This Sunday, March 25, 2018, we continue our Via Creativa theme of Mothers of Invention. During this quarter, we’ll be exploring how we can bring forth that creative spirit of invention that can transform not just our inner world, but the world around us.
We used music from James Taylor to learn why we have a “moral obligation” to joy and how remembering to laugh and play is our fastest way to reconnect with our inherent sense of joy.
From the Hebrew Scriptures: Isaiah 50:4-9: I did not hide my face from insult and spitting
From the Jesus Story: Mark 14: 1-11: She broke open the jar and poured ointment on his head.
From A Course in Miracles, Chapter 27: Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea
Song used in the sermon: Secret O Life, by James Taylor
In addition to laughter being part of our evolutionary inheritance, the pointy-headed researchers also tell us that we all have something called a natural happiness set point. This is what determines whatever level of happiness we will have in this world. Life events can change this set point, of course. The death of a loved one can plunge us into the depths of despair, while winning the lottery can take us to the height of ecstasy – until of course, all those long-lost relatives start hitting us up for cash.
But, what today’s Jesus story attempts to show us is this – while our ego-based happiness set point can have its ups and down – our true divine set point is firmly stuck on joy. In our Jesus story today, we find our guy, before he goes to Jerusalem during Passover, relaxing in Bethany at the home of Simon the Leper. While he’s there, a woman comes in carrying, as the scripture says, “an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard,” and proceeds to pour it on Jesus’ head.
Nard, for those who may be unfamiliar with it, is an ointment or perfume which is made from a plant that grows in the Himalayas and was apparently worth more than 300 denarii, or nearly $55,000. For this woman to break open this jar of perfume and dump it on Jesus was an amazingly wasteful thing to do – and it’s a message to us that we, too, are to be just as wasteful in breaking open the most valuable thing we have to pour out into the world – our divine love and joy.
The ego will have none of this and shows up in the story in the form of the angry guests who protest this woman’s actions. “Why was the ointment wasted in this way?” they scream. “For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.”
You see how sly the ego can be? Right there it uses the most powerful weapon it has against us – guilt. It tells us that we’re selfish if we pour out our most valuable gifts all willy-nilly on just everyone in this world. No, the ego will say, your gifts are meant for only the worthy! Think of the poor you can help with all those gifts! This is how the ego stops us from fulfilling our moral obligation to joy by telling us our moral obligation is to the world’s values which separates people as worthy or unworthy.
Jesus demonstrates how we are to react when the ego starts in on its guilt trip. “Let her alone,” Jesus says. “Why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me.”
The Course tells us we have two choices in every situation in life. We can either be the crucifixion of those before us, or we can be the resurrection. Here, even before Jesus faces his own crucifixion and resurrection, he models this for us. Those angry guests, they offered this woman crucifixion – they attacked her for her extravagant and joyful gift to Jesus. But, Jesus offered her, and the guests, the gift of resurrection. This, Jubilants, is our task, too, if we’re to see joy as a moral obligation.
Now, when I talk about joy, I’m not talking about your happiness set point. Such set points are ideas of the ego, which tells us happiness is when we feel good and sadness is when we feel bad. Your joy setpoint has absolutely nothing to do with what is going on around you. If you truly embrace joy as your setpoint, nothing will be able to shake you from it. This is what Jesus is teaching.
In the coming days, Jesus would be betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Roman guards, subjected to a mock trial, beaten, tortured, mocked, taunted and finally nailed to a cross. Every Good Friday, if you go to such services, the brutality of what happened to Jesus’ body is recounted in intricate and gory detail.
Embracing joy as your set point will not exempt you from bodily suffering, or despair, or sadness, or even death. But, embracing your innate Holy setpoint for joy will allow you to endure all of that from a place that understands everything on this temporal plane is temporary – especially suffering.
“Enlightenment,” writes author Anthony DeMello, “is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.”
Suffering, illness, grief, despair, death – they are all inevitable as long as we inhabit these bodies. But, in Jesus we see enlightenment – that embrace of joy – as he cooperated with the inevitable. Jesus’ fate was inevitable because this ego-driven world will always kill the messengers of love that dare to rock the boat. If it cannot kill our spirit and keep us in line through the ego’s demands, you can bet it will find a way to kill our bodies.
To the ego, it sounds like Holy joy is lie – but remember this, throughout all of his trials and tribulations, even to the moment before he died on the cross, Jesus never lashed out at his tormentors. He never cursed them. He never attacked them. Instead, as he breathed his last, he looked around at all of them and felt joy – because he did not see them with the ego’s eyes. The ego would tell him to hate them, call them names and condemn them.
Instead, Jesus asks God to forgive them, because they didn’t know what they were doing. And they didn’t. They were too wrapped up in their ego to understand that they had not just crucified a man named Jesus, but they had nailed themselves to that tree as well and denied themselves the gift of resurrection.
But, Jesus knew the secret of life was enjoying the passing of time. From that vantage point on the cross, he saw his earthly time pass, but looking at the crowd all he saw were eternal beings of light, trapped in the darkness of ego. It was his embrace of joy that enabled him to see even his murderers as innocent.
Here’s your assignment this week: I invite you to remember that each of us has a moral obligation to joy. This ego-driven world will always seek to wring the joy out of our lives, but I invite you to remember that our joy does not lie in this world outside of ourselves, but the world inside, where joy is created nonstop by the Holy Spirit. Tune into that eternal joy whenever the world tries to bring you down or dim your Holy light. Jubilants, we are the light of the world – and we are the joy of the world. Be that light, be that joy, so we can all say: “Oh, Yeah!”