Philippians 4: 4-7 (read by Max)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Rejoice. Be Kind. Trust, have faith in, the peace of God that passes all understanding.
Maybe one of the most poignant parts right now is: have no anxiety.
Rejoice. Be Joyful. Out of that place of Joy, it is natural to be kind. Easy to be kind. If you’re struggling to be kind, make a commitment this week to do something specific and kind for someone else: a stranger, a friend, a co-worker, someone you dislike (to put into practice the words of the week).
The scriptures remind us that we are Blessed Now. We are to be Joyful Now. Not in some far off place and time when things are wonderfully “normal” and peaceful, but now. Now, in our imperfect and messy lives in this imperfect and messy world. And perhaps, remembering that there is something big that we can not possibly understand. Some call it: the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
That passes all understanding. The Mystery. Perhaps, we are already immersed in a place of Peace and Joy? Perhaps it already surrounds us, but we just don’t fully understand or don’t fully see.
Joy and Blessings are not for the special, or the touched by God, but for all of us. We are all God’s creation. We are all blessed and if it’s hard to be Joyous, that’s pretty Miraculous and Magical and worthy of our Joy.
Rejoice and Be Joyful. Out of that comes…Kindness and giving and sharing. All those joyous things that really matter in this season. The real gifts.
Ever notice how easy it is to be unhappy, miserable, anxious (and we’re not talking clinical anxiety here, we’re talking those degrees of anxiety and depressive qualities that we all feel). It’s almost like we’re afraid or guilty to feel too much Joy and happiness. As if we’re not allowed to be happy. Sometimes, we very much feel like we don’t deserve to be happy and joyful; we’re not good enough or special enough.
But Joy is our Birthright! Fear is…the process or the disturbance we need to learn to work through. Joy is there. Rejoicing is there. We just need to shine it up a bit to claim it and embrace it and share it. That just might be the greatest Kindness we can offer ourselves and the world. To Clear the Way to Kindness.
Yoga moment: there’s a concept in yoga of happiness and unhappiness. The word for happiness actually means unobstructed and the word for unhappiness actually means obstructed. We simply need to, as John would say, Clear the Way for happiness. Real happiness which is Joy!! Joy is not confined by “what’s going well”. Joy just is, regardless.
One of the biggest ways we can become obstructed is through Fear. Fear is its own unknown, unseen, clog, shadow-side, blockage. It’s a big obstacle to Joy and Kindness. PAUSE.
It’s one of the reason we are spending this Advent in our Practices exploring our relationship to fear and uncomfortableness and hopefully finding our own sense that God is bigger than those fears (they are on the Advent Practices page of our website). God is bigger.
Joy is here. Rejoice!!! It’s our blockages (often: fear) that keep us from seeing it. And yes, I absolutely know grief and pain and a natural stuck-ness (it’s part of our job as ministers to one another to support one another in, and through, often slowly, these stuck places), so I am not (necessarily) advocating JOY! And REJOICE!! When you’re (appropriately) in those places of grief, loss, and suffering.
But…we are often mired in our grief and suffering…when we have nothing to truly grieve or suffer from. A Complaint Mentality. Deficit Mentality. When, if we see clearly, we realize we have so much to be Joyful for. We can rejoice! That God (whatever that means to you) is bigger than all of it. We know we’re stuck when we feel guilt and (worse) shame when we’re truly ready to move through and be on the other side.
We know we’re stuck when we have more to be joyful for, but we just can’t or feel guilty expressing Joy. Other people are sad and we are influenced to be unhappy because of their seeming unhappiness…instead of choosing Joy and allowing our happiness to be the influence and the flame. Why does it seem like it’s OK to express unhappiness at any point and time, but not it’s opposite?
Clear the Way.
John talks of Clearing the Way. It’s not a dogmatic, punishing, get rid of the stuff and the things and the fast from all things that are delightful to us. Or to clear the way of people who we find…hard.
No. It’s not to renunciate life and its pleasures. Although, there is an appropriate time and place for that. Not, probably, during this Joyous season. Not, probably, for most of us. We’re living, working, house-holding people. We aren’t monastic. Clearing the Way is, for most of us, not a punishment, but a self reflective letting go of the things that get in the way…that obstruct.
It’s about us. Notice Baptism. The ultimate Clearing the Way. It’s not about stuff and other people. It’s about you. Just you. Your body, your heart, your mind, and you soul. Your relationship to God and Jesus and Grace.
Clear the way is about clearing our own judgements, our own hates, our own grudges, our own fears….and forgiveness. Forgiveness. It’s not about the other people. It’s about us. When we refuse to forgive, we keep ourself stuck. It’s our own clearing the way for Joy and Rejoicing…
No matter what comes at us as potential obstructions…when we are clear, we can more easily move through the challenges to the Joy and Rejoicing on the other side.
So…Joy. Rejoice. Right now. Right now. Regardless of what’s happening. Regardless of what’s “wrong”. Regardless that life isn’t “normal”. Even, regardless of your grief. In this moment, in front of Grace…feel your Joy and Rejoicing. Let your love of God and Jesus and Grace be bigger than anything else. Whatever sadness, grief, pain, suffering, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, fear, dislike…it’ll still be there on the other side of this moment if you must pick it back up….
Perhaps note how hard it is to connect to Joy and Rejoicing. Notice how clingy those other emotions and feelings are. If it’s hard, or even if it’s not, commit to practicing just a little bit of Joy and Rejoicing in this coming week, despite every obstacle and obstruction; spread just a little bit (or a lotta) Joy. Spread Joy, even when you feel a teeny bit guilty doing it or a big heavy dose of shame doing it. It might just lighten a heavy heart….maybe someone else’s. Maybe your own.
Joy is for Now. Blessings are for Now. Kindness is for Now. Now. Rejoice!!