I’m invited to write some liturgy for an upcoming event with the theme “Surprising Joy.” Surprise is not a biblical word (except when an enemy army surprises a sleeping camp — not really a good image.) But surprise itself, the grace-full inbreaking of the unexpected, appears throughout the biblical text. An enjoyable afternoon concordance-crawl found me many verses about joy. I took some of the most familiar and decided to “surprise” the scriptures themselves — discover a twist within that is also true. Of course, I know that there is a terrible legacy of “twisting texts” and I hope I have not done that but rather I have intended to let the words of our tradition shift and transform in surprising ways. The list of scriptures (which are carried in the “leader” voice of this call to worship or responsive reading) follows the piece itself. It can also be used in one voice or with alternating sections.
Responsive Reading // Call to Worship
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Make a joyful silence to God,
praise God with quiet and listening.
Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy.
Whisper that God knows our weakness; whisper joy.
Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
and a joyful dipping into the well of living water.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy,
and the buildings of the city clap roofs and windows.
Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
Swirl with life, O ozone,
and you, land and sea, once polluted,
grow and bubble with new life.
The desert shall rejoice and bloom;
like the crocus bloom with joy and singing.
Desertification will become a word unspoken,
and the New England cottontail rabbit
will dance in New Hampshire again.*
Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you,
revile you, defame you.
Leap for joy like an old prophet —
your reward is great in heaven ….
Blessed even are the times you hurt so much
a broad jump or pole vault is unlikely.
Hold someone’s hand with joy,
for that simple motion names a great prize.
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart;
for God has long ago approved what you do.
Go give bread to others, and celebrate your recovery –
God sits at full tables and empty cups, long ago and now.
* Please use a seriously endangered animal in your area.
In order scriptures used are Psalm 100:1, Psalm 81:1, Psalm 95:1, Psalm 96:12, Isaiah 49:13, Isaiah 35:1, Luke 6: 22-23, Ecclesiastes 9:7