They live among us, unobtrusive, ordinary except when they can let it all out. Normal people are stuck in earthly things: people, stuff, feelings, hopes, circumstances, money, you know the drill. But these aliens, these weirdoes relate to us like they come from another realm. Maybe that’s because they do. Except they weren’t born that way.
Happy are the poor people who receive the Kingdom of God and live there. Happy are the people that are sad about their true state of affairs. Happy are the people who accept God’s will for their lives. That’s what Jesus said, sitting on a mountainside and mystifying his hearers.
I guess that’s because Jesus came from another realm, not another planet but from the Place where God is King, somewhere called “The Kingdom of Heaven.” He describes to us the dwellers in that kingdom, how happy they are. Some happiness we can connect with: peacemakers happy because they get to be called Children of God. Other happiness sounds really absurd: kingdom dwellers happy to be persecuted and rejected for bearing the name of Jesus. Strange!
I think the reason we have a problem being happy like Kingdom Citizens is because God has a problem of communication. We are stuck and He is not. We keep looking around for good things and He himself is the good we seek. We persist in asking for things we want so we can be happy and He keeps wanting to give us Himself because He is comfort and joy. Joy? Yes, joy.
Does that mean God is not cranky, picky, sanctimonious, legalistic? Could He want to invade our planet with an outlandish joy and freedom we would not otherwise experience? Yes and yes, because He did invade and some people have transferred their citizenship from earth to His Kingdom. As St. Paul wrote, “The Kingdom of God is not the eating and drinking, but rightness from God and peace and joy in God’s Holy Spirit.” He should know, because we see him in shackles in prison after being whipped for disturbing the peace in Macedonia by showing the power of Jesus. Instead of bemoaning his fate, he and Silas sang at night for joy to God. Strange but true, then God showed up with an earthquake that broke the shackles off and turned the suicidal jail keeper into a fellow citizen of the Kingdom.
“Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow,” was said by Helen Keller, blind and deaf though she was. Some of the happiest people don’t have happy circumstances: they may be poor, they may have faced up to their true state of affairs, they learned to accept God’s will for their lives, they may even be facing persecution and rejection. The absurd thing is that God wants to come into your life and circumstances right now and give you joy, His joy, not as the world gives. His is not transient, dependent on mood or just the right circumstances or some chemical or large amount of money. C. S. Lewis observed that these pleasures are just a substitute for true joy.
Would you like true joy right now? It might be absurd. Nothing in you or around you looks like you would like it to be. That’s all right. Let God come in, invite Him, trust Him, let your spirit rejoice even though your soul’s thoughts and feelings are contrary. Jesus said, “these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves; I have given to them God’s word, and the world did hate them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world.” His joy is outlandish, absurd and real.