Joys and Sorrows of Life

Joys and Sorrows Kiss

Joys and Sorrows Kiss

“When we speak about celebration we tend rather easily to bring to mind happy, pleasant, gay festivities in which we can forget for a while the hardships of life and immerse ourselves in an atmosphere of music, dance, drinks, laughter, and a lot of cozy small talk. But celebration in the Christian sense has very little to do with this. Celebration is only possible through the deep realization that life and death are never found completely separate. Celebration can only really come about where fear and love, joy and sorrow, tears and smiles can exist together. Celebration is the acceptance of life in a constantly increasing awareness of its preciousness. And life is precious not only because it can be seen, touched, and tasted, but also because it will be gone one day. When we celebrate a wedding, we celebrate a union as well as a departure; when we celebrate death we celebrate lost friendship as well as gained liberty. There can be tears after weddings and smiles after funerals. We can indeed make our sorrows, just as much as our joys, a part of our celebration of life in the deep reality that life and death are not opponents but do, in fact, kiss each other at every moment of our existence.” Henri Nouwen

John 16:29-33

“Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” (32)

On June 4, I was ordained into ministry. The memories I have of these years are of the hands  held, the people  comforted, the weddings, the funerals, the confirmations and the baptisms, joys and sorrows, all meet as one. I have never known any other job but ministry. From the  time I felt my heart “strangely warmed” at age 12, I have been driven to follow the One who goes before us into Galilee. People asked why I have never gotten married or had a relationship, it is because I have had one relationship to which I have given my  all.  Through the ups and downs of life, my ordination is the seal of that relationship, that covenant between me and Christ. I had a friend who was interested in me, and sought to court me, when same sex marriage became legal sent me a wedding certificate which declared my marriage to: “Jesus.”  She added: “You are legal now. Congratulations!

Last March on a warm night I was knocked down, and beaten.
Three ribs were broken. All I remember were the words spoken, rebuking God, demanding I deny Jesus, and my ministry, criticizing my ministry etc., and in the pain, the  fear of death, all I could see in the face of the one beating me was the broken face of Jesus. And I loved him, I cherished him,  because he was Jesus. In those moments the joys and sorrows of life kissed, as I see them kiss now in every moment of life.

In those moments ministry changed for me, as I let go of judging other people, and understood the words of Paul Tillich for the first time: “The first duty of love is to listen.”

And so as I begin another year, whether I am rich or poor, sick or in heath, have friends, or do not have friends, looking  to Jesus the Author and Finisher of my faith, remembering  that “The first duty of love is to listen.” I commit myself to listening.

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



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