Religion and Joy

Religion and Joy November 4, 2016

“Let religion be to us life and joy.”  So begins a lengthy description of religion and religious life by Unitarian minister Vincent B. Silliman. A poem by Sufi Poet Hafiz says:

sunset-1176695_640What is the difference
Between your Existence
And that of a Saint?

The Saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the Saint is now continually
Tripping over joy
And Bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.

In our Chess game with the Gods, in our search for truth and meaning, I’m afraid that it is too easy to become lost in thinking that we have a thousand serious moves to make. Religion can seem big and serious and solemn. We are here to ask hard questions: questions about good and evil, about faith and doubt, about what we should do and who we are. Questions about life and death. All of these are big, serious, solemn, important questions.

And yet. Let religion be to us life and joy. We are also called to joy, to happiness, to mirth, to laughter. To being together in fun as well as in effort. To supporting each other in joy as well as in sorrow. Let religion be to us life and joy. Let our covenant call us to the joy of worship as well as to the responsibility of it.

Moving Forward with a Chant

Several years ago, I was in a Pagan chanting workshop. One of the chants was a prayer that went like this:

“Sing through my voice. Play through my hands. Let the way be open.”

This sort of offering is part of my faith – the offering of myself to something larger, something that moves through me. Something that might use my voice to speak. Something that might use my hands to do its work in the world, if I will let allow that to happen.

But I am much more used to thinking of the larger reality as working through me rather than playing through me. Play through my hands. What an idea! I might be faithful in joy as well as labor, in happiness as well as solemnity.

What is the something larger is that you serve in your religious quest? Perhaps that is the Gods, or perhaps it is Humanity. Perhaps it is a vision of a world community of peace, liberty, and justice. Perhaps it is a local community of justice and hope. Whatever it is that you feel commands your loyalty, the words of your mouth, the work of your hands.

We serve these not only with work, labor, toil, effort, and struggle. We serve them also with play, with happiness, with lightheartedness, with joy. May we be like saints, continually tripping over joy and bursting out in laughter. May our religious communities become places of joy. May religion be to us life and joy. May it be so.

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