“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18
“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” So says Pulitzer Prize winner Maya Angelou. I would say the same thing. In 1969 she published her award winning book titled, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
How can this happen? The Greek word for joy is agalliao which has the root meaning “much.” Much of “what” that would cause people to rejoice, be glad and give thanks?
It happens in the understanding that Much, Everything is within me, and is always around and within me. It’s how I look at myself and life around me.
Two men went to the same church. One noticed the organist miss a note on the opening song. He saw two teen agers whispering during prayers. He looked anxiously at his watch while scriptures were read. He felt a sense of pride when noticing the minister slip up in the sermon. During the offering he sensed the usher was checking how much he gave. He didn’t care for any of the music keeping a tight lip during the hymns.
The other man felt quite edified at the organist rendition of “Amazing Grace,” felt encouraged when a young person accompanied the music with her guitar, felt overwhelmed by the minister’s talk about God’s incredible love. When the offering plate came to him, he sensed a thrill to think he might be helping others and wondered if he was giving enough. Both men actually attended the same church service but how they saw it made a huge difference.
If we can’t see Spirit, God as within us, the True Us, things do get a bit depressing and obviously are not very perfect. The whole world will look crazy, as it is, and nothing will make a lot of sense, as it doesn’t.
St. Francis once said, “What I am looking for is what is looking.” Do we get it? Behind the observations, looking, asking and judging, is the Observer, the True You. A Guru answers the seeker’s question about life’s meaning by stating, “Discover first who is behind the asker of the question.”
“Be still and know God” is but another way of saying the same thing. Beyond the chatter and noise of sound and sight lies some entity which is formless, beyond, eternal, and free. It’s you, the True You.
Mary the mother of Jesus knew this. How else would she be able to utter the immortal Magnificat?
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name!
How could she say or sing this? She was nothing in this world; a woman, an unmarried pregnant teen, the slave of a man’s world, with no status worth even being counted.
She saw beyond all this, something most men then and now can’t see; the Inner Self, the Spirit Self, the Free Self One with Everything!
If asleep in our dreams and illusions, we won’t see it either. When we awake, resurrect, we see it, we know it.
“Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;
The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.”
When we awaken or resurrect to our God or Spirit Self, captivity, loses, calamity and humiliation began to fade away. We cut loses loose. We embrace the darkness.
The Israelites did it in captivity as Mary did it as an individual. They and we return to the Holy Moment, the Holy Instant. The party is on.
If you haven’t seen the 2005 movie, Joyeux Noel, I would recommend it for this season. French soldiers assisted by Scottish soldiers are holding off the Germans near Paris on a small farm Christmas Eve, 1914. Soldiers are wounded and dying. Evening comes and fighting ceases as sides pull back their dead and wounded from “no man’s land.” Amid this insanity and civilized sanctioned carnage, the Scottish Chaplain wants to celebrate Christmas! He gets out his bag pipes and begins to play Silent Night and a few carols. Suddenly they hear German soldiers singing Stille Nacht, and the same carols, voices blending in French, English, and German. The chaplain had brought the elements of Holy Communion in the midst of this death zone and invites to soldiers to join him. He decides to lead his troops out on to the no man’s land, walking slowly with lighted candles. Instead of being shot, German soldiers began to slowly stream toward them. One German soldier, an opera singer, began to sing “O holy night” as soldiers come together in a circle to celebrate with Holy Eucharist the presence of divinity among them. In the very midst of death, lunacy and violence perpetuated by three Christian nations, they were able to celebrate that which unites them in holy eternal joy!
One day in Calcutta, India one of the Missionaries of Mercies nurses came to help one of the poor dying beggars found in the street gutter. The nurse did not smile and seemed ill at ease trying to bath and comfort the dying man. Mother Theresa, upon seeing her, said with sternness in her voice, “Go back to your room and pray and meditate until you can return with a smile of hope in your face and countenance! These people have so little hope as it is and to nurture them toward the other side, we must express joy in the eternal life they are about to enter.”
While in high school in Sherman my parents took one of their normal winter holidays to Florida. Being gone for several weeks, the responsibility of milking the cattle and taking care of the chores was left to my brothers and myself along with a young man from the “city” of Sherman. One of those terrible snowstorms blew in off Lake Erie where the snow piled up in mountains several feet high! One morning we could hardly reach the barn in order to do the chores. The doors going in were partially frozen but we did our best to get the chores done and catch the bus to school. Actually, school was cancelled that day. At one point the town young man helping had the spreader loaded with the tractor ready to leave the barn. He was sitting on the tractor seat when my brother and I yanked the frozen overhead door up and pushed it back in its tracks. Suddenly the frozen ice crowded the wheels off the tracks and the door came down on the village man’s head, serious injury avoided as his heavily covered head went through a door window! I felt like I was in an awful dream from which I couldn’t awaken.
Later we dragged ourselves into the house and stoked the fire to help warm us up. Eating hot oatmeal and sitting with hot beverages around the big register, the phone rang and it was my father calling to see if everything was okay and if he should come home early. With the best voice that I can remember using, we simply said, “everything is just going great! Enjoy the weather and we will see you soon!” After we hung up we laid on the floor giggling and laughing until we were nearly crying. Suddenly all the misery and dangers we had faced seemed hilarious.
In the darkness of winter, the dark winters of your lives, remember once again this life is but a trial or a test to help you awaken to that which is eternal within you. Stay awake to it, go inward, feel and enjoy it with laughter, let everything go as you experience joy!
Talk given on December 11, 2011, at the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, 2085 Union Road, West Seneca, NY by Rev. David G. Persons.