Take yourself back a little in time to a day when variety theatre was very much alive. For a number of years we spent a week of our holidays in Scarborough and, if I remember correctly, there were probably about four to choose from. An essential ingredient to the success of the week would be an evening, in fact several, relaxing in a quality show. What made it more interesting was the number of top class artists, big names in comedy, who made regular visits to the resort. They could fill the theatres easily. There was (is) one famous comedian forever reluctant to leave the stage and let staff and audience go home. The audience was not terribly concerned. They loved him and the star of the evening showed every sign of loving them. Eventually they would get home, tired and happy, looking forward to the next time. The artist is Ken Dodd and he gets special mention by this blogger for his warm, enthusiastic musical rendition of what might be his theme song. “Happiness, happiness
“, he will sing with great gusto and sincerity. As promised by my last posting we are about to consider briefly something of our understanding of happiness.
Happiness: there are three things I want to highlight about happiness in this commentary. First, to be happy is to be good to ourselves. Of course, Christianity is about self-denial. This is how Jesus explains it: “If you do not take up your cross and follow me, you cannot be my apostles.” At the opening of a New Year those of us in Methodism engage in a service of worship that dates back to Wesley’s time and which we very much treasure – the Covenant Service, when we are invited to share with one another in the renewal of our personal commitment and relationship with God. It is a service that says the same thing as Jesus does in the quotation above. “Christ has many services to be done, in some we may please Him and in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.” Yes, I have read the Beatitudes, they are largely about attitudes and reactions to people. We will come to that shortly, but what point is there in commending values to others if we do not subscribe to them and treasure them ourselves? Unless we know how to care for ourselves, we reduce our capacity to care for others.
I want to inject here a brief and totally inadequate word of warning relating to a very large issue. We have witnessed in recent times how easy it has been for some in big business, for example, to do so well for themselves that caring for ‘number one’ converts to excess indulgence and a criminal record. However let us keep on track, back to where we diverged slightly.
To remind ourselves where we are, before we conclude, we turn to Rabbi Blue who said, “The kinder we are to ourselves, the more kind we are to others.” The Book of Proverbs has a saying which the Authorised Version of the Bible translates, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance but low spirits sap a man’s strength.” A verse which may be interpreted: to be happy is to be good to ourselves.
To be concluded……