THEME: True happiness
What does it mean to be truly happy? Truly blessed?
Today’s readings remind us and encourage us of who we are as God’s people and how we are called to live.
Identity and purpose – yes!!
Start with first part of Micah reading:
And what does the Lord seek from you? To do justice, love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Who are the people of God?
Not those with correct beliefs or worldly wisdom, but those who act with justice and compassion, who walk humbly with their God;
those whom the world might call foolish because they choose to live kingdom values rather than worldly values;
those who go against the status quo and work to bring about God’s beloved community – God’s Kingdom – on earth, here and now.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
As we think about what it means to be happy or blessed in world values we might say –
Blessed are those who earn six figure incomes.
Blessed are the famous.
Blessed are those who don’t have anything to worry about.
Blessed are the powerful.
Blessed are those who have the determination and ruthlessness to eliminate everything that hinders the fulfilment of their dreams.
Our view of happiness depends so much on our circumstances and environment.
Happiness is a common desire. Yet, so few people seem to have true happiness that we put happiness in the same category as four-leaf clovers and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – that which is elusive, unattainable, and impossible.
Happiness is a goal that we all strive for, but when that goal is reached, we realise that there is always something else that we think would make us truly happy.
I’m sure you can think of things that you would like to see changed in your life so that you can be truly happy. So we go about arranging and re-arranging our environment and circumstances so that we will be happy.
On this basis, people have assumed that, if they are unhappy, it is because of this wretched washing machine, this wretched heart, this wretched person I am living with… They believe that they will become happy by changing their lot in some way.
Seeking happiness becomes a never-ending quest. Happiness, we assume, must be fun and laughter and expressing our own personalities by “doing our own thing”.
In order to be happy, we think, we must be free from suffering, sorrow and hardship. It’s no wonder that we can’t ever say that we have reached our goal – true happiness. There is nothing wrong with the desire to be happy; there is everything wrong with the way we often go seeking it.
And that’s exactly what Jesus is talking about today in the Sermon on the Mount when he talks about true happiness. He says,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
We would hardly regard ‘the poor in spirit’ as “happy” because they are aware of how much their sinfulness is out of control; their faith often wavers; they lack the spiritual resources to cope with the upsets in life and easily become depressed and miserable.
“Blessed are those who mourn.”
They are the least likely to be called “happy” because they are upset by the injustices in our world; they grieve for the starving, the homeless, refugees and those suffering in wars; they are distressed over their own stupidity and sinfulness; they are sad because of what death has done.
“Blessed are the humble,”
Those whom the world regards as the least likely to be “happy” because they are always busy doing things for others; they are gentle in their dealings with others, refusing to do anything for their own personal gain at the expense of others; they don’t push themselves forward and are satisfied helping others.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
These people can hardly be called “happy” because of their deep sense of what is right; they are passionate about justice for the underdog and won’t rest until something is done. They are unhappy about the treatment of refugees, unnecessary logging, the treatment of prisoners. They are also those who are “unhappy” with their own lives and want to live more as God intended them to live.)
“Blessed are the persecuted.”
Being persecuted can hardly be called a “happy” experience. Persecution is an unhappy event when you are suffering because you are a peacemaker, or because you have shown mercy and compassion on someone whom everyone else thinks doesn’t deserve it, or because you are pure in heart – you know what is the right thing to do but no one else sees it that way.
Can you see that Jesus’ definition of what it means to be blessed doesn’t depend on us and what is happening around us?
The Beatitudes present us with a whole new idea of what it means to be happy and blessed.
True happiness has to do with knowing God, belonging to God’s Kingdom, being a part of God’s family.
You might say that this is hardly a popular view, especially when worldly happiness depends so much on money, a house, the right car, and being free from sickness, death and anything that upsets our “happiness”.
But Jesus was one for making true statements. True happiness is to be found in God.
The fact is that we don’t find happiness by seeking happiness. We find God, and discover a deep level of happiness.
Or it is better said that God finds us.
In the middle of all the difficulties we have living out our Christian faith in our daily lives; when we are sad and upset; when we are despondent and depressed; when others reject us and ridicule us for our faith or for sticking up for what we believe is right; when we are trying to show mercy and love or bring about peace and we are told to butt out; God meets us, he strengthens us, he comforts, he helps us endure, he gives us the courage to move on.
That is God’s kind of happiness—the kind of happiness that is not only a future hope, but also a reality in the here and now.
That’s the kind of happiness that enabled the apostle Paul to write to the Philippians from his gaol cell, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4).
That’s the secret of true happiness!
You may be suffering a great deal from sickness; you may be persecuted for doing what you consider the right thing; you may be upset about your own sinfulness or the weakness of your faith; you may even be upset by those who have failed to show love toward you; whatever the case, you can still be “happy” in the knowledge that you are one of God’s precious children, that he sent his Son to die for you, and that when all is said and done, there is a place for you in heaven where there will be no more unhappiness.
This is the kind of “blessedness” or “happiness” that no circumstance or person can take away from those who trust in Christ.