The Wednesday Word Devotional for June 7, 2023.

By Julie Hart, Director of Connectional Ministries

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

This summer’s weekly devotions are going to be about the Fruit of the Spirit. Last week, I wrote about love and the parable of the lost sheep. This week’s devotional is on Joy, which also ties into the parable of the lost sheep. The love comes in seeking the lost sheep and the joy comes in finding the lost sheep. In this parable (much like the parables of the lost coins and the lost son), there is rejoicing in the return of what was lost.

This past weekend was the second time in a few weeks that my oldest son was able to come home on liberty for a short visit. I soaked up every single minute of our time together, and I did so joyfully! It was a busy weekend and I had work to do, but he tagged along with me to meetings on Saturday and church on Sunday, and he did so with the same joy. Why? Because we both knew that there will be a lot of space and time between us until we can be together again. We did not take our time for granted.

On Sunday, I saw some folks that haven’t been around for a while, including one member who hasn’t been to church in person since covid! And do you know what I witnessed? I witnessed people (including myself) rushing over to hug and greet him! We were filled with joy to see him back home.

Can you even imagine what it would be like if everyone walked into church and received that same joyful greeting? Pastor David preached about this not long ago when he talked about his best friend from childhood, Jimmy Gordon, coming to church and about how people who didn’t even know him were rejoicing that he was there. Wouldn’t it be great if we could always rejoice when people walked into our homes our church, and our lives? Especially those who may be feeling lost?

Last week, I asked you to consider who the 1% is in your life is that may be in need of your love and to extend an invitation to them. Did you take steps to do so? And, if so, how did that go for you? If you haven’t been able to get to that place yet, I invite you to think about what it is that might have caused them to leave the flock in the first place. Was it fear? Shame? Guilt? Anger? Frustration?

Perhaps the more important question is: what has kept you from going into the wilderness to find them? Is it disappointment? Exasperation? Betrayal? Sadness?

There is still time to make that phone call, send that card, or have that conversation. I believe you will find great joy when you do.

Dear joyful and loving God,

Help us to love others the way that you have loved us. Help us to look for the lost and to make them feel welcome. Help our hearts to be filled with love and our actions to come from a place of joy. Amen.