50 States of Joy: A Preaching Series

“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said! They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and GREAT JOY, and ran to tell the disciples.” Matthew 28:6-8

Suggested Resources For Your Sermon Series:


Books of the Bible that frequently discuss joy:
  • Psalms 
  • Luke 
  • Philippians 

Selected Passages:

  • Ezra 3, 6
  • 1 Chronicles 15, 16, 29
  • Nehemiah 8
  • Proverbs 12:20; 15:23 
  • Isaiah 12:3-6
  • Jeremiah 31
  • Matthew 13:20, 44
  • John 15:11; 16
  • Romans 14:17
  • Galatians 5:22
  • 1 Peter 4:13

Lectionary Passages (between April 23-May 28, 2017) related to themes of joy and flourishing: 

  • April 23: Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9
  • April 30: Luke 24:13-35
  • May 7: Acts 2:42-47; John 10:1-10
  • May 14: 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14  
  • May 21: Psalm 66:8-20
  • May 28: Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 

Selected Reading:

  • Miroslav Volf and Justin Crisp eds., Joy and Human Flourishing
  • Jürgen Moltmann, Theology and Joy
  • C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy
  • Alexander SchmemannFor the Life of the World
  • Barbara Holmes, Joy Unspeakable
  • Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, chapter “The Discipline of Celebration” 
  • Adam Potkay, The Story of Joy
  • Robert EmmonsGratitude works! A Twenty-one Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity
  • Peter H. Van Ness, “Endangered Bliss: Reflections on Joy and Religion”
  • Nel Noddings, “Enhancing the Ideal: Joy” 

Possible Themes for your Sermon Series:

  • What is true Joy?
  • What does community have to do with joy?
  • The relationship between Joy and Sorrow
  • The relationship between Joy and Justice
  • Joy as resistance 
  • Joy in the midst of illness, chronic pain, and other difficult circumstances 
  • Joy inhibitors 
  • Joy and Flourishing 
  • Joy as a fruit of the spirit

A word from Miroslav Volf, Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture on why preaching joy matters:

The Bible invites individuals and communities to practice and participate in God’s true joy. After telling the disciples that they should keep his commandments and remain in his love, Jesus explains, “I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete.” Joy is the crown of the good life, integrating all positive emotions as well as including and expressing in its own way the responsibility to lead our lives well and to construe both the world and the good rightly. Yet joy is not usually the first word that comes to people’s minds when asked about Christianity or the church. What if it was? Our team at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture is studying joy and we seek to encourage theological reflection on joy. We would be grateful for your partnership in this endeavor.  

A word from Allen Hilton, Founder and Leader of House United:

The “50 States of Joy” initiative will be a healing balm for what ails our churches, our nation, and our world. In these painfully divided times, it will inspire the church and the world to see hundreds of congregations from all over the theological map rejoicing. We invite you to embrace the collegiality of this large and diverse lot of preachers – through the website resources, through communication with one another, and through listening in on each other’s work. May God, church, neighbors, and world enjoy our joint journey with joy!


JTF Logo The Theology of Joy & the Good Life project is made possible by the John Templeton Foundation with additional support from the McDonald Agape Foundation.