The Message, April 16, 2023: "Dancing Into Joy!" Psalm 100

The Message, April 16, 2023: "Dancing Into Joy!" Psalm 100

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
April 18, 2023


“Dancing Into Joy!”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Psalm 100

            Today is the Sunday after Easter. As I said at the beginning of the service, this week is often called ‘Holy Humor Sunday.’ So, I offer you another joke!

            It was Sunday morning, and the faithful were gathered for worship. The service was beautiful, and just as they were about to celebrate communion, Satan himself appeared in the sanctuary!

            The women screamed! The children screamed! The men screamed! Even the pastor screamed! They ran out of the church with the Devil running behind them. His eyes flashed with flames as he laughed at the terrified people running down the street.

            Satan thought that he would add to his fun and decided to go back into the sanctuary and devour the sacred communion bread. As he turned to walk in, he saw one man still sitting in the pew. Satan snuck up behand that man then jumped in front of him with a terrifying roar. The man just looked at Satan.

            Satan glowered at the man. “Do you not realize who I am?!”

            The replied, “Oh, I know exactly who you are.”

            Satan: “And you are not afraid of me?!”

            The man: “Afraid? Nah, not one bit. I been married to your sister for forty years, and quite frankly, you ain’t half as scary as she is!!”

            This Sunday is the week that preachers often offer messages based upon the very familiar story of Doubting Thomas. But, as you heard, that was not the scripture passage that I read this morning.

            That passage, the passage in which Thomas is featured, takes place immediately after Easter Sunday. It begins with these words:

            “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear …” (John 20:19)

            On the evening of the first day … the disciples were locked away because of their fear. I decided that I did not want to talk about fear this morning, or doubt. This day is not about being locked away. It is not about Jesus needing to prove his identity.

            Today is about joy!

            As we have noted in the past, the Psalms are songs of worship. The various psalms were “written” for specific needs and purposes. There are travelling psalms, and psalms of mourning, and psalms of ascent. Psalm 100 is a liturgical psalm. It is a doxology. In fact, the hymn tune that typically accompanies our doxology … The OLD 100th … is named for this psalm.

            The psalm begins with the worshiper’s entrance into the Temple. The faithful are to turn and face the nations and proclaim their love and praise for Yahweh God. They are to tell the world! Tell the friend and the enemy, tell the neighbor and the oppressor that God is great!

            Then the psalm goes on to tell WHY God is so great. God is good and faithful. God has done wonderful things for all of humanity. All of humanity should sing God’s praise!

            The psalm refers to God’s steadfast Presence. The word for “Presence” means to “recognize one’s face.” It implies intimacy. It implies that we are known by God. It is about being in relationship. God is not distant and aloof. God is present. God knows us. God recognizes our face. God cares about us and what happens to us.

            That is why we sing God’s praise. Our songs of praise and thanksgiving should reflect God’s goodness!

            Just as in the doxology that we sing every Sunday morning, this doxology is about offering thanksgiving. The ancient word rendered as “thanksgiving” can designate an actual gift or sacrifice, or it can denote liturgical expressions of gratitude that served as a substitute for sacrifice.

            What the psalm is saying is that our worship can be our offering. Our worship is our doxology, our thanksgiving. Our worship is our gift to God!

            One last word analysis. The word for worship that we read in verse two, means to orient one’s whole life and existence to God and to serve God.

            Our “worship” then, is to be so much more than what happens in this room on Sunday morning. Our worship is meant to be reflected in the way that we live, the way that we move through the world, the way that we treat one another, the ways that we love and serve one another.

            We know that when we gather here on Sunday mornings we can feel the joy. We can feel the energy of this gathering of people. We can feel the Holy Spirit moving in us and among us. That is a wonderful thing! I have to tell you that I feel so energized during our worship services and that energy stays with me when I leave here on Sunday afternoon.

            The challenge for us is to take that joy, to take that energy, to take that Spirit … out there!

            How do we experience joy? Then … how do we carry the joy forth?
            How do we share joy? How do we create joy for others?

            It occurred to me as I was preparing to write this message, that we have a very important role to play in the world. When I thought about the passage from John that referred to Doubting Thomas, it struck me that there are people that are still hidden away in fear. But the sad thing is that they are hiding from US! They are hiding from the church!

            Those first disciples were locked away in that room for fear. They were terrified of the Temple officials. They were terrified of the Romans. They were terrified of what might happen to them.

            There are people in the world that are terrified of us. We are the “Romans.” We are the “Temple authorities.” The church … and by that, I mean the church at large … the corporate church with a big ‘C’ … terrifies people today.

            Rather than being a source of hope, peace, joy and love, the Church has become a source of pain and fear. The Church has become a source of judgment, condemnation, rejection, and persecution. The Church … supposedly claiming to follow the One who ate with ‘sinners,’ and who welcomed the outcast, and who preached that we are to care for ‘the least of these’ … has become the body that rejects them. Even worse, they have become a source of vilification and hatred.

            Just last week, someone contacted us about attending our Easter worship service. They contacted us because they wanted to know if a same sex couple would be welcome here. It saddens me that they felt the need to ask. But they knew that there are plenty of churches out there that would not welcome them.

            That is why it is so important that we stand at the gates and tell the world that God is great, and God is good. It is important that we tell those who love us as well as those who would hate us that God is love, and God is peace, and God is joy!

(Note: I inserted three pieces of paper in the worship bulletins. One had an image of a butterfly, another had an image of a dancer, and the third had an image of the church’s steeple.)

            Here is where those little pieces of paper in your bulletin come into play. Those of you in our virtual congregation can participate as well. You may not have the fancy pieces of paper, but you can consider the questions.

The Dancer … On the piece of paper with the dancer, consider something that fills your life with joy? Not something passing or temporary, but rather something that gives you deep and abiding joy?

The Butterfly … Have you heard of the ‘Butterfly Effect’? That is the principle that a butterfly’s wing moving causes a movement in the air around it. Then that air moves the air around it, and so on, and so on … until the movement from that butterfly’s wing travels around the world.

            So then, let us be the butterfly wings. On the butterfly sheet, consider something that you can do … as individuals … to offer joy to another person? How can we share joy, or create joy?

            Remember … one small ripple can build and build and build until it becomes a great and powerful wind.

Finally, the Steeple … What can the church as a gathered community do to offer joy? Whether you are a member of this church family, or a visitor you likely have some thoughts on the matter. What can this church … or the wider church … do to create and offer joy?

            You can keep the dancers and the butterflies for yourselves. Hang them on your refrigerators or your bedroom mirrors. Look at them often to remind you of your calling. We are to live as an act of worship. We are to live as praise to God. Our very lives should shout to the world, “God is Great!”

            The slips of paper with the steeple them … I ask you to leave them with us. We want your ideas; we want your heartfelt dreams. We want to make certain that everyone who comes to this place experiences the love and joy of God. For those of you online, please leave your dreams on the live chat thread. We want to hear from you too.

            Now, I have one final assignment for you. As you stand to sing this next hymn, look around. Look for someone that you have never met, or someone that you do not know very well. Step outside of your comfort zone. Take a risk. Speak to them and introduce yourself. I even give you permission to do it during the hymn! Or, seek them out after the service and join them for refreshments in fellowship hall.

            This is a community based upon loving relationships. It is about presence, about recognizing each other’s faces.

            This is the Easter season. It is the season of joy! May our lives be an expression of our joy! May our lives offer praise and thanks to God! And may we be “noisy” in our worship!



Congregational Church