According to the World Happiness Report 2018released last week, Finland is top of the world for happiness, closely followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Four out of the top five spots are Nordic, and are well known to be stable, safe and socially progressive. The Happiness Report measures a nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)(money matters), Longevity(people like living longer), Corruption(If citizens don’t trust government and business, they’re not happy), Social Support(you know others have your back and support), and Freedom (making your own important life choices is better than the government telling you what to do). People who live in a nation that scores high in GDP, Longevity, Social Support, and Freedom, but low in Corruption, likely have a better life experience than those that live in an under-performing nation. And if you‘re wondering, the United States ranked 18th out of 52 nations surveyed.
We prefer to feel happy. Happy is good. People in Jesus’ time also wanted to feel happy. That’s why many devotees of Jesus (not just the disciples) clamored for Jesus to take over their nation. This week is Palm Sunday where we will begin our “feel good” happy time when Jesus arrives in Jerusalem as the new King. But, after only a few days, the political climate shifts unexpectedly as Jesus goes from Palms to Passion. Passion refers to Jesus’ suffering as he is betrayed, denied, arrested, tortured, ridiculed, slandered, and (without a real trial) is sent to death row. By Friday, Jesus is dead. All hope was lost. Or, was it?
If there was such a thing as a World Happiness Report 33 (yes, AD 33!), the people in Palestine would have been at the lowest ranking. GDP was down (the religious leaders controlled the dysfunctional economy). The average life expectancy in Jesus day was about 45. Corruption affected every sphere of life from the Temple, to politics, to the trades. Social Support was spotty at best but the generation family systems had its advantages over our more modern nuclear family today, that is is you weren’t female, young, poor, sick, or had a physical difference. And what about Freedom? Simply, what freedom. Rome was the occupying political power and squashed personal freedoms, especially those of a different political party or who didn’t play and pay by their rules.
This week we follow Jesus as the Lenten Journey is in the Home Stretch with a message titled, TheHome Stretch—From Palms to Passion. You will participate in an interactive reading of the Palmsscripture reading along side the Passionscripture reading and make up your own mind about Jesus and happiness.
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).