What makes you glad?


“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.”

-Psalm 46:4



What makes you glad?


I’m writing this while on a plane in Detroit, Michigan. I’m on my way home from General richreading 20130502Synod and we were delayed a bit out of Baltimore, so I had to run through Terminal A and just made my connection.  That makes me glad!  Next month I’ll get to spend time with all three of my grandchildren (and their parents!).  I’m sure that will make me glad.  When I was much younger, doing well on a test made me glad.  To be honest, something as trivial as finding orange juice on sale can make me glad!


At General Synod we contemplated that which brings gladness to the “city of God.” In worship and workshop and resolution we wondered and speculated about community gladness.  We heard voices familiar and unfamiliar; comfortable and uncomfortable; “sensible” and perplexing – all inviting us…. sometimes challenging us…. sometimes annoying us (or at least me!)…. but always in the direction of gladness.


I’ve already established that gladness can be pretty trivial. I don’t think, however, the Psalmist had cheap orange juice in mind when composing this poetic image.  This is a picture of wellness and jubilation and contentment and wholeness.  Clearly the psalmist has love and justice in mind.  And clearly it’s communal – this is not private or individual gladness…. it’s the entire city.


Can you imagine? A glad city!  A city moved to this gladness by a river of streams.


On the final morning of Synod the South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa delegations (we chose to caucus together) were visited by General Minister and President John Dorhauer. He reminded us of the place of love (“love the Lord your God with your all and your neighbor as yourself”) and justice (“the Lord looks for justice and mercy and humility”) in communal gladness.  He reminded us that justice without love becomes sterile and bony and love without justice becomes flaccid and cheap.  If we are to follow God towards the prophetic sense of gladness then we are obliged to seek justice with love and to love with justice.


For the next two years between this just completed Synod and the one which will convene in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2019, the whole of the UCC is invited to experiment with a myriad of justly loving experiments. Our congregations – every setting of the church – are invited to embrace three great loves:

  • Love of Children,
  • Love of Neighbor,
  • Love of Creation.


You and your church are invited to enflesh these loves in ways that make sense in your congregation and in your community. AND…. you are urged to tell the wider church what you are doing.  Why?  Because good begets good and if we tell each other how we are enacting the love of Christ, our stories will beget more loving and more stories.  It becomes a virtuous cycle!


“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.” Let’s together get into that river and talk with each other about how it goes!




Rich Pleva
Conference Minister
UCC in Iowa

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