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God's Merchandise is Expensive

If joy could be bought,
what would I pay?
If, as advertising peddles,
joy could be mine today
for 19.97,
would I buy it?

Supposing joy could be legislated—
that a political candidate promised
each and every one of us
life, liberty, and happiness
through joy’s ordinance,
would I vote for that?

What if joy could be
brought into being
the rational faculty
of this brain in me,
could I mind-over-matter it?

Okay, speculate
God freely gave
joy to all who prayed
and got saved
Would I believe it?

In all truth,
we all know
down in our guts
that joy
is not easy like that.
She ain’t cheap.

For God’s merchandise
is expensive.

Faced with death,
joy is irrational.
When it comes to sorrow
she’s counter-cultural.
Against despair,
she angles her body,

remembering the child within.
Despite life’s hate,
she heeds her loves,
and enjoys the goods
already hers,
finding beauty in ashes.

There’s something unspeakable
about joy— unexplainable.
She’s personal.
She’s individual,
and all at the same time, communal—
a work of the people.

So, for the joy set before us
we find her in the sensual
we find her in the uncontrollable.
As likely on death row as at a carnival,
she’s inexplicable
as she rolls death’s stones out of our way.


With thanks, and credit, to the "Joy and the Good Life" Conference at Yale Divinity School, 2018, especially the insights and work of Prof. Willie Jennings.

Dr. Sara Barton is the University Chaplain at Pepperdine University.

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