent from this current issue—until now!—turn the pages or scroll the website to spot traces of good news. There are reports on generosity, trust in the Holy Spirit, work in peacemaking, growth in faith through Bible study, and encouragement to hope.
“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God,” said the philosopher-theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. A pastor I know has a whole book of artwork depicting Jesus in good humour—grinning, smiling, laughing! This pastor loves the stories of parties in the Bible and suggests that God loves a good party too!
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible offers almost 200 instances of the word “joy” and related terms like “joyful” and “joyfully.” Verses in Isaiah promise “joy and gladness,” and the Apostle Paul finds joy in the believers he has nourished and mentored. In some of his last words to the disciples, Jesus reassures them: “You will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy” (John 16:20). He reminds them to abide in their heavenly Parent “so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
Many things around us offer despair and cynicism. (Have you been on Twitter recently?) For those of us who see the glass half empty, those of us who identify with gloomy Eeyore, here is the challenge: to seek joy; to search for God present and at work in the events and people of our lives.
What brings joy—to you as an individual, to your congregation, in your places of work and leisure? Here is an invitation to take a joy “treasure hunt” in our everyday lives, to grab hold of “pockets of joy.” Because surely God will be there too, faithfully encouraging and sustaining.
In the meantime, I commit to keep looking for—and helping to tell—stories of joy.
The psalmist declares to God, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
May it be so.
Introducing Betty Avery, Graphic Designer
Betty Avery grew up on a multi-generational farm outside Ottawa. She was baptized as an infant in the United Church, and although she herself is not Mennonite, she has surrounded herself with a large group of friends and family from the Mennonite community in Kitchener-Waterloo. She came to Waterloo for university back in 2008, where she studied fine art, moved to Toronto in 2014 to study graphic design, and has now settled with her partner Lucas back in Kitchener. In her spare time, you can find her painting, spending time with friends and spoiling her favourite little feline, Minx.