A YOUNG MINISTER acquaintance of mine said not long ago, "There are two kinds of Christians in the world. There are gloomy Christians and there are joyful Christians," and there wasn't the shadow of a doubt which kind he preferred with his smile as bright as his clerical collar, full of bounce and zip and the gift of gab, and there is little doubt as to which we all prefer. And why not? Joy is at the end of it, after all. Astonishment and joy are what our faith finally points to, and even Saint Paul, that in a way gloomiest of Christians, said as much though he was hardly less battered than the Jesus he preached by the time he had come through his forty lashes less one, his stonings and shipwrecks and sleepless nights. Yet at the end, licking his wounds in a Roman lock-up, he wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). But it is at the end that he wrote it. Rejoice is the last word and can be spoken only after the first word. The sheltering word can be spoken only after the word that leaves us without a roof over our heads, the answering word only after the word it answers.
- Originally published in Telling the Truth