Tag Archives: Happiness

I’m H-A-P-P-Y

Sermon on the Mount. Carl Heinrich Bloch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sermon on the Mount. Carl Heinrich Bloch [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The second thing I want to say about happiness (as promised) is that to be happy is to do good to others. There is no prize for the right answer, but there is a question. Who said “There is no such thing as society?” Of course, it was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The statement was part of her thesis that life is enhanced by an individual’s personal initiative and self-motivation. Many people can live with that, and do, their philosophy more political than religious. In practice looking after number one is not the same as doing good to oneself. The doctrine of looking after number one does not quite gel with the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. Two things stand out: take the Beatitudes alone and they are all about happiness and community and the two are interrelated. To be content with our lot, we are truly blest. One example, “Happy are those who are merciful to others.” The Sermon on the Mount demonstrates clearly and bluntly how much we are bound together in the bundle of life. Take one small example, the desperate need for Food Banks and the magnificent response of so many people. And the Sermon on the Mount also makes clear that to belong to Christ is to belong to a community. A community, or society, shaped by the conviction that no one is an island. So, those first Christians shared with one another as each one had need. Happy are those who are merciful to others.

There is the third thing to be noted about our quest for happiness. We must not equate the Beatitudes with the Ten Commandments: they are not the same! The Beatitudes are not a collection of moral rules of conduct or code of ethics. They do not mean you must do those things in order to deserve and win divine approval. They have nothing to do with being well-thought of. The happiness God promises comes to those who claim no merit for themselves but, knowing their own hearts, are content to rest their need on the mercy of God. A description I have borrowed: “not so much the ethics of obedience as the ethics of grace.” The picture we are given is of a gracious giver and ourselves as humble receivers. Side by side with the teaching, there are the promises. The happiness of the Beatitudes is not the product of an alliance of human will and strength. The happiness of the Beatitudes is the promise of a living relationship with the One Christ Jesus, who not only taught them but exhibited them in his own life. And the more closely we walk in His Way, the more firmly we walk in His footsteps. The closer we are drawn into His presence, the more we become like Him, the more Blessed we become.

Epilogue: “I have spoken to you,” Jesus says “that My Way may be in you and your joy be complete.”

Happiness, Happiness, The greatest gift that I possess; I thank the Lord that I’ve been blessed with more than my share of happiness. (Ken Dodd)

I’m H-A-P-P-Y (song)

Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5 / Luke 6

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Happiness

By Harry Popoff (The hunter of happiness) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hunter of happiness (Harry Popoff) CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

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……