WHERE THERE IS DARKNESS AND SADNESS, LET ME SOW LIGHT AND JOY
This month we are exploring the beautiful and timely prayer known as the Prayer of St. Francis. Spoken almost 800 years ago, this prayer serves as a timely reminder of our responsibility to be bearers of Truth, particularly during this time of global transformation.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.a
Each week, we've taken a line or two to investigate and embody. Last week we looked at love and how it disables hatred.
LIGHT & JOY
So, today we are going to take a look at two ideas: bringing Light and Joy into the world where there is darkness and sadness.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "There is no object so foul that intense light will not make it beautiful."b
And Teilhard de Chardin, a French monk and 19th century mystic: "Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God."c
Light and joy; light and joy -- how can we be instruments of light and joy? Well, have you ever passed a business and saw a sign like this in the window?
Help wanted: Inquire within.
With one change in punctuation, we've got the formula for being instruments of light and joy:
Help wanted? Inquire within.
Because within is where light and joy reside -- and as we find these qualities within, we then need to give them out to the world. Francis knew this and, in his beautiful prayer, he is calling those things forth from within him.
So, this morning, we are being called to lighten up -- or is it "enlighten up?" And to be a source of joy in the world by calling forth joy which spiritual teachings of the ages have invited us to do.
The Psalmist said it beautifully when he wrote: "This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."d
Jesus told us: "Rejoice and be of good cheer."e
Ernest Holmes thought joy was so important that he gave us an affirmation In The Science of Mind textbook: "Everything necessary to the full and complete expression of the most boundless joy is mine now."f
Charles Fillmore, a pioneer of the New Thought movement and the co-founder of Unity, once said: "Life, for every person, should be a journey in jubilance."g
Peace Pilgrim once asked, "How could one know God and not be joyous?"h
The ancient Egyptians believed that upon death their answers to two questions would determine whether they continued their journey into the afterlife. The first question was "Did you find joy?" The second was "Did you bring joy?"
But how can I say this this morning? Look at our world situation. We are engaged in war; the stock market is like a roller-coaster; people are out of work. We've got serious problems right now. OR personal problems! This is no time to be speaking of light and joy.
Bruce Barton, a writer during World War I, once made a humorous comment in an article he wrote and a serious-minded reader took him to task in an editorial saying that his remark seemed much too comical for the gravity of their times.
Barton replied that since we were indeed in the midst of a great war, we should have twice as many jokes and they should be twice as funny. So, this morning, you'll get twice as many jokes, which I only pray are twice as funny. We'll see!
Today, I want us to experience joy -- the infallible sign of the presence of God! And where is a more appropriate place than here at our spiritual home! Perhaps not true for all churches, however.
For example -- One day, a woman from a Fundamentalist country church attended a big-city church. During the service, as the minister was about to commence his sermon, she stood up and clapped her hands and called out, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Brothers and sisters! Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!"
One of the very correct ushers tiptoed up behind her and whispered to her most urgently to be still, to which she replied, "But I've got religion! Hallelujah, God! I want to scream and shout -- I've got religion!"
Whereupon the usher replied, "But, Madam, this is no place for that."
Well, I say, yes it is -- this is the perfect place and this is the perfect time for that. Because as we let our light out, as we allow joy to be expressed, we change the energy of the world! And we have an obligation to do that TODAY. Right here, right now!
Unity Minister and author Eric Butterworth expounded on this idea, when he wrote: "Within you is the unborn possibility of joyous living and yours is the privilege AND responsibility to give it birth. "Stir up the gift of God within thee," we are told. The starting point is to stir up the gift of joy. First of all be happy, and then you will find the things that will evoke happiness."i
Now that may seem to you to be a paradox, but it is a very important thing. Joy is the liberating power. Just ask Anne Marie about her Laughter Yoga that she teaches here.
Could it be that Jesus had this in mind when he said "except ye become as little children, ye shall in no way enter the kingdom of heaven"j? We must lay down the burdens that weigh upon us. . . . We need to use our ability to laugh and to sing. We need to return and become as a little child. Turn within to that natural God quality of joy. Stir up this wonderful gift; let joy and laughter and spontaneity flow forth from us, and let us find wonderful release from tension, from bondage, from burdens in the liberating power of joy.
Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no way enter the kingdom of heaven"? We must lay down the burdens that weigh upon us. . . . We need to use our ability to laugh and to sing. We need to return and become as a little child -- with their innocence and purity.
A Baptist Sunday School teacher once asked her class, "Does anyone know what we mean by sins of omission?" A small girl replied, "Aren't those the sins we should have committed, but didn't?"
A six-year old boy was overhead reciting the Lord's Prayer at a church service. He started out pretty well, but then said: And forgive us our trash passes as we forgive those who pass trash against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us some e-mail.
A third grade religion class was reviewing the Ten Commandants. The teacher asked Little Johnny: "If your mommy told you not to tease the dog and pull his tail and you did that anyway, what commandment would you be breaking?"
Little Johnny responded, "I'm not sure which commandment it is, but I think it goes something like this: 'What God has joined together, let no man pull apart.'"
See - Childlike joy!
One of the great stories of the Bible tells of the liberating power of joy. In the 16th chapter of Acts, it seems that there was a maid that was obviously unbalanced mentally who was being used by her masters for the apparent spirit of divination.
She came following after Paul saying, "These men are servants of the most high God who proclaim unto you the way of salvation." She did this day after day until she was becoming annoying to Paul, so out of his vexation Paul healed her, and she became completely normal.
As a mentally balanced young woman, she was no longer valuable to her masters, so they were ticked off, trumped up some charges and had Paul and his followers jailed. They were stripped, beaten, cast into prison in a deep inner dungeon with chains made fast to their feet. We read:
"But about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and signing joyous hymns unto God, when suddenly there was a great earthquake so that the foundation of the prison house was shaken and immediately all the doors were open and everyone's bands were loosened."k
This is one of the great stories of the Bible. We might ask, "What did Paul and Silas have to be happy about that they could be signing with such gusto?" Nothing! It came from within.
What does it take to keep a car motor running -- fuel in the tank. So it is with joy, the fuel of a happy and grateful life. Paul and Silas did not turn off the ignition of joy when they were put unjustly into jail. They did not say, as I am sure many of us would, "What injustice, what a life! Just for that I am going to be bitter and unhappy. I'm going to be blue and in despair!" No! They knew that joy would keep them warm, secure and in peace. They had all the more need of joy and its liberating power in their time of crises.
A great way to reconnect with our innate joy is to take ourselves lightly. Ernest Holmes said: "I take this teaching seriously, but not myself!"l
CK Chesterton wrote: "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly."m
Another person who look himself lightly was Yogi Berra in his great autobiographical book: The Yogi Book subtitled "I Really Didn't Say Everything I Said!" Here are some of the pearls:
I was giving Joe Garagiola directions from New York to our house in Montclair once when I said: "When you come to the fork in the road, take it."
I was receiving the key to New York City on a miserably hot and humid day. Mayor Lindsay's wife, Mary, commented on how cool I looked, and I replied:
"You don't look so hot yourself." He wrote: "I guess I was a little nervous about the speech I had to make."
"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't go to yours."
"Never answer an anonymous letter." [As a new minister - I was given that advice too!]
You've got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, 'cause you might not get there.
Playing golf one day, I started to complain that my shot was going to go into the water. My friend Kevin Carroll said, "Come on, Yogi, don't be like that. Think positively." I replied: "Okay, I'm positive my shot is going into the water!"
Here is a real Religious Science piece of advice: "90% of the game is half mental."
Here's my favorite: "We're lost, but we're sure making good time!"n
Take a look around the room right now. Look in the eyes of the people next to you. Is there not a lightness in here? Do you see and feel the presence of God?!
Here's an important distinction to remember: Joy is not a reactionary emotion; it is a causative energy. It is not something that just happens as a result of outer experience; it is something we can release from within ourselves by active will.
Nisargadatta Majaraj responded with this stunning response to an inquiry about his not feeling sad in the face of circumstances that drive most people to despair, such as war, poverty and the like: "In my world, nothing ever goes wrong."o He was saying that he lived in the world of Spirit, and the rest is illusion.
Course in Miracles:
"Nothing real can be threatened
Nothing unreal exists
Herein lies the peace of God."p
There is a joy potential within every person; there is light within every person -- all the time -- there is an unborn possibility of happiness. Remember, ours is the privilege and the responsibility of giving birth to them -- and when we "enlighten up" we "enlighten up" the world.
aPrayer of St. Francis
bRalph Waldo Emerson
cTeilhard de Chardin
fErnest Holmes The Science of Mind textbook p. 290
nYogi Berra The Yogi Book "I Really Didn't Say Everything I Said!"
pCourse in Miracles