‘Bwana asifiwe’ were the Swahili words I kept hearing during a recent visit to Tanzania. It’s used as a greeting and means ‘Praise the Lord’.
As a group from the Diocese of Worcester visiting our sisters and brothers in Christ in the Diocese of Morogoro, we were caught up in many times of praise. Together we sang and prayed, talked and danced. People, young and old, seemed to almost burst with joy; the women clicking their tongues from side to side in their mouths to make the unique ululating sound.
Their joyfulness will long remain with me. As we travelled around the diocese, we kept meeting people, especially in remote villages, who, more often than not, had little economic means and little ‘stuff’, yet had lives that were overflowing with generosity, delight, hope and joy.
This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. Many years ago, C.S. Lewis’ book Surprised by Joy opened my eyes to an understanding that joy can be found in the depths of our being. It is the pearl of great price.
Words of Mother Julian of Norwich that “the fullness of joy is to see God in all things” came back to me as I looked at the joyous faces of people eating a simple meal of rice and plantain.
I realised in Morogoro that the Western Church has too often lost its pearl and desperately needs to re-find it. We’ve stopped expecting to see God in all things and need to re-open our eyes.
I wonder where joy features in your life and in the life of your church?
The Gospel turns despair into hope, scarcity into abundance, sadness into joy. Do our lives reflect that? Or do we tend to wear our funeral faces too frequently?
Pope Francis recently said, “Christians should share their joy, point to a horizon of beauty and invite others to a delicious banquet”. He went on to say that “an evangelising community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always”.
As God’s Kingdom People in the Diocese of Worcester, when might you be joyful today and how might you share that with someone else?
Rt Revd Graham Usher
The Bishop of Dudley