Dear Hyde Park Family,
So, what sparks your joy?
That’s the trendy question of the day for fans of the popular Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” based on her bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. If you’ve ever seen the show or read the book, you know that Kondo’s decluttering process invites persons to hold an object in their hands and ask themselves a simple question.
“Does this object spark joy for me?”
If the answer is yes, then keep it. If the answer is no, then discard or donate it. It’s that simple. Her premise is that most of the things we have are not worth keeping. What is worth holding onto are those items that please us, give us contentment, and fill our mind with happy memories. I’ll admit that I, like some of you, have “Marie Kondo’d” parts of our home recently, and I’ve found the exercise to be helpful.
AGAPE = SPARK JOY
It seems to me that if there is a biblical word that captures some essence of what it means to “spark joy,” it’s agape, the most important Greek word for “love.” We often think of agape as a love that is unconditional and self-sacrificing, the kind of love that God has shown us in Jesus. That’s true. But the Bible also uses that word to describe ideal relationships between human beings, and, yes, between humans and their possessions.
The 19th century American Methodist biblical scholar James Strong defined agape as a feeling of being “well pleased and contented at or with” an object, and “to welcome, to entertain, to love dearly, and to be fond of” another person.
That sounds a lot like “sparking joy” to me. But here’s the real kicker, and the thing that makes the words of Jesus even harder to understand, let alone apply.
LOVE OUR ENEMIES? REALLY?
In Luke 6:27-38, our scripture text for this Sunday, Jesus tells his disciples, and says to us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
Yep. That word for love is agape. We aren’t simply supposed to tolerate our enemies, or refrain from hurting our enemies, or just coexist with our enemies. We are to agape our enemies. We are to hold them in our hands, and allow them to “spark joy” for us, rather than ignoring them, discarding them or rejecting them.
Whew. That’s really tough.
- I don’t think it means that we ignore the pain and suffering that relationship has brought us. But it might mean acknowledging that surviving the pain and suffering has made us stronger, in ways that happiness never could.
- I don’t think it means that we are to become dear friends with our enemies. But it might mean practicing empathy, to see in their eyes our own woundedness, fear and insecurity, and therefore learn things about ourselves that we otherwise could not have learned.
- I don’t think it means accepting what they did to us as permissible, especially if there was violence or abuse. But since we can’t ever “discard” the past like we can an old piece of clothing, we can ask God to bless it, redeem it and transform it into part of a brighter future.
The truth is, I’m not yet sure what it fully means to agape our enemies the way Jesus commanded, but it will be something that we explore together this Sunday, in a sermon that I’m sure has applications for many of us.
In the meantime, happy decluttering. May your life be filled with sparks of joy.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist