Rejoice Always

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Scripture Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 ESV

Woohoo! Another school year is underway. The excitement of a new school year, a new teacher, new students, fresh paint, shiny floors and a clean slate bring great joy to administrators and teachers, parents and kids. It’s akin to the budding flowers and new green grass of a midwestern spring. There’s a newness that allows for renewed perspective and a bounce in one’s step. However, the buzz-kill usually comes at midterm when the realities of grading papers, the results of classroom performance and the reactions of parents and kids come roaring in with anger, frustration and defensiveness.

It seems like an annual theme of how to recapture joy in the classroom. How quickly our excitement can turn to gloom and doom. How quickly the joy of a new school year is confronted with the realities of this side of heaven.

Secular periodicals and blogs suggest all kinds of good intended, and in some ways, positive advice. In the online resource, “Responsive Classroom” (https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/the-importance-of-joy/), the writer suggests things like smiling, reading jokes, playing games and doing something kind for students and colleagues. Adding any of these is suggested to brighten the days of you and others. Certainly these suggestions could be adapted for any employment opportunity and even in family life.

In Three Principles Living (https://three-principles.com/joy-teaching-learning/), Judith Sedgeman continues the idea that attitude is not confined to the impact of environment and circumstances. Rather, perspective and actions can be the motivating factor in addressing the certainty of adversity and challenges. Sedgeman shares, “...the most important lesson I have ever learned: The pain and the joy are not coming AT me; they are coming THROUGH me, depending on my understanding of how I hold and use my own power to think about my situation.”

It’s refreshing to read accountability rather than a victim philosophy. Her post has a sense of discipline and planning instead of letting circumstances get the best of her.

But shouldn’t there be a bit more encouragement for us as faithful Christians, dependent on our Lord and seeking His grace and blessings, to be a bit more joyful and be demonstrative of it?

This year’s LCMS convention theme was “JOY:fully Lutheran” based on Paul’s words from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.

Taking a bit of a study on this verse, commentators share that this English translation appearance of a command is actually an encouragement and a reminder of the faithful eyes and hearts we live in Christ. In so many words, Paul is saying, “In spite of everything that looks wrong and disturbing, no matter how bleak things look, no matter how frustrated you may be...REJOICE.” Though our “boots-on-the-ground” reality may experience disappointment, frustration and even a bit of despair, we are reminded of the joy of salvation. Suddenly the treasure of Lutheran liturgy’s offertory, David’s works from the Psalms, rings in our ears, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free spirit.”

Lutheran schools can uniquely serve kids with a context that reflects and responds in joy to God’s grace- a different starting spot that those in secular schools. The uniqueness of the context of Lutheran schools is that joy comes from Christ and not in “outcomes” or in circumstances. Our joy MUST be focused on Christ.

Where can we look for this unique mindset? Consider these and how they show themselves in planning, operations and organizational strength-

  1. Mission statements that flow from an understanding of God’s grace
  2. Physical and virtual reminders of joyful living- signs, website, classroom decorations.
  3. Faithful, joyful school leaders and staff are visibly participating in worship, Bible study and service.
  4. Staffing and time commitments that support family and individual responsibilities of professional vocation, family roles and individual care. Overextended people struggle to find and exhibit joy.