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Sunday Message for January 14, 2024


Today we are talking about JOY. So let's start off with a joke.
A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar.
And the bartender says, "What is this, some kind of a joke?"

Okay, one more joke.

A Jewish father was troubled by the way his son turned out, and went to see his Rabbi about it. "I brought him up in the faith, gave him a very expensive bar mitzvah, cost me a fortune to educate him. Then he tells me last week he has decided to be a Christian! Rabbi, where did I go wrong?"

"Funny you should come to me," said the Rabbi. "Like you I, too, brought my boy up in the faith, put him through University, cost me a fortune, then one day he, too, tells me he has decided to become a Christian."

"What did you do?" asked the father.

"I turned to God for the answer" replied the Rabbi.

"And what did he say?" pressed the father.

"God said, 'Funny you should come to me...' "

So, today we are talking about Joy. I looked up Joy on Wikipedia and found that Joy is a song by Yuki Isoya, a song by Soul II Soul, a song by Lucinda Williams, and a song by six other singers. Joy is also a 1990 novel by Marsha Hunt and a series of novels by Joy Laurey. Nurse Joy is several characters in the Pokemon series. There is a Joy, Illinois, a Joy Range in Canada, and several places named Mount Joy. There is Joy dishwashing liquid, a programming language called Joy, Joy 94.9, a radio station, and the USS Turner Joy, a warship.

So as you can see, Joy is everywhere. But would you believe that you could be joyful in the midst of any situation? You can, because joy is your natural state.

A young lady in the 'Wholeness & Healing' class that I co-taught with Rev Diana McDaniel pointed out that it is very similar to rebooting your computer. When your computer has errors or is hung up on some process or just not operating at maximum capacity - you can reboot it to set the parameters back to what they should be - what they were originally.

Well, we can do that. Our natural state is wholeness, joy, health, and prosperity. So, when we get hung up on our error thinking and start producing nonsense in our lives - we need to reboot. We need to get back to our natural state of being One with God and living in joy.

Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure. Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and feelings. Joy is deep in the heart, the spirit, the center of the self.

The way to pleasure is power and prudence. The way to happiness is moral goodness. The way to joy is sanctity, loving God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself.

Everyone wants pleasure. More deeply, everyone wants happiness. Most deeply, everyone wants joy.

And everyone can have joy. All who seek, find-this is not just a promise about the next life, to be believed by faith, but a promise about this life, to be proved by experience, to be tested by experiment.

No one who ever said to God, "Thy will be done" and meant it with his heart, ever failed to find joy-not just in heaven, or even down the road in the future in this world, but in this world at that very moment, here and now.

In the very act of self-surrender to God there is joy. Not just later, as a consequence, but right then.

Every time I have ever said yes to God with something even slightly approaching the whole of my soul, every time I have not only said "Thy will be done" but meant it, loved it, longed for it-I have never failed to find joy and peace at that moment. In fact, to the precise extent that I have said it and meant it, to exactly that extent have I found joy.

It sounds too good to be true. It sounds like pious exaggeration, a salesman's pitch. Instant joy? All you have to do is surrender to God? What's the catch?

There is a catch. It's a big one, but a simple one: you have to really do it, not just think about it.

If you want to learn to live in Joy regardless of the circumstances, pick up and read a booka by Viktor Frankl titled Man's Search for Meaning.

The prisoners of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II had little reason to feel hope or joy. They were stripped of their freedom, their dignity, and even their clothes. They were separated from their wives, husbands, and children and many of them would never see them again.

Victor Frankl lost his wife along with everything else. He remembered the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. He observed, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Unity Truth students discover several reversals in the beliefs with which they may have been operating. The truth is often quite the opposite of what we had been taught and what we had been practicing.

The secret of prosperity, for instance, lies not in getting, but in giving. Love warms our hearts, not so much when we are loved as when we are loving. True forgiveness is not in forgiving someone else, but in asking forgiveness of ourselves because we judged another in the first place.

Now we come upon still another "reversal." We will see that true joy is completely independent of what happens to us from the outside. No person or event has any real power to make us happy, and that may come as a surprise to most people because they spend their lives waiting for events and people to change so that things will get better.

To many people, it would seem absurd that joy has nothing whatsoever to do with circumstances. After all, hasn't each of us been guilty at one time or another of saying things like, "If only my marriage were smoother, I would be happy," or "When I get a new job, my life will be great," or "How can you expect me to be happy when I have to take care of my invalid father?" or "Once the kids are out of college and on their own, I'll be able to enjoy my life"?

If we keep looking to the people and events of our lives to supply us with joy, life becomes like a shooting gallery at a carnival where as soon as you succeed in knocking down one target, another one pops up! We can end up trying to "shoot down" one trial after another, never getting a breather and never getting the chance to relax and enjoy life right here, right now. We spend our lives chasing what we envision as happiness only to discover that whatever we may have caught in our nets turns out to be only a temporary stimulation and never lasting joy.

If you had been looking for happiness in people and events, you discovered that it is not there. If you look to outer circumstances for your satisfaction cues, you will stay on an emotional seesaw.

There is a story about a father who was so happy because he had a son. The son fell off his horse and broke his back, and that made the father sad. Then because of his injury, the son was not called to war, and that made the father happy. Because he didn't go to war, the son married a terrible woman, which made the father sad. Then the son had a child, which made the father happy. And so on, and so on, one event gladdening, one event saddening. This is how most people live their lives, always reacting to whatever pops up and searching for joy in all the wrong places: outer events.

True joy is actually part of your nature. It's built into your very being. Yes, even in spite of outer circumstances which may appear to range anywhere from fair to awful, the experience of joy is always present deep within you. It is not something you take in from without, but something you let out from within you. Events merely give us an excuse to feel it.

Scott Awbrey wrote that during the pandemic, his family Zoomed together for a game of Pictionary; five households represented in little squares on their computer screens. When it was time for their four-year-old granddaughter, Jessica, to draw, she took a blue crayon and began vigorously drawing circles, and straight and squiggly lines. After a couple of minutes of us all shouting such guesses as, 'Snakes! See-saws, Legos!', we asked outright, 'Okay, Jess, what is it?' Without lifting the crayon from the page, she said, "I don't have a clue!" We erupted in laughter. It was priceless. "A little child shall lead them." Jessica was in the moment, not caring what the picture was, not competing to be the best of the game. It was a Zen moment. 'I don't have a clue.' I'm just here, right now, a crayon, a piece of paper, with my family." -

No matter what situation you find yourself in, once you make contact with the Christ center at the core of your being, you feel an immediate rush of joy, because you know that you can trust God and that everything is going to be all right. There is no true joy without trusting God, for when you trust God you are aware that, whatever the situation, you are just an observer passing through, that things will work out right for all concerned, and that everything really is okay.

When you touch the Christ of your being and can rest for a few moments in that sense of trust and peace which you find there, you automatically come away buoyed up and overflowing with joy. This feeling is totally spontaneous and, as you will discover, has nothing to do with what is happening in your life.

The feeling of true joy is a great harmonizer and healer, not only of inner emotions and human relations but of the physical body as well. In fact, it is this very feeling of inner joy which activates the healing forces by sending the message to your cells that all is well, that good is expected. When the body receives this message, it has no choice but to follow and become whole. You will recall this from The Quest teaching on healing, which spoke of that deep inner knowing that everything is going to be all right.b It turns out that it is joy which gives you that sense of all-rightness. In fact, Anne Lamott wrote, "Joy is the best makeup."c

It is true joy which keeps you lifted, in spite of whatever is going on around you. True joy arises out of your contact with the spirit within you. When the contact is made, the joy breaks forth. You have already been proving this for yourself, perhaps without fully knowing what was taking place.

The lives of the great spiritual teachers throughout history have been marked by joy. If one continues to dip into that font of divinity within, the result simply has to be the sense of joy which comes from trusting God.

Joy has been implanted in you from the beginning. No one can give it to you. No one, as Viktor Frankl observed, can take it from you. It is entirely in your own hands. If you are willing to turn inward to that Power which lies at your essence, you cannot help but find joy. It bolsters the soul and strengthens the body.

It is a most precious gift, this gift of joy, to be taken lightly and used frequently. As creations of God, we were meant to live in a state of joy always. As one who is traveling on The Quest, you are coming more and more to bear the permanent mark of joy. Recognize it in yourself and celebrate it.

a>Man's Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl
bThe Quest Richard & Mary-Alice Jafolla
cAnne Lamott

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