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A Liturgy of Thanksgiving at the Return of Joy

This week, we are grateful to share a liturgy from Douglas McKelvey’s upcoming Every Moment Holy, Vol. II: “A Liturgy of Thanksgiving at the Return of Joy.” You can now view the full text for the liturgy as well as a special reading from Rebekah Lyons.

For a long season, O Lord, I considered as an impossibility what I now know as unshakeable truth:

That after loss, pain, tragedy, tears, sorrow, doubt, defeat, and disarray, I will hold a more costly and precious joy than any I have held before; and this not in denial of my loss, but manifest in the very wreckage of it.

And so I know this unexpected joy is no glib and passing fancy. It is rather the diamond-hard treasure unearthed and recognized only when lesser hopes have collapsed. It is the knowledge of your unwavering faithfulness, O Christ, now experienced and owned. It is the bright beacon of your promises blooming in the night like signal fires upon mountain peaks.

I came to the end of my own hope, O God, and found that your hope held me still. I saw through the ruin of my own happiness that your better joy stood firm— an unassailable fortress that even death could not throw down. And you have lifted me from where I lay wounded on war-torn fields, and have planted my feet solidly upon your ramparts.

[If one experiences any sense of guilt at the prospect of delighting in life again, include the following:

O God, guard my heart against any tendency to transmute this joy into the guilt of a survivor, as if to delight in your good gifts were somehow a betrayal of my love for the one I lost.

No, my Lord, let me never believe such a lie. This sense of returning joy is no offense against their memory— indeed, it blooms from the very seed of the hope of a world made new, and encompasses the expectation of their resurrection, and of my own, and of our jubilant reunion.]

And so I will celebrate your goodness in the land of the living. I will delight in this life, even as it is lived in the shadow of death, for a day will come when all of your children will rise eternal, taking joy together in these created spaces.

Yes, in this age I will mourn with all my heart. And that is right. And yes, I will rejoice with all my heart as well. For that is also right.

You, O Christ, have faithfully shepherded me, your child, through the passages of a world broken and fraught with separation and loss, and you have guided me again to the bright remembrance of joy—even of a joy that wells up within my sadness.

You have lifted my eyes to the sight of sunlight shafts piercing the darkest clouds, gracing in gold a distant hill to which I will inevitably one day come. You have whispered to me again and again, that the end is not the end. And I have begun to believe it— not just in my head, but in the blood and bones and heart of my own experience.

This surprising joy is like the aroma of a wedding feast prepared and awaiting my arrival in some verdant wildflower meadow. It is the substance of all secret hopes.

It is the assurance that all lost things will be found, that grief will be upended, that all spaces hollowed by sorrow will become eternal repositories of glories untold, and that all things will one day be revealed as mysteries of mercy and grace, designed for your glory, O God, and for the great good of your people, your bride, your beloved.

O my soul, water this joy with your tears, and bathe all remaining tears in streams of joy, for this joy is no small and passing thing. It is the very spring of eternity bursting from the parched soil of your sorrow, flowing forward into eternity. Deep has called to deep, and deep has answered. This joy will not be quenched!

Take joy! O my soul, take everlasting joy, and drink! Amen.



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