Having dipped my lid to International Happiness Day and listened to the top ten pop “happy”songs, I now turn my attention to the phase of the Lenten journey that draws alongside.
Today’s sacred text is Romans 5:6-11 – often interpreted as the necessity of the sacrifice of Jesus as appeasement to an angry god to effect the salvation of us sinners! This popular characterisation is gold for preachers who wish to hold the wrath of God and the misery of sinners like a rod of chastisement over their flocks, but they miss the nuance which is Paul’s real message and is hidden in verses 10-11.
Using a verbal judo style technique, it seems that Paul cedes territory to the prescriptive but inadequate substitutionary atonement model, as if to say “Okay, if that works to your understanding of what happened at Calvary, let it be so – but consider this… Even more, eclipsing this, is how Jesus’ LIFE reconciles humanity to God … even more than his death! And even more than that, such reconciliation creates a boldness in renewed relationship with the Creator through living the Way of the Life of Christ.” Paul was a rhetorician and his technique of ceding territory in order to gain what he really wants to say is classic.
So what at the beginning looks like an antithesis to the themes of International Happiness Day, through careful analysis, becomes a pointer to how happiness through fulfilment of destiny might be addressed.
The United Nations, the birthers of today’s world day, point to a number of happiness indicators such as food security, health access, safe housing, and gainful employment. A full index can be found at such sites as the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. Sounds dangerously like shalom, the reign of the love of God feted by Jesus, the fulfilment in reconciled relationship with the Creator that Paul talks about.
One way of seeing Lent is about engaging the struggle with Jesus to get there. International Happiness Day is a shared dream of fulfilled hope.