TROUBLE! Few people appreciate the word or the reality behind the word. “Am I in trouble?” Life is filled with trouble! WE all have trouble. I am pretty sure I am right about that. A joy filled life, then cannot be a trouble free life, or none of us would attain it. Joy has more to do with the power behind us, the wind beneath us, the strength within us. A joy filled life is a life lived according to God’s purpose, knowing that God is both before and after the trouble of today, leading into greener pastures. Joy is intimately connected to trust. If our relationship with God is such that we have come to trust Him, then trouble takes on a whole different perspective. We see it for what it really is, temporary. Our relationship is permanent, so the temporary troubles do not weaken our relationship. They strengthen it. This is JOY!
We begin a new series, “Joy Story” in church this week and will of course look at the greatest joy story of all, Christmas. It is appropriate to begin with words from the story. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 So the Angels know that Christmas is a joy story. What about America? What about our neighbors? What happens when people are told the savior is born. I would think today is about the same as Bethlehem or Judea in the first century. Some get upset with the thought that they even need a savior, like Herod. He even tries to kill the child thinking him a threat. That happens nearly every day. People still try to kill Jesus. Kids cannot wear Jesus shirts to school for fear of offending. Public places have to be Jesusless and Christmas is little more than snowmen and pies and toys. Even when believers try to help by saying, “This is GOOD NEWS.” Few want to listen. And they blame the Storyteller for the problem. As if we are all better off without the Storyteller. But what if THE Joy Story is the only source of real joy? Without Jesus, lives are lived out in “quiet desperation,” with only an occasional glimpse of happiness that we mistake for JOY. See you Sunday!
“His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him (Abraham) in the cave of Machpelah, near Mamre in the field of Ephron, son of Zohar the Hittite, the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah.” Genesis 25:9-10
I am not really sure Abraham and Sarah were ever the perfect couple. There does not seem to be a lot of romance or even happiness between them. Yet here they are together in the end. This cave is a fascinating story. In chapter 23 we learn how insistent Abraham is that he pay for the land and that it is actually deeded, written into historic records of the Hittites. Later his children and their spouses are all buried there, except for Ishmael. Ishmael shows at the funeral, then he is gone for a long time. We hear little about him and lots about his descendants. But this cave…. In 1967 Egypt blockaded the Straits of Tiran, an act of war according to the international establishment of Israel as a state in 1948. Israel acted swiftly and destroyed the Egyptian air force in what we know as the six-day war. But there is something few know. Around ten years ago notes of conversation Moshe Dayan had with Ariel Sharon and Yitzhah Rabin leading up to the war have been declassified. In those notes, Dayan makes a startling statement to his general in charge. “When we destroy the Egyptian air force, send troops to take back the cave of our patriarchs.” The cave was under Muslim control in 1967 and Dayan wanted it back. Today the holy site houses both a mosque and a synagogue. There is a long history of tension and murder surrounding the cave. Daily tension for a holy site fills the air with no peace in sight. We cannot help but recognize that Abraham’s legacy is not a peaceful one.