22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Joy is for Everyone

11 December, 2016 Advent 3 By Rev Dr Christopher Page


When you do things from your soul,
you feel a river of joy moving in you.” ~Rumi

 

INTRODUCTION:
Some years ago I applied for a job position in Melbourne. After the interview for the job I was talking with a good friend about how the interview went and the various questions they asked and the answers I gave. I recall saying to my friend, “Well, it’s a good job and if they offer it to me I will take it.” My friend listened and nodded his head in agreement and then he said, “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of joy in you as you talk about this position. Is it really just a good job that you want?”

His words struck me. I suppose I wasn’t thinking that I should be joyful with this position. But something he said struck at the core of my life and my work. Yes, I did want to do something that gave me joy, but I really wasn’t sure what joy was, or more importantly how to discover it and cultivate it in my life.

JOY AND HAPPINESS
Joy can be very elusive and hard to find and particularly difficult to hold on to. We may all know that there is a relationship between happiness and joy and that joy is something that is more substantial and perhaps even foundational to happiness. I used the quote from Rumi on the front on the Order of Service to illustrate this:

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” ~Rumi

Perhaps that’s the starting point for joy - that it is a soulful thing that can sustain us even when we don’t feel that happy. It is as Rumi poetically suggests a river flowing through us and maybe even beyond our control. Joy comes where we surrender to that ever-flowing river. Or as the Irish poet John O’ Donohue writes:

I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”

That seems to be the essence of the words of Mary read in the story this morning:

And Mary said, my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour 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.

Most often, but not always, the announcement of the conception of a child is an experience of joy by the parents and those around. It can remind us of the great mystery of life and, even as the story tells us, its remarkable unpredictability. But this narrative places the birth into a cosmic context. The child will achieve greatness not in the traditional way of wealth, political power or fame, but as one who will show a mastery over his own life and will become an example for life fully lived within himself and toward others. This is joyfulness.

Perhaps that is the difference between happiness and joy or joyfulness.

  • Happiness is an emotion in which one experiences feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and even intense pleasure.
    • While Joy tends to be a "state of being." It could be connected to great calm or delight or happiness. It could be caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; it can be pleasurable; and accompanied by feelings of elation. But it is more permanent than happiness.

  • Happiness tends to need external sources, events and activities.
    • While Joy seems to be an inward job. It has a spiritual presence about it and it feels as if it comes not from me but flows through me.

  • I am pretty sure that winning the lottery would make most of us happy. I am also sure that the initial blast of happiness would dissolve with time.
    • But somehow or other joy can remain in the ups and downs of life. But don’t get me wrong: joy does not eliminate sadness, sorrow or suffering. It is more like hope - an ever-flowing stream that calls us to enter its life-giving flow.

J.D. Salinger, the author of the novel Catcher in the Rye, once said "The fact is…the most singular difference between happiness and joy is that happiness is a solid and joy a liquid."

EVERYONE CAN BE JOYFUL
Now don’t get me wrong; I am a big fan of happiness. If I had a choice between being happy and being sad I would take happiness any time. But I know that that’s an illusion: it is what our consumerist culture tries to sell us. The deeper truth is that joy can be present even when I am sad. I know what the opposite of happiness is: it is unhappiness. But what is the opposite of joy? Is it unjoy? It’s not sadness, or disappointment or even sorrow. These are all real experiences of life. I suspect it is more likely to be despondency or meaninglessness.

In this way joy is the sister of hope. Joy and hope sustain our spirits in the living of each day. And it is each day that is so important. I am a strong advocate for “everyday religion”. For me that means that what we call the presence of God, or the sacred, the divine, the holy is encountered and mediated through the living of one’s daily life; so everything is holy. The ordinary becomes the receptacle of the extraordinary. The author Elizabeth Berg writes:

There are random moments - tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children's rooms - when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful joy for a life I feel privileged to lead.

And to put it into a grander theological landscape, the renowned priest and palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God in everyday life.”

So if joy can be a natural experience of daily life and if it is somewhat richer and deeper than happiness, how do we cultivate it in our lives?

Well, let me start by quoting the eighth-century Hindu text the Vedanta, which suggests that there are only two indications that one is enlightened. The first is that you have the capacity to stop worrying. Things don't bother you as they once did and you can hold things more lightly and lightheartedly.

The second is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this is the point where you experience joy and a sense of the miracle of life. (Adapted from Carol Lynn Pearson in Consider the Butterfly) Deepak Chopra, Synchrodestiny: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence to Create Miracles.

That was what happened in the life of this young woman Mary. In a seemingly miraculous way things came together in her life, and even the shock of pregnancy was overshadowed by the joy of being a part of a greater plan which is the great mystery of life itself.

I suppose it has been said by preachers before me and it is a lesson I must learn every day and it is so simply put by the composer Richard Wagner, “Joy is not in things; it is in us.” Joy is more a vibration that we tune in to. Or to use the metaphor I used before, it is a river that we step into, to be carried by its current. And yet our thoughts and thinking need to be in alignment with the source of life and love in the universe; that river that flows; that tune we hear. We become more joyful by perceiving ourselves and our world when we are connected to that loving source.

I think the words of the Apostle Paul take us in this direction: Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. Joy is not something we obtain; it is something that is revealed in us. The truth is that joy already exists within us and we seek ways to express it.

Finally, no matter where you are, joy is in fact all around you. But it can only be found by stilling the thoughts of your mind for an instant and then noticing the present moment.

Joy, like all spiritual qualities, is now; peace is now; love is now; beauty is now; hope is now. All the qualities of spirit are located in the now. Start to notice them within yourself, within those around you and in the world of which we are all a part. Then there is a fountain of joyfulness that can bring us life in all its fullness.

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