Did you have a lockdown anthem?
What I mean by that is, do you have a song which immediately reminds you of that strange 2020 year when our worlds were turned upside down and everything changed! In the Rodgers household our lockdown anthem was a song called ‘Ha Ha Hallelujah’ by David Carpenter. Check it out - it’s a lot of fun!
During the lockdown, as a family, we would dance around our living room to this song (mainly to try and get some excess energy out of the kids!). The problem we have now, two years later, is that our kids are still obsessed with this song. Whenever we go in the car, before the car seats are even buckled, both kids will shout in unison…’Put Ha Ha Hallelujah on’. We then proceed to listen to the song on repeat for the duration of our journey!
Something struck me recently though. As I watched my little ones dance and sing to the song, I felt God teaching me two lessons, one about Joy and the other about Faith. You see, one of the lines in the song which is repeated is ‘One of the fruits of the spirit is joy!’ My son Ezra doesn’t talk much yet but he loves this part of the song and will shout along with the ‘JOY’ part. Of course, this line is taken from Paul writing about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.
‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’
As I was watching him last week, I was reminded that Joy is a vital part of a Christian’s life. After all, we have lots and lots to be joyful about! It is easy to forget that, it’s easy to get into the habit of being all too serious and reserved. When coming to Jesus, we often 'get straight to the point' and forget the good bits such as all the things he has already done in our lives. Even at our lowest point, we have so much to be thankful for and that should give us joy.
A few weeks ago, on one of our Sunday mornings, some of our children were dancing at the front, running around, shouting and generally having a lot of fun during the worship. A number of people shared how they were encouraged by the kids’ freedom and lack of inhibitions. As Christians we can feel like we have to be sensible, that we can’t let our guard down, especially during worship! I look at my children though as they sing and dance and I see a pure sense of joy – it challenges me, because I wish I was like that!
There is a famous story in the Bible where Jesus encourages us to receive the kingdom of God like children.
15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. 1
The Disciples in this story were making the same mistake that we often make; they were being all too serious, they thought that Jesus would not want to spend time with the children as he had more important things to do! That can be our default setting too. We lose a sense of joy because we think that we have more important things to bring to Jesus - our worries, our difficulties, big situations. Because of that, we approach God with seriousness rather than joy. Maybe we feel convicted about how bad we are, maybe we feel unworthy of approaching him and think we must approach him with seriousness like we are meeting with an angry head teacher. Jesus is serious with his warning though, we need to receive the kingdom like children do. Maybe it’s time to start approaching him with Joy!
The second lesson I learned from watching my two singing along to this song is about faith. See my children don’t really know what they are singing, they don’t really know about the fruit of the spirit, or about the fact that the joy of the Lord is their strength. They only know these things because I have told them. At just aged four and two, they can’t quite grasp the theological importance of these statements but they trust their father enough to believe me when I say it’s good to sing them.
I believe this is another point that Jesus is making in this story. We need to have faith like little children which is built on a dependence on God. It’s a trust that comes from relying on him and believing him without any sense of worldliness or question. See my children don’t question me when I tell them it’s good to sing to Jesus. They just do it. Theologian Tom Wright comments on this passage saying, ‘There is something about the helplessness of children and their complete trust of those who love and care for them, which perfectly demonstrates the humble trust he [Jesus] has been speaking of all along.' 2
Our faith should be the same - we should trust God, be open and vulnerable and know that we can trust him because he will not let us down. Why? Because he knows what is good for us, and we trust him with that.
With this childlike faith I believe we will see real breakthrough. As we think about some of our social action projects, some of our work overseas, or our mission within Teesside, these things require us to have faith and trust in God. A childlike faith will allow us to take bigger steps and press into God…if we do that, who knows what might happen over the next few years!
As we enter into the month of May, I want to encourage you to let your guard down, have that sense of joy and exercise a little bit of childlike faith – and maybe, just maybe, have a bit of a dance around your living room to Ha Ha Hallelujah.
- Luke 18:15-17
- Tom Wright commenting in 'Luke for Everyone'
Watching my children sing and dance along to their favourite worship song taught me a couple of lessons about joy and faith. Jesus also had a lot of say about having childlike fath when teaching his disciples in Luke 18.
This will be the first Easter in three years that we’re able in Jubilee to gather together to celebrate, and the Easter message is still as powerful as it was 2,000 years ago!
Starting on Tuesday 15th March we are committing a whole month to prayer. Prayer has always been the bedrock of a Christian life with God. Prayer is what unites us to God in the here and now. Through prayer we experience the friendship and lordship of God through His Word and Spirit. In prayer we come to all three persons of our One Majestic God.