The Pastor's Peace - June, 2011
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If I told you to “get happy”, would you know what I was talking about? Perhaps you would look at me and say, “I am already pretty happy,” or you might say,” I don’t feel happy and you can’t just demand that I change my mind.” Of course if I said this in many traditional black churches, they would certainly understand what I was saying, and might even start to dance, shake, sing, or shout. You see, “getting happy” is a term used in many black churches to describe receiving the Holy Spirit. Different people respond in different ways, but what is clear is that something lifechanging is happening.

This practice goes back to the very beginning of the black church in America. Some think that this was a way for people to acknowledge the beauty and love of God, the resurrection of Christ, in the midst of the extreme hardship and persecution of their lives. One ex-slave preacher gave the following description as recorded in the book God Struck Me Dead: Voices of Ex-Slaves by Clifton H. Johnson: "All of my people were great Christians. Shouting, singing, praying, and good old heartfelt religion make up the things that filled their lives..... Aunt Charlotte used to cry most all the time when she got happy." Even though “getting happy” is not part of our tradition here at Beaver Church, receiving the Holy Spirit is. If we open up the good old Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 and look into the conversion of a Christian, we will find question number 90: “What is the quickening of the new man?” and see the answer: “It is a sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, and with love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.”
Even in stodgy old Germany with their black robes and very long catechisms, we see that joy and happiness is at the center of receiving the Holy Spirit and being a Christian. This does not mean that you need to see everything in your life as joyous, but it does mean we should take comfort and joy in our relationship with God despite the difficulties. Sometimes we look to God to make everything in our life the way we want it. We ask for money, or health, or solutions to our problems.

Perhaps we think that happiness is found in a life free from difficulties and challenges. In reality there is no life that is free from these things, but a life in Christ means you are never alone in facing them. The Holy Spirit is always there for us and in us, whether we realize it or not. What a joyous thing to know that nothing can take that from us. If I were in a place of oppression and extreme difficulty, you better believe I would be happy that I had Christ. I might even do a dance.

In June we celebrate Pentecost, the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the church. In memory of that day, I ask that you take a moment to look for the Holy Spirit in your life. Look for the Spirit in our church. Look for the Spirit in you. Know that it is an outpouring of God’s unending love, and that it will always, always, be with you. If you can find that some Sunday and it brings a smile to your face, a tear to your cheek, or the uncontrollable desire to “get happy”, this stodgy old German won’t mind, and I’m fairly confident that the rest of the church might even join in with you.

Peace and Blessings,
Pastor Brian