I heard the tale end of a radio program discussing a “new” de-junking process where the owner is supposed to hold every item in the house and determine if it strikes a “spark of joy”. If it doesn’t, it’s gone. The concept made sense from a materialistic point of view, except for practical items. My toaster doesn’t give me a spark of joy but I will hang onto it because it doesn’t give me a spark of electric shock either.
Anyway, I was bemused to hear the term “spark of joy”, because that’s what I’ve been trying to collect: spiritual sparks of joy, things that make me happy, however briefly. For instance, catching a whiff of patchouli makes me happy, as does the smell of incense on my husband’s clothing after he has assisted at liturgy. The sound of my grandchildren’s laughter lights up my insides, especially when combined with their spontaneous smiles and big eyes. A spring breeze on my face, the touch of a loved one, the taste of fresh pomegranate juice, can bring joy and remind me the kingdom of heaven is all around.
John the Baptist preached, “Repent ye: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2) He knew who Jesus was.
When asked when the Kingdom of heaven would appear, Jesus replied, “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you (or ‘among you’).” (Luke 17:21)
Paul defined the Kingdom, “For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)
My joy is still just sparks. But with sparks of joy come also stabs of pain. Something that can spark joy as I recall a loved one may also bring to mind the pain and disappointments they have experienced over the years or that they are going through now. Once there was a time when I could physically reach out and hug them, to help them feel better or to hold them as they cried. But now… My arms aren’t long enough. I need the peace of the Holy Spirit.
If I can learn to see the Kingdom around me, then Lord willing, I can experience the peace to let God take care of my loved ones, while I love them through Him.
But in order to experience the peace and joy, I need righteousness. I need to pray and, I have to admit, I don’t pray for others nearly as much as I should. I am too easily distracted by other things, things that take away my attention from God and the kingdom of heaven, which, in turn, can quench the sparks of joy.
Righteousness can grow in communion with others, because this is not a solo journey. I dutifully attend services but I am not always there in spirit or in love. I learned this weekend the only time the word “hypocrite” is used in the Bible is when Jesus uses it to describe the Pharisees. Back then, it meant “actor”. Basically, Jesus was criticizing the Pharisees for going through the motions of accepted behaviour without actually connecting to God. That is what I am at times: an actor going through the motions without understanding or love, without connecting to the kingdom of heaven all around me. All that I do — prayer, serving others, loving others, communion with others — has to come from my heart, otherwise all my righteousness is as filthy rags. But where do I start: joy, peace or righteousness?
Step one: Believe the Kingdom of heaven is here and behave as though I am in the presence of God every second. Step two: Love others, help them and allow them to help me. Step three: Pray always. Step four: Collect sparks of joy to illuminate my sight, so I can see the reality of the kingdom and know I am in God’s presence, and can love others, while always praying and basking in the joy of the Holy Spirit, because I’m in the kingdom of heaven and in the presence of God, loving others.
I guess I just need to jump in anywhere.
Creston resident Anastasia Bartlett still has her toaster and also sparks and sneezes at the smell of real lavender. She is a member of St. Aidan’s Orthodox Church in Cranbrook. St. Aidan’s Pastor Andrew Applegate can be reached at 250-420-1582.