Why be sad--that's my question to myself. Sad is a big nothing.
Why be sad--sad goes nowhere--when you can be mad--it’s so much more satisfying. There’s plenty to be mad about--let me count the reasons--I’m mad at Texas, I’m mad at the US military-industrial complex (which we were warned about). Mad is good, mad is an emotion I can express.
Why be sad--sad stews in its own juices--when you can be worried. There’s plenty to be worried about--parents juggling kids and work, parents with special needs kids who can’t get special services, families sleeping at the borders under viaducts, refugees arriving with no secure landings, evictions of people already living paycheck to paycheck. Worried is good--worried is only natural to feel.
Why be sad, when we really want to grieve. We feel grief over the losses not only of lives but also of culture and community. Where can we go to weep--if we don’t we haven’t marked the day.
Why be sad--sad is a cop-out--when you can be disgusted. There’s plenty to be disgusted about--public leaders who lie, public leaders who won’t take responsibility--the ONE PERCENT. Disgusted is good--if you aren’t disgusted, you’re not paying attention.
Sad is a kind of limbo, a non-state, a malaise that suspends your animation. I’m not talking about SAD--Seasonal Affective Disorder--that is a real condition--chemical imbalances caused by decrease in available sunlight--for that there are treatments. Sadness, on the other hand, is un-real, a situation of sluggish arrest of the emotions.
Sadness is not so much an emotion as it is a mood--how do you express a mood?--you can’t. That’s dangerous because indifference slips up on us and then leads to anomie--a disregard for self or others--an ethic-erasure. Sad is a choice of those who won’t accept negative emotions, like anger, worry, and disgust.
Don’t be sad--there are alternatives--find the joy--look for it--it’s in there--it’s native to your nature--you are a creature of God--you live in a universe of divine abundance. Jesus was accused of committing joy--they said the disciples of John the Baptist fast, but your Jesus can be seen eating and drinking like they were at a wedding.
You came to the right place today--you came to church--Sabbath is basically a mental health day--you can sing here, you can listen, pray silently, you space out, you can daydream--it’s free time. The main thing is we don’t have to deny our emotions here. You should take away from a Sabbath service that you can be outspoken, you can be energetic, you can be real, you can be alive to your neighbor and to those you think are your enemies--what that permits, what that inspires, is JOY.
You entered a place of joy and peace today, where you will realize that the enemy isn’t other political parties or other religions or other races. The enemy in St. Paul’s language is the devil. For human beings life is a struggle against “the wiles of the devil.” What are those wiles except the temptation to check out, forget and lie down.
Why are we tempted to check out? It happens when the distance between the real and the ideal is too great for us. Rather than accept the real, we slip into a sadness that provides the convenient shelter we need. It’s OK temporarily, it’s unavoidable. Sometimes, “not OK, is OK,” and that calls for strength, spiritual strength.
St. Paul uses a military metaphor to describe that strength. We may wince at the military images, but we know what he means--
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Perhaps, there may be a better analogy than the military one of Paul’s to talk about the strength that secures us in Truth, Righteousness, the Gospel itself, Faith, Salvation, and the Holy Spirit. If you think of one, please share it with me.
We not only have a Gospel to share, the Good news amidst the other news; we have a legacy at Eliot Church to renew and extend. We don’t have time for sadness--!