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Devotion: "We Sing with Joy"

Kate Tripoli shared this devotion during rehearsal earlier this week (September 29, 2015). Kate is a soprano in the National Lutheran Choir.
A couple of rehearsals ago, as we were working on “How Great Are Thy Wonders,” David [Cherwien] made an offhand comment that the opening line, “We sing with joy” isn’t about some woman named Joy. And it made me think of Inside Out, the new Pixar movie from this summer. Inside Out is two stories in one. One story is about Riley, an 11-year-old girl whose parents move the family from Minnesota to California, uprooting her from her life and everything that defined her. The story inside that story is about Riley’s emotions, who appear as sort of people operating the control room of Riley’s mind. Fear, Anger, Disgust, Sadness…and Joy. Riley has always been known as the “happy girl,” because Joy has been unofficially in command of the other emotions, while Sadness gets put in a corner and isn’t allowed to touch anything. The upheaval in Riley's life caused by the move sends Joy and Sadness on a journey together throughout Riley’s entire inner being—her memories, her self-image, her subconscious—and gradually Joy realizes that Sadness is not something to keep locked up. Sadness and Joy have to work together to help Riley become a whole and healthy person, because it is Sadness that makes Joy truly powerful.
I thought that was a really profound message for a kids movie, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it this summer. Because I don’t know if you felt this way, but I thought this summer was a rough one. Global and national tragedies happening all the time, I had several friends and colleagues going through deep personal losses, and through it all, I have found myself praying one prayer over and over. Lord, if you had been here. Lord, if you had been here, those people wouldn’t have been shot. Lord, if you had been here, that car would have stayed in its lane. Lord, if you had been here, we wouldn’t be sad right now! You’re God, you see all things and you say that you love us, so why didn’t you DO SOMETHING? That’s what Martha wanted to know when her brother Lazarus died, and what we all want to know when faced with grief. It’s probably the biggest stumbling block most people have on the road of faith; we want to know why God hasn’t put Sadness in a corner so that she can't touch anything. But the point of Inside Out, and maybe even the point of the Lazarus story, is that we as human beings need Sadness. In this broken world, we need the catharsis of Sadness so that we can receive Joy in all her fullness. There was a great post from Parker Palmer on the On Being blog last week, where he said, " When we so fear the dark that we demand light around the clock, there can be only one result: artificial light that is glaring and graceless and, beyond its borders, a darkness that grows ever more terrifying as we try to hold it off. Split off from each other, neither darkness nor light is fit for human habitation. The moment we say “yes” to both of them and join their paradoxical dance, the two conspire to make us healthy and whole." 
So when we are faced with sadness, when we find ourselves crying in anguish, “Lord, if you had been here," remember Inside Out, the story that says Sadness is not a villain to be defeated, but a guide who leads the way to Joy. Let's remember that Jesus cried when his friend Lazarus died, before he raised him from the dead. Let's remember the words of our All Saints program, "Blessed are you who weep, for you will laugh."
Weeping at the grave creates the song: Alleluia.
The Lord be with you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
    let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
    when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
    when I call, answer me quickly.
11 My days are like the evening shadow;
    I wither away like grass.
12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;
    your renown endures through all generations.
Kate Tripoli