Joy- Rev. Michael Barnes 16/12/18
The Third Sunday in Advent is known as ‘Gaudete’ Sunday, Joy Sunday. However, in our gospel reading from Luke 3:71-14, John warns those who have come for baptism, ‘You brood of vipers!’ Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’
Where is the joy in that? It’s a conundrum.
This text calls us to search for joy in unusual places.
As I was thinking about this conundrum, I discovered an article about a community called the City of Joy, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The City of Joy is a place of refuge and transformation for women who’ve suffered violence.
I quote from that article:
How does one find joy amid unspeakable tragedy?
‘Everything is about love at the City of Joy,’ said Schuler Deschryver, co-founder of the community. She described how many of the women, first arriving at City of Joy associate being touched only with violence. ‘So, when you hug her and tell her she’s beautiful, that you love her, that you will fight for her, suddenly she’s like: Oh my God, I exist. I’m a human being. You see the joy that the women have and know what they’ve passed through. I think that’s one of the reasons I wake up every morning.’
Since its inception in 2011, the City of Joy has graduated 1,117 women. ‘When women arrive… many of them have been exiled because they’ve been raped. They’ve been marginalized and really live on the edges. And many arrive so bruised and so battered, and with disease and sickness,’ said Eve Ensler, another co-founder.
‘And when you see them six months later you can’t even believe it’s the same people. They’re just these radiant, gorgeous flowers that have blossomed and who are secure and competent.’
It’s difficult to see how and when the violence in the DRC will end, but that doesn’t stop the women from focusing on their goal of raising awareness, and demanding more responsibility and transparency from foreign entities. ‘For the war to end in Congo, I don’t know how,’ said Deschryver. ‘I don’t know how this will end, but we will keep fighting, knowing we are fighting against giants and we are just little.’
The transformation that these women experience could well be called ‘repenting,’ that is in the original sense of the word, ‘to turn around, to orient oneself to a new future.’
Such repenting brings unexpected joy.