by Kevin Golden
In his Gospel, Luke delights to report again and again that joy comes when Christ is proclaimed. John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb at Christ’s presence (Luke 1:44). The angel of the Lord greets the shepherds with “good news of a great joy” (Luke 2:10) for Christ the Savior is born. The 72 returned to Christ full of joy (Luke 10:17) for what they had witnessed the Word of Christ accomplish. Jesus says that joy is boundless and full when His Word brings even one to repentance (Luke 15:7, 10). And at the end, Luke makes joy the last word in his account of the Gospel: “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:52–53).
It should not surprise us that joy continues to accompany the proclamation of Christ in Luke’s second volume, the book of Acts. Philip bears witness of Christ in Samaria so that much joy results (Acts 8:8). The preaching of Paul and Barnabas converts Gentiles, bringing them joy (Acts 13:48). The Jerusalem Council is filled with joy at the report of the conversion of Gentiles (Acts 15:3).
So it goes in Christ’s Church still today. Whenever Christ is proclaimed, joy abounds.
Though the occasions for joyful witnessing are many and varied, the consistent element is Christ. He is the sum and content of Christian witnessing and the source of our joy. Every congregation of Christ’s saints thus has ample opportunity for joyful witnessing. At Village Lutheran Church in Ladue, Mo. (where I am the pastor), these opportunities include the following.
Joyfully witnessing in retirement
Every Wednesday the residents at a local retirement home gather to study the Gospel reading appointed for the previous Sunday. The faithful are thus kept in the faith. Also in attendance, however, are those who have not been connected to Christ’s Church in decades, if ever. Joy abounds as they hear of Christ who attends them always.
Joyfully witnessing on campus
Washington University in St. Louis has been declared to be part of the “New Ivy League.” Our Lutheran Student Fellowship (a chapter of LCMS U) serves students so that, as they are challenged academically, they remain steadfast in the faith. Whether gathering for weekly Bible study, attending Divine Service with the saints at Village, enjoying fellowship or engaging other students who do not know Christ, joy abounds among the students and the supporting congregation.
Joyfully witnessing with pumpkins
Hundreds of international students attending universities in the St. Louis area are faithfully served by International Student Ministry (ISM). Joy abounds as Village hosts a pumpkin carving event every fall for the students. Not only are they inquisitive about cultural practices like pumpkin carving, they also are open to learning about Christian fall holidays such as Reformation and All Saints Day. The Gospel brings joy both to the international students and the congregation members.
From the angel among shepherds to the apostles among Gentiles to Lutherans among their neighbors today, the Church in heaven and on earth continues to bear joyful witness to Christ.
The Rev. Dr. Kevin Golden is the pastor of Village Lutheran Church in St. Louis (Ladue), Mo.
This article was originally published in the November 2018 issue of The Lutheran Witness.