11 November 2006

Repentant Joy

I remember once hearing a pastor object to this phrase in the post-sanctus prayer in our Hymnal. It used to be in DS 1 of Lutheran Worship. It is now included in the post-sanctus prayer in both DS 1 and 2 of Lutheran Service Book. He thought that it was a crying shame we couldn't just speak of joy without having to drag repentance in!

"With repentant joy we receive the salvation accomplished for us by the all-availing sacrifice of His body and His blood on the cross."

Is there a gulf between repentance and joy? I don't think so. I think they embrace each other. It is in repentance that we discover joy. Repentance is not primarily grief and sorrow, regret and pain. Repentance is first and foremost a return to joy - the real joy, the joy of God's presence.

"In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16

This also reveals to us the true nature of sin: which is turning away from God and what He would give. "But your inquities have made a separation between you and your God." Is 59:2

When we speak of repentant joy, we speak of seeking and finding the only lasting joy in all the world: the joy of the merciful presence of God, His coming to us in grace, His wiping out our sin but not wiping out US. Said most simply: repentant joy is what we have when we turn from chasing joy in all those other places, and find it in the most Holy Eucharist. As our living Lord puts into our mouth His precious Body and pours down our throats His life-giving Blood - there is joy. Forgiveness, for sins are wiped out and gone. Life, for though this Body and Blood are surely the one sacrifice once offered on Calvary's tree, He who gives them to us lives forevermore and so into us go the Body and Blood that death (our death!) can never destroy. Salvation, for living in the merciful presence of God IS salvation.

Repentant joy, then. Let it be so for us each time we approach the Most Holy Table.


Higgins said...

I'm not sure where this came from, probably somewhere in my youth, but I remember pastors announcing that particular infant baptisms were taking place with "repentant joy"; such announcements usually took place when the father's last name did not match the mother's.

Scott Murray recently did a nice little presentation for our district, from which I was reminded that it's always a time for "repentant joy" (even when your children are born within the bounds of Holy Matrimony). Pastor Murray made an off-handed reference to divorce, about those who are able to claim scriptural grounds for divorce and remarriage; he said: "Do you really want to stand before God and plead your own righteousness? that you followed the rules?" I thought it was a great little quote.

I'm doing ok. It's always a time for repentant joy, even in sad, messed up times like these.

Susan said...

How could anybody object to the phrase "repentant joy"? There is no faith apart from repentance, so such an objection would be almost like claiming that there can be joy apart from faith.

Jimbo said...

some years ago, wanting to include the phrase in a sermon, I actually tried doing a concordance search for "repentant joy" in the Bible. I was convinced it was in there somewhere and had forgotten that it was a prayer from the liturgy.